Tag Archives: succulents

Ground Cover Collision!

Whether for sun or shade, the last finishing touch most of us plant is our ground cover plants. It’s that ever so important detail that makes a lovely garden design HOLY COW! But, how do you decide which ground covers are going to be best for your light conditions? What if you just simply can’t decide which one neeeeds to come home from the nursery with you? This one or that one, that one or this one?

Sometimes it’s both! If your light conditions, watering needs and soils are in harmony for more than one ground cover, how about a groundcover MASH-UP? A mash-up is when two great things, in our case plants, but it could just as easily be food, music, fabrics, etc. end up snuggling together to make ONE great look, taste or sound. Think peanut butter and chocolate, mint and chocolate, coffee and chocolate, wine and chocolate. Hmmmm, maybe I need chocolate now. ;-)

Acaena 'Purple Haze' with Sedum 'Oreganum' This Sedum oreganum ‘Oregon Stonecrop’ is a wonderful example of a lovely collision with Acaena inermis ‘Purple Sheep’s Burr’ as a flat, hardy and walkable ground cover for light traffic.

Not all ground covers are flat and walkable, some are fluffy and full like this combination of hosta ‘Halcyon’ with ‘Black Scallop’ Ajuga and white variegated Comfrey in the background. The triad of textures and cool colors are lovely in this eastern morning sun exposure.
'Black Scallop' Ajuga, Hosta 'Halcyon' and White Variegated ComfreyThis singular and exotic looking Paris podophylla stands tall above a monochromatic mash-up of ground covers. The hardy Asarum europaeum ‘European wild ginger’ is a glossy textural contrast to the low Adiantum venustum ‘Himalayan maidenhair fern’ in a shady nook.

Paris podophylla, Maidenhair Fern and European GingerWhy not try a ground cover mash-up in your own garden? Snuggle up a plant or two and see what foliage combinations you can create in your very own ground cover collision!

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Shimmer & Shine – a Succulent Showcase

IMG_1061The Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle is considered one of the best in the country and with good reason. Spectacular show gardens, dozens of free seminars (including FOUR by your favorite Team Fine Foliage), a marketplace filled with gardening eye candy and a dazzling floral display are just a few of the attractions; there is enough to keep you happily mesmerized for all five days.

This year I found myself taking endless photographs of one of the Small Space Showcase displays called ‘Beyond the Potted Plant’ designed by Myra Shoemaker of Bellevue Nursery.

What comes to mind when I say ‘potted plants’? Since I can never keep houseplants alive my family would probably respond ‘compost’. But assuming your indoor gardening thumb is more green than brown you might think of a parlor palm, a jade plant or perhaps an indoor terrarium. Well push those weary ideas aside and be inspired!

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While the selected plant palette is essentially one of succulents and air plants (Tillandsia)  this is far from the typical display. Most specimens are potted individually in an exciting array of containers which are artfully clustered together to showcase contrasting foliage shapes and textures. Shades of green need no apology when dressed up in metallic silver, pure white or glossy black.

Clear glass vessels become treasure chests filled with layers of fine sand, glass pebbles and decorative gravel, a single air plant placed delicately on the surface like a resting mermaid.

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While we create interesting vignettes in the garden that concept is usually forgotten indoors yet this delicious display incorporates layers of silver framed mirrors, frosted beach glass, white candles on silver candlesticks and weathered wooden elements. The collection is stylish and contemporary without being overly fussy or feminine.

This is a lesson in elegant simplicity. By paring down the color palette the focus is on texture. Fleshy leaves against spiky ones. Tiny bead-like forms next to wild tentacle-like foliage. Reflective surfaces juxtaposed with matte finishes, clear with opaque.

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Truly ‘Beyond the Potted Plant’ this tempts me to venture into the world of indoor gardening again. What about you?

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New Leaves for 2014

As seed catalogs replace Christmas cards in the mailbox the planning begins! Although I am always ready for a break from regular weeding and hoeing by October it never seems to dampen the giddy excitement as I consider those glossy photographs and ponder my choices for the New Year. Yet those catalogs only show you a few of the new offerings and rarely focus on cool new foliage plants so we thought we’d share some with you here. Start your 2014 foliage wish list!

Sunjoy® Tangelo barberry (Berberis th. ‘Sunjoy Tangelo’)

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Late season color. Photo credit; Proven Winners

I know barberries are listed as invasive in many States so for those of you who cannot – or prefer not to grow this shrub just skip ahead!

Before I moved to my deer-plagued garden I had little interest in these thorny shrubs but I have since completely changed my tune. I can rely on these in less than favorable circumstances AND their wide range of foliage colors offers the potential for endless new combinations.

So what’s special about this one? Bright and cheery, this new barberry has tangy orange foliage that is often accentuated by a distinctive chartreuse margin. Stronger growing than other variegated cultivars, it is a medium-sized shrub to 4′ wide and tall. Like all barberries it needs full sun for the best color and is drought tolerant once established. Hardy in zones 4a-8b.

Foliage combination ideas

Try underplanting this with Lemon Fizz lavender cotton (Santolina virens) to pick up on those bright green margins. Alternatively Ogon spirea (Spiraea th. ‘Ogon’) has finely textured foliage also in a golden-yellow that turns orange in fall. Since this grows to the same size as the barberry they would make quite the fiery duo!

Glow Girl™ Birchleaf Spirea (Spiraea sp.)

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Spring flowers and foliage

My love affair with spirea has grown for much the same reason as it has with barberries – they come in fun colors and are both deer resistant and drought tolerant. I’ve never been terribly partial to the pink flowers on chartreuse varieties, however, so Glow Girl grabbed my attention thanks to its vivid lime green leaves and white flowers which give the shrub a wonderful fresh appearance.

Glow Girl holds its color well and doesn’t burn in the summer. Since it also offers great fall color this is a true three-season shrub.

Fall color is equally lovely. Photo credit; Proven Winners

Fall color is equally lovely.

At 3-4′ tall and wide this spirea is well suited to the middle of the border where it will be happy in part or full sun. It tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and is hardy in zones 3a-9b. Whats’ not to love?!

Foliage combination ideas

Pair this with the fluffy silver foliage of Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana) in sunny, dry spots or if you have part shade and moisture retentive soils the evergreen autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) would bring shades of copper to the display.

Tiny Wine™ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious)

A new option for dark foliage. Photo credit; Proven Winners

A new option for dark foliage.

Christina and I both love  ninebarks and have enjoyed using the dwarf ‘Little Devil‘ in container designs where its rich chocolate leaves add excitement to pink, orange or yellow companions. Here is a new introduction for 2014 which promise to be more petite still at 3-4′ tall and wide with a good upright habit.

Tiny Wine appears to be bushier and to have smaller leaves than Little Devil too resulting in a shrub that appears to be more balanced in scale. Even though we are most interested in the foliage we have to concede that the flower show is exceptional, with dainty flowers blooming up and down each stem in late spring.

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the diplay

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the display

Ninebarks are tolerant of many soil types, do well in full sun or part shade and are hardy in zones 3a-7b.

Foliage combination ideas

For a three season combo the variegated pink foliage of My Monet weigela (Weigela florida) would echo the ninebark flowers in spring while creating an artistic medley for summer and fall.

Anna’s Magic Ball™ Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

 
What a cutie!

What a cutie!

I had the pleasure of testing this in my garden and just loved its puffball demeanor. Even after weeks of low temperatures and hard frost this golden ball shines. I use dwarf conifers a lot in containers but there are relatively few that stay small – this one fills that role nicely with its mature size being listed as 10-15″.

Average water and  average soil makes this an easy care conifer for zones 3a-7b. Definitely one to look out for in 2014.

Foliage combination ideas

Blue and gold make great color partners so I might try this with the low growing Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) or the striking Beyond Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca ‘Beyond Blue’).

Wild Romance hebe (Hebe hybrid)

A new hebe to look for

A new hebe to look for

Just look at those leaves! Dark green foliage turns to deep burgundy at the end of each stem in winter and spring, mellowing to a lighter red in summer. For those who want flowers you will enjoy the purple display in early summer.

The leaves are smaller than many variegated hebe resulting in a more delicate appearance. When grown as an evergreen shrub it will reach 24-30″ tall and wide but I would expect half that when grown as a summer annual

Hebe are drought tolerant, deer resistant and prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Wild Romance is hardy in zones 7b-9a – enjoy it as an annual elsewhere

Foliage Combination ideas

I would look for bolder foliage companions such as the dark, fleshy rosettes of black rose (Aeonium arboreum var. atropurpureum ‘Zwartkop’) and one of the chartreuse sweet potato vines for an easy container combo perhaps throwing in some of the sun-tolerant hot orange Spitfire coleus for drama.

Which new introductions are you going to try this year? Do leave a comment below or on our Facebook page to tell us.

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Summer Chocolate, Cherry and Wine

From the sweet to the sublime, I can’t think of more luscious foliage in the summer than those with hints of chocolate, cherry, wine, cinnamon, caramel, raspberry and other flavor inspired colors.

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Heuchera ‘Velvet Night’

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Astilbe and Succulents

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Purple Fountain Grass and Euphorbia ‘Excalibur’

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Red Banana and Coleus from the “Under the Sea’ Series

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Eucomis or Pineapple Lilly and Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow, Hebe ‘Champion’ with Hens and Chicks.

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‘Berry Smoothie’ Heuchera, Hebe and unknown Aloe.

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Unknown conifer at the Berkeley Botanical Garden

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Saxifrage

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Smoky Heuchera ‘Stormy Seas’ ? and Smoky succulent.

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Cordyline and Agave

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Aeonium and Barberry

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Begonia, Bromeliad and Succulents

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Coleus, Heucherella, Hebe, Coprosma and Phormium.

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Cissus discolor and a combo pot with Heuchera, Melianthus and Ninebark.

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Fire Pit + Foliage = Fabulous!

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There was a gap in my garden; both a novelty and a major concern. Some people like plants spaced well apart with visible soil between each. Me? I’m a squisher. I like my plants to mingle, creating a tapestry of textures and colors, with plants weaving in and out of one another often creating pleasing if unexpected combinations. Bare soil is a wasted opportunity!

Our daughter is getting married in our garden in a few weeks. Such an event would send any gardener into a flurry of planting and primping but this is both a large and a relatively young garden so there are in fact still gaps (gasp!) One particularly offensive one was of course in prime view, partly because I just couldn’t decide what to put there and also because the surrounding plants were still growing in.

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I  found the perfect solution behind the barn – an old fire pit! The tile surround had long since disintegrated but the stand and bowl were still in good shape. A few holes for drainage and it made the perfect planter!

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These plump pads offer great contrast to the finely textured groundcover sedums.

Snuggled into the border things looked better already, but what to plant? Foliage of course and a medley of succulents was the perfect choice. Just as we combine ‘regular’ garden foliage by echoing a color from one leaf with a neighboring one, and varying the leaf shape and texture, so I chose big bold rosettes of Echeveria, plump balloon-type pads and a few finely textured groundcover succulents to fill in the gaps.

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Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’ has fragrant blooms in early spring but of course I chose it for the foliage!

The color scheme for the wedding is ‘sunset shades’ with soft green and grey-blue accents so I looked for succulents that repeated those tones.

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This tough, hardy groundcover has wonderful glossy foliage year round

In just three weeks the plants have started to fill in nicely and by August should have formed a tightly knit foliage tapestry.

Bare soil hidden, foliage focal point created, planting emergency over!

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Sedum clavatum has fat rosettes of frosted mint green leaves

Practical pointers

The potting soil I used was Sunshine#1, a free draining mix with no water retention polymers or moisture retentive, organic material. I added just 10% compost and some slow release general purpose fertilizer. The bowl has several 5/8″ holes drilled in it and the soil was mounded up in the middle like a berm.

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Dinner is served….but NOT for the deer!

Deer are the bane of my life and have already indicated their preference for certain sedums in the garden by eating some and relocating others, so I am using the firepit cover to protect this meal! To give me additional height my husband has welded on adjustable feet to the lower rim of the cover.

Plants used included…

Tender (in Seattle area)

Echeveria nodulosa

Echeveria ‘Roundleaf’

Echeveria ‘Perle Von Nurnberg’

Sedum clavatum

Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’

Hardy

Sedum acre ‘Aureum’

Sedum oreganum

Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’

 

plus….others whose tags have since been lost!

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When is a Cabbage more than a Cabbage?

cabbage close upWere you one of those children who didn’t want to eat their ‘greens’? Turned your nose up at the smell of cooked cabbage? Well now that you’re all grown up let’s take a fresh look at this vegetable and see what else you can do with it!

This is the diva of cabbages – just look at that flirty blue foliage with magenta  ribs. Surely it would be wrong to just eat it (unless you’re a slug). Just think of the possibilities in the garden though. Such big succulent foliage would be a perfect side dish to finer textures such as hardy fuchsias as shown below using the soft variegated foliage of Fuchsia magellanica ‘Versicolor’.

A perfect lesson in color echoes and scale.

A perfect lesson in color echoes and scale.

Note how the tall purple alliums repeat the color of the bright veins in the cabbage leaf and how the height and scale of the metal sculpture is balanced by the hefty vegetable foliage.

Red leaf barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpure’a) would add depth to the color palette. If they are invasive in your area you could try darker leaved weigela or fringe flower (Loropetalum),

Balance the soft blue with rich purple companion foliage. A stray branch of Homestead Purple verbena draws the eye to the ribs of the cabbage foliage.

Balance the soft blue with rich purple companion foliage. A stray branch of Homestead Purple verbena (Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’) draws the eye to the ribs of the cabbage foliage.

Then just build on the idea. Put the cabbage in a fat, round pot, echo the blue tones with blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens), throw in some bold yellow accents and you have the makings of a fabulous foliage-inspired border!

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A skirt of yellow Sedum ‘Angelina’ brings sparkle to the composition and repeats the color of the mounding conifers (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Fiifera Aurea’).

Maybe cabbage isn’t so bad after all?

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Matching the Plant to the Pot

A shallow yellow gold is the perfect vessel to display these succulents.

A shallow yellow container is the perfect vessel to display these succulents.

What’s even better than fabulous foliage? Fabulous foliage in an equally fabulous pot!

We recently had the opportunity to present a fun foliage-focused seminar at Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco. Our visit there proved to be one of the highlights of that trip and we spent several hours  taking photographs of the inspirational plant selection and creative displays. (As well as sampling yummy carrot cake and some seriously good coffee).

Soft blue-greens make an elegant monochromatic statement with the aqua containers

Soft blue-greens make an elegant monochromatic statement with the aqua containers

I love anything in blue, from deep cobalt to bright turquoise and have two of these containers in my own garden. Any one of these blue-green succulents above would look right at home in the shimmery blue pots, perhaps with a little silver added for sparkle. Wormwood (Artemisia) perhaps? Or the metallic silver bush (Convolvulus cneorum)? Or even Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ cascading over the edge? Of course a blend of all three of these succulents would have great contrast in texture and form.

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Sometimes all you need is one plant in a pot

Bromeliads are typically grown for their brightly colored flowers but the beauty  shown above is a stunning blend of purple and chartreuse, perfectly showcased in this purple container by Le Beau. Who needs flowers?

This single orange succulent becomes the star in the equally vibrant pot

This single orange succulent becomes the star in the equally vibrant pot

I particularly loved the way the nursery had showcased their extensive selection of succulents with brightly colored containers, finding perfect color partners and bold shapes to highlight their unique foliage colors; the orange bowl above is a great example. These plants all require sharp drainage and similar light conditions and since they are short do best in a shallow table top container where they can really be enjoyed up close.

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Such subtle detail – can you see the way this green container is the exact same shade as the foliage? Not only that but now you are looking closely you can appreciate the soft yellow variegation and hint of rosy-red which brushes each leaf tip.

Flora Grubb Gardens specializes in drought tolerant succulents (although there were lots of other great plants too), but this simple design trick can be used to make the most of any plant from an indoor favorite to a Japanese maple.

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Thank you to everyone at Flora Grubb Gardens for making us so welcome and to the our new foliage-loving friends that we met at the seminar!