Tag Archives: tropical

Foliage Explosion!

IMG_4765We love to break the rules – preferably completely blow them out of the water and that is what this container vignette does!

All that talk about varying texture? Well just look at all the spiky foliage in this design; and yet it works!

Who are the rebel-rousers?

In the container there is a hot pink cordyline exploding at the back and a golden yellow bromeliad launching itself from the middle together with a softer but still spiky tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa ‘Northern Lights’).

But that’s not all. Containers are not viewed in isolation – consider the surroundings when placing them. Here the container is framed by a sunburst of iris foliage at the back and native reeds in front. Far from detracting from the container these actually add to the drama by screaming “Look at ME!”

It works….

…because of the repetition but also because there is balance provided by the trailing bronze sweet potato vine, variegated periwinkle and the tumbling yellow daisies of the creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens). The two chartreuse green Goldcrest Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’) add a solid conical shape to offset all the fluff.

Dare to throw away the book – well apart from FINE FOLIAGE  of course!

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Take our Jigsaw Challenge!

Old Fashioned smoke bush - what would YOU combine this with?

Old Fashioned smoke bush – what would YOU combine this with?

Do you like puzzles? I love the thrill of clicking that final piece into place to complete the picture. Yet it often takes many attempts of trial and error, substituting first one then another candidate, (admittedly even trying for force the occasional piece into place, convinced it must be right)  before I achieve success.

Christina and I had the honor of presenting a talk to the Northwest Horticultural Society last week and the title of our presentation was Dynamic Duo – the foliage edition where we showed what two very distinct personalities can come up with! We gave each other a series of key plants and challenged one another to see what other foliage plants we would pair it with to create a perfect picture. Well judging by the wonderful comments we are continuing to receive the audience had lots of fun -but so did we! There’s nothing quite like being challenged to stretch yourself and consider the myriad of possibilities. Unlike jigsaw puzzles there are many ways to create a stunning combination if you know what clues to look for. Not everything will work but it is so much fun to find the plants that look stunning together and reflect your unique style.

I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple of our completed puzzles and then it will be YOUR turn if you dare to take the challenge!

Challenge 1 –  Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’)

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The clue – rich rosy foliage on bright red stems

Option 1

Design credit; Mitch Evans

Design credit; Mitch Evans

Neither of us can take credit for this remarkable spring combination – it is the work of designer Mitch Evans, Redmond, WA

The jigsaw pieces

1. Itoh peony (bronze leaf)

2. Blue Nest spruce (Picea mariana ‘Ericoides’) in the foreground

Whey they fit together so well

The emerging peony foliage is a striking bronze color and brings out the smoky tones in the barberry leaf as well as drawing our attention to the stems of the spruce which might otherwise go unnoticed. Additionally each leaf is a different shape giving great textural contrast.

The overall picture has a strong, masculine and contemporary feel with its unusual color scheme

Light conditions; full sun

Option 2

barberry collage CSChristina took a flirtatious approach! In fact we both had lots of fun with our collage approach to designing with foliage  - no boundaries to hold us back!

The jigsaw pieces

Clockwise from 12 o’clock

1. Rue (Ruta graveolens) ;this can be a serious skin irritant, especially in warm weather

2. Ivory Coast bromeliad

3. Big Red Judy coleus – or as Christina would call it “The trucker-chick of the coleus world”

4. Cirrus dusty miller (Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’)

Why they fit together so well

Soft and velvety, sharp and spiky – this combo is a textural extravaganza. Each leaf shape varies in size and shape yet the repetition of red tones between three of the pieces brings a sense of unity. Likewise the silvery dusty miller and soft green rue play off the colors in the tropical looking bromeliad which is definitely the star of this combo with its wildly striped leaves. (The magenta flower of  ‘Fireworks’ globe amaranth is ‘photo-bombing’ and has nothing to do with the bromeliad other than getting in the way, although it does lend a fun punch!)

Light conditions; Full morning sun with some afternoon protection

Challenge 2 – James Stirling hebe (Hebe ochracea ‘James Stirling)

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The clue

Olive green, conifer-like foliage. (The funny thing is that neither of us liked this until we started using it!)

Option 1

hebe collage

Design by Christina

A classic case of  throwing leftovers in a pot and being surprised that the results actually work. Yes sometimes it  does pay to see if those unusual pieces do in fact fit together.

The jigsaw pieces

Smaller photo

1. Needle-like silver foliage of the Icicles licorice plant (Helichrysum thianschanicum ‘Icicles’)

,2. Silver Dollar hellebore (Helleborus ‘Silver Dollar); larger blue toned foliage with dusky pink flower

Larger photo

3. Golden sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’); yellow grass

4. Rainbow leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’); variegated leaf

5. Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star); blue conifer

Why they fit together so well

Adding bright yellow to the drab olive green hebe immediately brightens things up. Three plants bring in silvery-blue tones yet each has a different texture both in leaf shape and feel; the dual aspects of ‘texture’. Finally the variegated leucothoe adds a little sparkle with creamy white, while the soft greens tie into the hebe and rich burgundy introduces a new color to play with.

This is a step away from the more typical color schemes  - dare to try something different!

Light conditions; this took a surprising amount of sun – place it so that the leucothoe and hellebore get a little dappled shade in the hottest part of the day.

Option 2

My response to the challenge!

My response to the challenge!

The jigsaw pieces

Left to right

1. Golden Ruby salmon berry (Rubus  spectabilis ‘Golden Ruby’)

2. Tropicanna canna

3. Spitfire coleus

Whey they fit together so well

What Christina called ‘olive green’ I think more of ‘dirty mustard’! However I recalled experimenting with a coleus a few years back with a similar color handicap (Orange King)) and discovered this this Spitfire coleus gave a nod to that color while bringing in a refreshing blast of crushed raspberry. Phew!

From there it was easy as I took inspiration from the great combo on the left, photographed in the display gardens at Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. The golden yellow salmon berry adds a highlight (Christina did the same thing with her grass) and the huge  canna leaves take the coleus color to a whole new level. In fact I liked this so much I may try it this summer.

Light conditions; full sun (Spitfire coleus was fabulous in my sun drenched pots)

Your challenge!

Go back to our first photo of the gorgeous Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus x coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’) – isn’t that just leafy-licious?

Clue

Blue-green foliage with rosy veins and stems. The new growth is also tinted with warm shades of rose.

What jigsaw pieces would you add and why? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page (you can add a photo there too is you like). We can’t wait to hear from you!

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Peanut Butter, Glass and WOW!

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Antonow’s Blue Honey Bush

Melianthus major ‘Antonow’s Blue’

Once you have inadvertently backed into or brushed up against the Honey Bush, you never forget that Peanut Buttery goodness of fragrance. It’s so intense! Plus, that powdery blue, ultra textured foliage is so tropical and lush in the garden, it can be compared to none other.
Later, if we have some great spring warmth, this plant blooms with burgundy, nectar abundant flowers that the birds adore.
I’m so excited about this particular plant because its a brand new Dan Hinkley introduction by Monrovia and it should be a hardier plant than previous ones that I’ve bought as “annuals” here in my zone 7 climate. Typically, I would have to overwinter them in the garage, so this will be a fun experiment. Monrovia advises that this plant best for zones 7-11.

Monrovia also recommends planting this one a bit deeper for better hardiness, so that should help too. With great drainage and partial to full sun, this plant will get the oomph it needs to build a strong base before winter. In warmer climates, they are saying this new one will be evergreen, whoo-hoo!! Dan Hinkley is THE MAN!

This one can get as tall as 8 feet. In the container that I will use it in this season, it will likely get about half that high, but that is just dandy with me. This Honey Bush is going into a teal pot that stands out over these lovely glass rocks of similar tones. I can’t wait to see it get fat and full!

Now THAT is some “Fine Foliage” all right. :-)

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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.

Given you some ideas?

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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!