Easy Combinations for Winter

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Get ideas from your winter containers – here colorful conifers are paired with blooming winter heather and a humble pansy

The secret to adding winter interest to the garden is to create mini vignettes using just two or three elements. These colorful clusters will draw your eye and hold attention better than dotting individual evergreens around the landscape. By limiting the number of plants in each winter combination it also allows room for your other seasonal favorites such as  deciduous shrubs, herbaceous perennials and ephemeral spring bulbs.

As always, build that foliage framework first then layer in the finishing touch.

Here are some easy ideas for you to copy or use as a springboard for your own combinations.

Ruby and Amethyst Shades

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Snow Queen hydrangea photo credit; Monrovia

The eye catching foliage here is a Snow Queen oak leaf hydrangea – the leaves will typically remain on this shrub for much of the winter although the peeling bark of any exposed branches will only add to the textural feast. Paired with Goshiki Japanese holly, and Pink Frost hellebore the suffused pink tones are repeated and highlighted.

A perfect trio for dappled shade although the Japanese holly would be equally at home in full sun.

Using a Colorful Pot

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The bare bones foliage are all fairly pedestrian – a Silver King euonymus, blue star juniper and Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo. Add a rustic pot that marries all those colors together and BAM! – suddenly this is transformed into a year round vignette. Use this as a focal point near the front door and it will always say ‘welcome home.’

Sunshine in the Shade

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Three evergreens – a columnar yew, Sundance Mexican orange blossom and beesia. With varying leaf shapes and form this trio could be used to establish a bright spot in an otherwise shady corner of the garden. Perhaps add in some golden bleeding heart for pink spring flowers to play next to those of the beesia and you’re set.

Monochromatic Elegance

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The key to having this Gentsch White Canadian hemlock look its best is tip pruning in spring. This stimulates the beautiful white new growth that really makes this  conifer a star for the shade. Create that shade with a river birch tree and you will get to enjoy the peeling bark while adding a sweep of Monte Cristo hellebore at the base will introduce those welcome winter flowers

Hummingbird Favorite

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My Charity Oregon grape is in full bloom right now and the hummingbirds are fighting over the yellow flowers! If I can ward off the rabbits I’m going to try adding some Everillo carex to the base to repeat the golden color. Unlike Japanese forest grass this is evergreen so the foliage and flowers will appear together. The shiny purple Spellbound heuchera would be great for contrast as well as giving the birds a spring time treat with the abundant flowering spires.

Berry Beauty

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Holiday colors here! The clusters of berries on the Parney cotoneaster look festive and echo the colorful red twig dogwood stems. The foliage framework is provided by the deeply veined cotoneaster leaves which have a silvery white underside as well as the bright foliage of Winter Chocolate heather which will go through several color changes during the year. (Check to see if this cotoneaster is invasive in your area before planting)

Caramel Deliciousness

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Autumn fern, Teddy Bear rhododendron (with its fuzzy orange indumentum), Creme Brulee heuchera and orange hair sedge – swoon worthy…….sigh

Delicate Details

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From the cinnamon colored peeling bark of the paperbark maple that echoes the burnished copper foliage of Robert Chapman heather and stems of the dwarf Ramapo rhododendron to the exquisite shade of blue-green that the rhodie contributes to be joined in spring by purple flowers – this is all about the details.

Got you thinking? Tell us YOUR favorite winter trio – you always inspire us. For more ideas be sure to get our NEW BOOK Gardening with Foliage First. It is available to pre-order on Amazon NOW, shipping in January. There are oodles of new ideas for winter interest in there just for YOU.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

If you have the space to enjoy the gentle form and bright green new leaves of a weeping Willow, there’s a place to start!

Need some calm STAT?
There seems to be a plague of high-tension across the land. The holiday hustle is pretty much underway and while you’re pulling out the wrapping paper, Team Fine Foliage wants you to think about all of the ways that that you can bring a sense of serenity and peace to your landscape next year when times seem to be so stressful and chaotic.

You always have the landscape, no matter how large or small to focus on and bring a sense of peace and calm. Right now, I’m choosing to make these my own meditations. If they bring you some ideas for your garden or just the pleasure of relaxing with a cup of tea while you ponder what serenity means for you, then we have succeeded in our mission.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

The cool serenity of white birch bark in repetition against a pale autumn sky makes a placid scene.

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A spot to sit and meditate on the interesting textures and colors that surround you is relaxing.

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Surrounded by tall evergreens, this reflecting pool brings your focus into view with ease.

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Even succulents and cacti can be tranquil. The peek-a-boo view here between trees allows you to focus on the shapes and forms in repetition.

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The sounds of moving water can be one of the best facilitators for relaxation. The gorgeous foliage surrounding the water feature in this shade garden are a bonus.

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Concentrating on the unique shape of a leaf is a meditation all on its own.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

The classic lily pads on a pond are one of the oldest garden visions for serenity. Take this vision with you into our harried world and remember to breath.

Berried Beauties of Fall

As we wrote our new book Gardening with Foliage First, Christina and I began to appreciate anew those shrubs which offered something in addition to outstanding foliage, some attribute which took them into multi-season superstar status. Flowers are an obvious bonus but in fall berries are of greater significance.

Here is where the less experienced gardener can be disappointed. If you select deciduous shrubs after the leaves have fallen and only have the color of the berries to entice you, come spring and summer the plant overall may just be another green blob in the garden. Put Foliage First and you won’t be disappointed, however! If the leaf is ‘just’ green, is it an especially pleasing shade of green or wonderfully shiny or heavily textured? Or does it offer another color on the underside such as silver? Or does it turn an outstanding color in fall?

With those criteria in mind  here are my top 4 picks for shrubs that have exceptional foliage  AND plentiful, colorful berries.

Brandywine viburnum

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Brandywine viburnum has colorful berry clusters in shades of blue and pink

If you have space for a large, loosely upright shrub, consider this relatively new variety of viburnum introduced by Proven Winners. Brandywine (Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’)has stunning wine-red foliage in fall that lasts for many weeks and really sets off the bold clusters of pink and blue berries which are produced without an additional pollinator plant.

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Brandywine viburnum – a fabulous shrub for larger spaces

In spring and summer the large elliptical leaves are a deep glossy green which stand out easily against the more typical mid-green, medium-textured, matte foliage of the shrub border.

This deer resistant shrub grows quickly to 6′ tall and wide but can be pruned after flowering to control the size (although you will of course sacrifice the berries that year). Give it plenty of room in the landscape or grow it in a large pot, perhaps to provide seasonal screening.

Does best in full sun or partial sun, with average moisture retentive soil and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9

Cranberry viburnum

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American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) showing early fruit production in summer.

Whether it is the soft green, lobed foliage that turns crimson in fall, the white spring flowers or the glossy fruit that dangle like miniature cherries you have to admit that the cranberry viburnum has a lot to offer. Three similar species are available and often confused, the American cranberry (Viburnum trilobum with its white lace-cap hydrangea type flowers,  classic maple-like leaves and tart but edible berries) , the European cranberry (Viburnum opulus which has unpalatable berries and a less pronounced lobed leaf) and the highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule, favored for cooking but less so for ornamental gardening). This article explains some of the differences.

While the species European and American cranberry can reach up to 15 feet tall, there are several named cultivars that may work for you; firstly the European cranberry (Viburnum opulus) ‘Compactum’, and ‘Xanthocarpum’ which gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Compactum grows a more modest  5-6′ tall and wide while Xanthocarpum is a little larger at 6-8′ but has golden yellow berries which look remarkable against the red fall foliage.

Likewise the dwarf cultivar of the American cranberry (V. trilobum) Bailey’s Compact is much more manageable at 3-6′ tall and wide while Wentworth is taller (10-12′) but known for its heavy fruit set

The European cranberry bush, also commonly called guelder rose is hardy in zones 5-8, needs regular moisture and berries best in full sun. American cranberry bush (V. trilobum) is hardy down to zone 2 and also does well in partial shade.

Pearl Glam beautyberry

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Pearl Glam beautyberry – new for 2017 from Proven Winners

‘Tis the season for beautyberry – but THIS stunner puts all the others to shame when it comes to star power. Gorgeous deep purple foliage makes Pearl Glam a winner from spring through fall, showing off both the white flowers and the metallic purple berries better than any other botanical ‘little black dress’ I’ve ever seen.

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Pearl Glam beautyberry – new for 2017 from Proven Winners: you NEED this!

The shrub itself has a nicely shaped, loosely upright form, especially compared to older varieties which morph into a big green lump. Pearl Glam (Callicarpa x ‘Pearl Glam’) grows 4-5′ tall and wide, is drought tolerant once established, deer resistant and hardy in USDA zones 5-8.

It will be available in better garden centers in 2017 but I can tell you after testing two this year (in a mixed container and my own landscape) I am really excited!!

Parney’s cotoneaster

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Parney’s cotoneaster (C. lacteus); evergreen foliage with a silver reverse

This wide, arching, evergreen shrub has been around for decades but is still a  personal favorite of mine having grown it both in the UK and WA state.

The deeply veined leaves are silver on the reverse giving an overall shimmery appearance when the wind blows. Large clusters of white flowers in late spring are followed by equally impressive red berries that provide a winter feast for birds; robins especially seem to love them.

Parney’s cotoneaster is invasive in some areas (including California) so be sure to check with your extension office before planting. Where safe to use it can be a colorful, informal, evergreen hedge. It is hardy in zones 6-8 but in my experience it may suffer some winter die back in colder areas, especially if the soil remains saturated for long periods of time.

What’s your favorite shrub that has fabulous FOLIAGE and plentiful BERRIES? Leave us a comment here or post a photo to our Facebook page.

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Five Reasons Why We’re in Love with Fall Foliage

Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThere are all of the text book, expected reasons to love fall foliage of course. But, we like to keep you on your toes with ideas and combinations that might stretch your design muscles. Even friendly partners of fall foliage counts!

Five Reason Why We We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 1:  The awe-inspiring world of conifers for fall. No matter where you live there are incredible options to feature conifers in the landscape year round. From diminutive to giant, there is an incredible conifer option to fill every situation. Whether a Lemon Cypress or the Italian Cypress as above, exclamation points are helpful when making design points.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageGold is something that we often talk about in this blog. When it comes to conifers, gold can be a stylish and showy option in a cold climate for fall. It stands out beautifully against anything you show it against. Many gardeners don’t realize that there are even conifers that change color in the fall and winter. Cryptomeria is one of our favorites that turns a lovely burnished red in autumn.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage Number 2: Now add grasses to your conifers and fall landscapes and you get even more design inspiration options! This Little Bluestem grass is the MOST divine color in fall against the blue of the Weeping blue Atlas Cedar.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThese golden arborvitae are another way to show off the extraordinary color of the Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) grass in autumn.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage We also love the tall blond amazingness that is Karl Foerster grass that brings such a strict verticality to the lateral structure of this pine.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage The fluffy puffiness of this stipa is an interesting echo of shapes against the weeping Japanese maple in the background.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 3: When late season perennials show off great seed heads that are SO perfect against fall foliage, it’s an easy win-win. Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia) are a natural choice for a prolific and easy flowering perennial.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageAstilbe seed heads are one of Team Fine Foliage favorites, shown here against the incredible coral toned bark of the ‘Pacific Fire’ Vine Maple.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 4: Evergreen plants that change color! WHAAATTTTT? Yes indeed there are many hardy, evergreen plants that DO change color in fall and winter and the Calluna vulgaris above is  just one of those options. These fall into the group of plants many of you might know as heath’s and heathers. They come in a rainbow of colors and many change dramatically in fall and winter.
Five reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThe heaths and heathers that change color SO well in fall and winter are also late season bloomers. One more reason to love them!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageOrange and blue are an unexpected fall and winter combo to be sure!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageSedum ‘Angelina’ is a top performer, possibly even a little “too easy” at times, but for all of her potential flaws she has some excellent qualities too. We adore her burnished apricot tones in fall and winter and rely on them after she is done with her audacious chartreuse performance in spring and summer.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 5: Try the not-so-obvious choices for fall and winter interest! This soft leaf yucca lends a tropical feeling and a green-blue color that pairs so well with the traditional fall colors.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage Speaking of blue! This Donkey-tail Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) is an amazing blue textural interest. Mixed here with Sedum ‘Angelina’ before she shows off her russet tones in the cold weather to come, we can still get a taste of that soon to be color when we focus on the INCREDIBLE peeling bark of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in this combo.
Five Reasosn Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageWant to have some function to your fall fashion? Well then grapes might be an excellent way for you to get your fall color and eat it too! These happen to be an ornamental form of the typical edible vine, but you can still eat these grapes though they are smaller.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageLayer, layer layer! Whether evergreen, grassy, seeded or for the sheer personality of it all, get out there and fall in love with some new ideas for autumn!

Want to know about what Team Fine Foliage thinks about designing with foliage though all four seasons? Then you came to the right place! Click here for more info on our upcoming book coming out in early 2017 from Timber Press titled “Gardening with Foliage First”. 

If you aren’t already enjoying our weekly wit and design wisdom then you NEED to click that button over there >>>>>>>>> to get Fine Foliage delivered to your email easy-peasy like!🙂

Fall Container Inspiration

Ready to switch your petunias for pumpkins? Here are four ideas you can whip up in no time.

Caramel Flavors

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It all begins with the pot, in this case a frost resistant glazed container in rich caramel tones with just a hint of copper. The pheasant tail grass at the back of the design repeats these shades perfectly and creates height while adding a wonderfully airy texture.

The bold mahogany colored foliage of Blondie heuchera separates this grass from the similar texture of golden Everillo carex, an evergreen grass-like plant that drapes down the front of the container. (I love the dense clusters of ginger-cream flowers on this heuchera too).

Also included are evergreen, multi-hued Ascot Rainbow euphorbia and Twiggy box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’).

Soft Touch

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No signs of orange here, yet this design will see you through pumpkin season and into spring with style. It also shows how you can  easily ‘cheat’ a little. None of these plants were tall enough to be the key element so I simply cut some curly willow stems from the garden and stuck the branches into the pot. When the willow leaves shrivel, run your fingers slowly down the stems to remove them, leaving the contorted bare branches to add sculptural interest and height to the design.

Likewise that interesting green leafy plant in the foreground is Nova Flame mukgenia. It will have glorious fall color and pink blooms in spring – but as a herbaceous perennial it will die back during winter and leave a visual blank spot in the pot as will the tufted hair grass. No problem; add small white pumpkins, pine cones, decorative pebbles or other seasonal accents, removing these in spring to allow for the new growth.

Other plants include shiny purple Spellbound heuchera, pink/white/green variegated Rainbow drooping fetterbush, deep pink Svenja bud bloomer heather and Northern Lights tufted hair grass.

Portable Feast

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Bright Lights Swiss chard is a popular vegetable for cooks and gardeners alike and it’s no wonder with such vibrant colors.  I selected one with hot-pink stems and burgundy foliage and used it to anchor a rustic pot glazed in deep earth tones.

To brighten things up a trailing  Yellowstone Falls heucherella cascades down the side of the pot. Each yellow leaf has a deep burgundy venation, helping to connect it to the colors of both the pot and chard.

Other plants include Obsession heavenly bamboo (a sport of the popular Gulf Stream that exhibits deep burgundy year round), autumn fern and the beautiful marbled foliage of Winter Moonbeam hellebore

Putting on the Glitz

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For those who want sparkles and frills. First the pot; shades of turquoise, accented with deep purple and given a finish reminiscent of encrusted barnacles sprinkled with silver glitter. Wow!

Tying into the silvery-blue colors I added the shimmery Silver Falls dichondra, a blue star juniper, Silver Swan euphorbia and a gorgeous Silver Veil hellebore, one of the Gold Collection hellebores that is so new I can’t find a link for you! (I will contact the grower and ask about that….) Height was added with the new Hot Rod switch grass, those warmer colors being echoed by Crimson Fans mukdenia. Softening the contrast is a Lemon Lime heavenly bamboo which unlike most varieties does not turn red.

To look its best through winter when the dichondra freezes and the mukdenia becomes dormant, I would replace the trailer with  golden creeping Jenny and add some silver balls to disguise the sleeping perennial. Voila – ready for the next Holiday!

 

All pots from AW Pottery.

Transitions

What’s the first thing you do when you return home from a trip? Most gardeners will immediately head outside to see what has changed even before they unpack and I’m no exception.

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Tiger Eyes sumac anchors the container in the foreground while connecting the eye to the distant golden locust trees, katsura and swathe of black eyed Susan. Small accents of silver and blue cool the seasonal palette. Fall has begun.

It’s amazing what a difference 10 days makes. While Georgia was hot and somewhat humid with tropical end-of-summer storms, Seattle is now experiencing cooler night temperatures and the start of the glorious fall foliage display.

This is the first fall season that I have been able to enjoy our new patio and adjacent planting beds and I have been delighted with the effect. The color palette of these smaller beds echoes that of the distant border, creating a transition to the larger landscape while the container strategically placed in the foreground establishes a focal point to be viewed from the kitchen window and the patio. Plants in the smaller bed are scaled down in size and quantity but the focus is still very much on putting foliage first before layering in some floral accents.

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From this vantage point the cluster of river birch joins in the foliage party while the woodland beyond provides a green backdrop to show off the fiery sumac. This scene will continue to evolve as autumn transitions to winter; an ever changing kaleidoscope of color.

Simple tricks often work best.

(If you’d like to learn more about the design strategies of this space and see before & after images click here).

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Fine Foliage Southern Style

The Atlanta Botanic Garden featured the incredible art of glass artist Dale Chihuly while were visiting the garden and we decided to try capturing it at night with the city in the background.

Team Fine Foliage has been on the road for almost 10 days in various cities from Washington D.C. to Savannah and most recently in Atlanta, Georgia. We’ve made our way to the south from the opposite corner of the country to tour gardens and attend the Garden Writers Association annual symposium and we couldn’t be more thrilled at the incredible foliage that we’ve seen here. This is truly a gardeners region!

Though we have a couple more days of touring to go, we made our way to one spectacular garden where unfortunately Mother Nature decided to intervene and throw is a weather curveball with incredible rains and we were only able to stay very briefly. But, we were able to capture a precious few photos to share with you just near the entrance of this magnificent garden and on this quick post we can give you a small taste of what we saw.

The exquisite Gibbs Gardens were a long bus ride, but were SO worth it! One of our tour bus’ even got stuck during the torrential downpours we experienced. We are going to try (fingers crossed) to rent a car and go back in a couple of days before making the long flight back to Seattle.
Just look at what greeted us right as we got off the bus and you can understand why we MUST make our way back if we can!
Fine Foliage Southern StyleApologies for the uncharacteristically less than stellar quality of this photo as it was raining and as photographers, trying to juggle an umbrella while shooting is an acrobatic feat we have yet to master! However, now you can see why we feel so strongly about going back as soon as possible! The caladium, variegated ginger and begonia’s that anchor this showy display are truly just a small sample of what we plant to go back to shoot when its dry!

Fine Foliage Southern StyleThese fabulous gold conifers at the swelling creek side were standouts on such a dark and gloomy day that they commended attention. While the spiky blue yucca give a textural and color contrast brilliantly, the fluffy white aster that blooms in the early fall was the perfect billowy soft accent for an ideal display of what we mean when we say “Foliage First!”

Fine Foliage Southern Style

Who on earth decided that pink and orange DON’T go together?! Clearly whomever designed this doesn’t follow the rules and thank heavens! These GIANT caladium love the heat and humidity of the south and we are ever so jealous. But, pairing them with this orange-gold coleus was brilliant and created such a perfect foil for the flowers in these overflowing containers.

Fine Foliage Southern StyleAs the afternoon of our tour got darker and stormier, the foliage that stood out was whatever has a light feeling to it, we talk about that often on this blog, but what a day for a perfect example! These white caladium and bright gold coleus in the background make our point perfectly in contrast to all of those flowers.

We are off to a bus and more gardens in mere moments. Hopefully this gives you a little idea of what we are experiencing here in the south and we will have MUCH more to show you from some unbelievable gardens we are seeing here. MORE to come!

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Easy Window Box Display

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Why make things complicated?

This window box is one of the few  spots that deer seem to ignore. Maybe they consider it isn’t worth the effort to bushwhack through the abelia, step over the fountain or navigate the narrow path? Whatever the reason I’m happy to have the opportunity to use colorful foliage that would get eaten elsewhere.

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Receiving only three hours of indirect light in the afternoon, this window box sits beneath the front window of my garden cabin, looking onto a 4 foot  deep porch. It isn’t truly dark on the porch but between the eaves and the surrounding plants it is most definitely only suitable for shade loving plants.

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It would be easy to design an over the top display with lots of different plants and colors but this window box is merely one part of a much larger vignette so I prefer to keep things simple. I add enough color to pull the eye back onto the porch but have the planting become just one more element within the broader picture of sunset shades. Even in September, as the perennial Zagreb tickseed (Coreopsis v. ‘Zagreb’) are pushing out their last few flowers this foliage focused window box packs a colorful punch.

The foliage framework

Lava Rose coleus

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This Lava Rose trailing coleus is similar in habit to Burgundy Wedding Train but  the addition of hot pink and creamy white really help this to be seen in the shade.

The “I know I’ll find the tag somewhere” coleus

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I remember putting the tag somewhere safe….. Regardless of its name, it was included in the window box because it had a tidy mounding habit and the colors were perfect.That gold really popped against the cedar siding

Illumination periwinkle

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Illumination has a distinct yellow variegation (Wojo’s Gem is more cream). Perfect to trail over the edge

The Finishing Touch

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Many tropical house plants are suitable for a summer vacation on a shady porch; Dakota Anthurium is one of them. When frost threatens I’ll bring this indoors and see if I can keep it alive (I’m not very successful when it comes to indoor plants unless they thrive on benign neglect).

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Easy Peasy – Foliage First! Now I do believe there is an exciting new book with that title…..

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New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors

If there is one thing Team Fine Foliage knows for sure, it’s that our gray Pacific Northwest climate requires careful planning when it comes to designing beds, borders and landscapes of all sizes for the right balance of plants to anchor the garden year round. As we head into the fall and winter seemingly faster than normal this year, we begin to analyze our past choices and new options with a bit more urgency so that we can have our spring plans ready as well as tweaking old ideas to make room for new ones.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsWhile visiting the positively luscious PowellsWood Garden recently, it was incredible to analyze the use of foliage plants to act as a ballast to hold down the scenes around the garden of fluffy, billowy, blooming perennials and shrubs arranged so carefully to lead you from one space to the next. Lead designer Rick Serazin is incredibly brilliant. He has an eye for details and a use of foliage that keeps us coming back for more!

The hardy banana above boldly grips this scene with its wide tropical leaves for your eye to wander down to the medium textured Mediterranean fan palms on both sides of the Rhamnus ‘Fine Line’ that provides a lacy texture and strong vertical line. Then the ribbon of ‘Orange Rocket’ barberries creates a horizontal band across the middle giving a fantastic orange glow for the intensely white leaves of the (new to the market as of 2014 ) Stachys ‘Bello Grigio’ to stand out against. A carpet of annual bacopa ‘Calypso Jumbo Lavender’ across the bottom of this setting adds the floral element for all of this incredible foliage to stand out against.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsWhen phormium or New Zealand Flax was the HOT new plant, we couldn’t get enough of every new color, shape and size that came out every year. Now after some experimentation, some failures due to climate, soil and critters, we designers might be a bit more discerning about spending our precious dollars on certain new plants. And then THIS happened….Astelia came to market and now we’re hooked once again.🙂

In the photo above, you can see Astelia nervosa ‘Westland’ holding down this small bed where black mondo grass fills in around it making a frame to show off the interesting color of this particular astelia. This silver bladed grass-like plant has a subtle hint of rusty-red and a little burgundy that gives it some interesting tonal effects. Plus, the way that it stands up tall and erect is very effective and helps to lead the eye up the hedgerow to the stairs that lead you under the vine-covered arbor in the distance.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsThe same Astelia ‘Westland’ mentioned earlier adorns this small dry stream bed in the partial shade with other foliage plants and acts as the main player in this scene while ground covers and other grasses are still maturing.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsObviously our notoriously easy maritime climate is milder and allows us much more flexibility in our plant choices than most locations around the country, but the photo above is a great way to take a design idea and riff on it with your own colder climate plant options.

The design take-away here is that the upright and very blue pine in the center of this shot “anchors” the billowy summer blooming shrubs and perennials around it, keeping them from feeling as if this border is going to almost float-away. Plus, giving us some colorful winter interest to hold our eye later in the year. So what shrubs could you substitute in your climate for plants like the hardy fuchsia shown here?

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsPowellsWood takes great pride in making sure that they have BIG BOLD color for summer and this is just one inspiring example of how they do that so well. But, from a design standpoint, just look at the skillful use of foliage here! At the base of all of that blooming perennial glory sits a blanket of Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’ ground cover where the designer inserted fancy geraniums that feature intense gold foliage. The energy of the gold and black high-contrast combination were spaced beautifully and allowed the flowery border to have some “breathing space” where the eye can rest.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors
The bright gold of ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac draws your eye in like a beacon to this intensely detailed and colorful border. Big leaves from the tropical red banana are a great contrast to the finely cut foliage of the sumac while the extraordinary blue of the ‘Blue Chalk Fingers’ or ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’ (Senecio mandraliscae) leads you to gaze down low at the foliage color opposite the color wheel from yellow or gold that MAKES this setting extraordinary.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors
Could this incredibly blue succulent be something more hardy for your garden location? ‘Blue Star’ juniper? ‘Blue Rug’ juniper? Blue Oat grass or the smaller blue fescue grass? No matter which idea works bets for you, the design function of the blue foliage works beautifully here against the gold spreading yew in the center and the variegated leaves of the ‘Gilt Edge’ Elaeagnus at the back.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsSo much fabulous foliage in one space! From the ‘Feelin Blue’ deodor cedar in the center the creeping blue juniper on the far left, to the tender summer foliage of the stachys mentioned earlier and the brand new ‘Meerlo’ lavender with dreamy cream variegation and fragrance, there are so many ideas here! The weeping blue conifer is an excellent choice to anchor this bed, while the red/orange tones of the heuchera in the center are the perfect color to echo the annual cigar or firecracker plant (cuphea ignea) and the lavender bacopa and verbena up on the wall.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsThe classical color contrast of gold and purple are so well done in this raised wall garden. The gold spreading yew and blue creeping juniper gives this scene a couple of showy evergreen anchors for the winter months while the swath of columnar ‘Karl Foerster’ grasses are sensational for late summer.
Way to go PowellsWood garden!

Want more ideas?

Well you may want to pre-order our new book Gardening with Foliage First because there is a HUGE section of ideas just for fall and winter including container designs!

Don’t forget to join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)

Time to Visit your Favorite Nurseries!

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There’s a change in the air. Morning mists, chillier evenings and the unforgettable candy apple fragrance of the Katsura trees as the leaves turn golden all serve to remind us that the seasons are transitioning from summer to fall.

If you’re not quite ready to switch our your containers yet but would welcome some inspiration, head to your favorite nursery for ideas. While in Shoreline, WA today I called in at Sky Nursery and loved these two  options; one for sun and one for shade.

Both are based on a strong foliage framework of evergreen shrubs and perennials which means they are going to look fabulous for MONTHS.

Sun Savvy

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To be honest, in Seattle there is little difference between sun and shade during fall and winter; it comes down to varying shades of grey! However to keep the ‘permanent’ plants in the same pot and location year round you do need to plan accordingly.

My favorite conifer; Mr. Wissel as I affectionately call him (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ or Wissel’s Saguaro false cypress) sets the blue-green tone and adds height. Notice how the Fire Alarm Heuchera repeats the warm color of the container and the Japanese blood grass marries the two with its burgundy tipped green blades.

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Nurseries often tuck plant tags into the back of the pot which can be helpful if you aren’t familiar with some. (The tag was missing for the blood grass).

Shady Style

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I loved the riot of textures in this pot as well as the fact that every plant is evergreen.Again it is the subtle attention to detail that sets this professionally designed pot apart; the dark red stems of the mountain pepper echoes the color of the Heuchera and also plays off the speckled pot. (Both pots are from AW Pottery).

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Another take home idea; notice how a Heuchera features in both the sun and shade design? Some varieties are more sun tolerant than others so do your research but this is a great solution for porches that have one side receiving more sun than the other. Look for one key plant that can be used in both and mimic the color scheme using light appropriate plants in each.

Today Seattle is having its last hurrah if we are to believe the forecasters; currently sunny and 82′. Tomorrow I may need my fleece. But I’m ready for fall planting now. Are you?

Want more ideas?

Well you may want to pre-order our new book Gardening with Foliage First because there is a HUGE section of ideas just for fall and winter including container designs!

Don’t forget to join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)