Garden Tour Gems

I had the opportunity to attend the Woodinville Garden Club annual garden tour this past weekend. This is always a highlight of the garden tour season for me and over the years I have made many new friends and discovered several outstanding gardens that we have been able to share with you through the pages of Fine Foliage as well as our upcoming new book Gardening with Foliage First.

These are just a few of the artistic, foliage-focused  combinations that had me reaching for my camera.

All about the foliage

Starting in true Fine Foliage style, the first group are a selection that rely fully on leafy goodness for their good looks. Since the homeowners and volunteers were extremely busy I was unable to get some plant names but will add them as I can.

Japanese maples are always a favorite – I thought this was a lovely way to highlight the delicate layers.

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Love the way the deep rosy leaf of the Japanese maple (Shaina??) picks up on the vein detail of the Heuchera leaf (Solar Power?) and stems of the dwarf Rhododendron. Design by Victoria Gilleland.

Hardy impatiens is a stellar groundcover for the shade. Loved how it was allowed to mingle with this golden false cypress (Chamaecyparis)

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The yellow central vein of a hardy impatiens assumes greater importance when adjacent to a golden conifer. Design by Victoria Gilleland

One of my favorite conifers is the Rheingold arborvitae so this trio captured my imagination.

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A silver leaved daisy bush, a bronze sedge and Rheingold arborvitae all thrive in full sun. Design by Joe Abken

And then there were plant combinations that were as unique as they were colorful…. Fabulous layers of foliage including a variegated cherry laurel (I think this is Prunus laurocerasus ‘Marble White’) and a new purple leaved hydrangea called Plum Passion had us all swooning. Mmmm.

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LOVE this hydrangea!!! Design by Victoria Gilleland

Of course no garden tour is complete without getting on my hands and knees to photograph hidden treasures such as this container.

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Loved the light shining through the Trusty Rusty coleus and onto the Sparks May Fly begonia. Design by Joe Abken

Talking of coleus, I must find out the name of this variety with the twisted leaves and toothed edges.

IMG_8125Loved how designer and homeowner Joe Abken had paired it with a hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) – which had me on my knees again so I could show you the burgundy veins underneath the leaf…..

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Design by Joe Abken

Adding layers

Our new book will show you how to layer additional elements onto  a foliage framework . Flowers, buds, bark, art – all are possible! This selection of images shows you how it’s done.

This scene, again by Joe Abken shows how the cinnamon colored buds of a leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum)  play off the bronze foliage of a nearby Japanese maple.

When combined the visual strength of both is augmented;

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Design by Joe Abken

Likewise the soft blue-grey tones of a spruce and snowberry (Symphoricarpos) make for a monochromatic backdrop to show off the delicate pink flowers, that in turn echo the color of the stems.

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Design by Joe Abken

And then there are flowers that have equally eye catching foliage so you can’t possibly go wrong! See what happens when you combine Golden Lanterns Himalayan honeysuckle and Fuchsia speciosa .

Add Little Heath andromeda (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) and you get MAGIC

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Which is your favorite?

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Gardening with Foliage First: Sneak Peek #1!

After months of writing, photographing, proof reading and waiting….we are closer to getting our new book Gardening with FOLIAGE FIRST out into the gardening world! The talented team at Timber Press has now released our COVER which we are excited to share with you.

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What’s it all about?

Enjoy this excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Sensational Scenes, Expansive Ideas, and Original Thinking

What do you get when you let two designers loose in a nursery? A car filled to overflowing with a wild assortment of trees, shrubs, perennials, and more. It is a given that you will not be able to see out of the rear window, and you should expect to have plants on the seats, on the floor, and in cup holders. It is only when plants are precariously balanced on the dashboard that we think we may have enough.

But these are not just any plants. The majority will be an outrageous selection of foliage plants with enormous tropical leaves jostling feathery grasses; stripes, spots, and splashes alongside bold solid colors from vibrant orange to deepest purple. Tucked in here and there will be some flowering plants. Experience has taught us that these truly perform, either with a reliably long bloom time or interesting leaves as well as flowers.

As designers, speakers, and coauthors, we have gained a reputation for being entertaining as well as inspiring and for sharing our expertise in a way that is easy to understand. We encourage and challenge each other, which brings out the best in both of us. This, in turn, provides readers with a much broader range of ideas than either one of us could accomplish alone. Together we have fun while we walk you through our design process, which puts foliage first, then adds a final flourish to take the scene from predictable to exceptional.

The Floral Seduction

When you go to the grocery store, you probably have a plan (or at least a recipe) in mind. But how often do you take a shopping list to the nursery? Without forethought, you are headed for disaster—it is too easy to get seduced by all the colorful flowers so prominently displayed. On impulse, you grab one of this and one of that, and when you get home that collection of pretty blooms never quite translates into a glossy magazine image. It is just a wild kaleidoscope with no cohesive sense of design—or, worse, the blooms fade, and you spent a lot of money on a short-term burst of glory. What went wrong?

You may have chosen plants that are individually beautiful, but did you consider whether they look good together? Is there a visual connection between them? Or perhaps you succumbed to the display of blooming annuals and perennials, the enticing photographs promising an abundance of flowers in summer. But how many months do you need to wait for the plants to reach that stage—and how long will they bloom? If you focus on the flowers without considering the foliage, you may end up with a disappointing mélange of midsize green leaves for much of the year, not a unified, well-designed look. It is far more effective, and attractive, to start with foliage.

Taking the Next Step

After building a foliage framework, we show you how to layer in flowers or other artistic elements to add the finishing touch. We take the mystery out of the design process and explain what makes a combination successful. If you follow our ideas or use them as a springboard for your own creations, you will feel like we are your personal design coaches.

In this book, we demonstrate how quickly and easily you can assemble plants that reflect your personal style and suit the largest border or smallest container. We teach you how to make strategic plant choices, clarify why certain plants are great investments for year-round interest, and explain how every element will help you achieve a cohesive look.

Inspiration for All Seasons, Situations, and Settings

Our ideas go beyond the typical summer growing season. The book is divided into two main sections—Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter—both of which feature design schemes for sun and shade situations. You will be able to create a true four-season garden that will work for your style and design challenges. Are you still trying to outwit the deer? We feel your pain, and have included Beauty Without the Beast just for you. Looking for something to add winter interest to your cold-climate garden? We were inspired by Serendipity and we think you will be, too. Do you prefer a hot, spicy color palette? Sassitude is sizzling hot. Need ideas for a fall container? Pumpkin Spice Latte is just one of the flavors on the menu.

We scoured gardens from British Columbia to Arizona to Florida to Washington State to find designs to delight, inspire, and embolden you to try new ideas, new plants, and new ways of looking at plant combinations. There are ideas for small patio containers to large sweeping borders, and everything in between. Each combination includes an explanation of how it works. Many of our favorite plants have multiple periods of significance, and this section discusses how each component evolves during the year and offers ideas on how to extend the season of interest even further.

New gardeners will quickly gain confidence as they learn how to select plants that work together, as well as how to identify the details that create a strong foliage picture frame for the flowers on which they may have initially focused. Intermediate gardeners will learn how to transform their gardens from a jumble of collectors’ plants to a carefully composed design, while those with many years of dirt under their fingernails will be inspired by a fresh twist on old favorites—plus exciting new introductions that will spark the imagination and help you craft unique creations.

Want to see more?

We’ll be sharing a few sample pages with you in the upcoming weeks with juicy never-been-seen-before images. For now we’ll just reveal a little more of the stunning combination created by talented plantswoman Mary M. Palmer selected for our cover shot. We’ve called it….

Treasure Hunt

Gardening with Foliage First, Timber Press 2017, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz

Design by Mary M. Palmer, Snohomish, WA

WHY THIS WORKS; There are some plants that you just have to have – and this treasure trove will have you writing up a new shopping list. Glossy black leaves of a unique daphne join a new sea holly that sports spiky golden foliage, which in turn makes the bright silvery blue of a prostrate noble fir seemingly shimmer. Surrounding these collector’s gems are more familiar shrubs and perennials but in this company they are all transformed into precious jewels.

PINNACLE OF PERFECTION; As summer transitions to fall the barberry will turn crimson and the rhododendron may contribute some red flowers to the scene. Although the daphne will lose foliage in a harsh winter and the sea holly will become dormant, the conifer and rhododendron will provide winter color, to be joined in spring by flowers on both the daphne and Ostbo’s Elizabeth rhododendron. Pruning of the conifer and rhododendron may be necessary to maintain this balance of riches.

In our book Gardening with Foliage First we have provided plant portraits and full details of all these horticultural treasures. Here’s a simple plant list to pacify your plant-lust cravings for now

FOLIAGE FRAMEWORK

Ostbo’s Elizabeth rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Ostbo’s Elizabeth’)  Hardy in zones 6-8

Prostrate blue noble fir (Abies procera ‘Glauca Prostrata’) . Zones 4-8

Black daphne (Daphne x houtteana)  Zones 6-9

Bagatelle barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Bagatelle’) . Zones 5-8

FINISHING TOUCH

Neptune’s Gold sea holly (Eryngium x zabelli ‘Neptune’s Gold’) Zones 5-9

Want to pre-order?

It just so happens we can help you there. Even without sample pages or editorial reviews it is showing as the #1 New Release in the Ornamental Gardening category on Amazon as I’m writing this! We understand it will be available late January 2017.

Pre-order with special pricing here

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Understated Elegance with Fine Foliage

20160610-CS_IMG_4333After shooting a LOT of garden photos in the last few weeks I have been editing more than normal too. I have a process where I glance through a whole file and without over analyzing any one thing too much, I quickly flag the shots that “speak to me”. It’s that gut reaction you get quickly that tends to be very reliable about which ones to go back and spend time on or ditch them now and move on.

To that end, I originally passed this one over when I was on my elimination frenzy and I’m so glad that I came back to give it a second glance. Then, the more I kept looking at it the more I loved it. The photo itself is all right, THIS is about the design lesson.

If you even half pay attention to this blog or my other social media posts, then you likely know my style is most decidedly NOT quiet, demure or conservative, but this one speaks to me. I got back from photographing and touring gardens in England for ten days recently (more to come on that exciting adventure!) so maybe the quieter garden style there has rubbed off on me a little. Not there that weren’t dizzying displays of “WHOA….” at times, the focus is just different there.

The interesting thing is that I took this photo at the VERY colorful Bellevue Botanical Garden last weekend and I must have passed this combination hundreds of times over the years and up until now noticed parts of this vignette, but not the “full picture”. Maybe this is maturity in my garden design evolution talking, or maybe it’s just another layer of awareness that comes with experience about what I’m viewing.

The centerpiece of this photo is the Red Tussock grass (Chionochloa rubra) is a New Zealand native hardy in zones 7-10, grows 3-5ft tall and wide in a clump that features gracefully arching blades that move with the breeze in color tones that can range from sparkling tan to coppery red. Feminine white Japanese iris stands up on the left, almost waving the white flag to get your attention and lovely though they are, I’m still not quite enamored enough to draw my eye away from that grass. Then on the right, you just can’t deny that the lime green juvenile flowers of the snow white hydrangea ‘Incrediball’ are harmonic color perfection with the golden tan grass.

Now take all three together and sigh…..it’s the recipe that works! You might have three ingredients for a dish that you can’t fathom coming together and yet it does. The flavor profile is subtle, refined and utterly elegant. I don’t feel the need to douse it in Sriracha sauce to make it spicy and grab my attention. In fact, a little tea with milk, a biscuit and that may be all is needed here to make me happy. Oh and that boxwood down front with its deep green….

Holy cow! This British co-author and that trip have gotten to me…. Shhhhhhhh……:-)

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One Leaf – Oodles of Options

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Sometimes you need something different to liven up the shade tapestry of ferns, hostas and hellebores. Painter’s Palette knotweed (Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’) might be just the answer. This isn’t the highly invasive knotweed that threatens to engulf both ornamental and native plantings, but a better-behaved relative. Having said that, it is still quite vigorous and spreads by underground rhizomes as well as seed, especially in moist soil. I have found that in drier conditions it spreads very little, so choose your site wisely and consult your local Extension office if in doubt.

Why we like it

Mottled green and cream foliage is splashed irregularly with raspberry shades, and most leaves have a burgundy chevron. Painter’s Palette forms a mound of foliage, and an abundance of wiry stems of unusual red flowers rises above in midsummer. As an herbaceous perennial, it will die down in winter, which allows ephemeral spring-blooming bulbs to be tucked in underneath.

While suffering mild slug damage it is mostly ignored by deer and rabbits and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. It copes with clay soil and thrives in moist conditions but never gets watered in my woodland gardens and does just fine so appears to be reasonably drought tolerant providing the soil holds adequate moisture.

Recommended for partial sun it will take more sun if kept well watered,

How to use it

Of course the question is, what other plants can we combine with it to really show it off? Well there are plenty of options to choose from. Seeking out other foliage plants that echo the creamy tone is a good way to start then highlight the rose chevron detail with an accent flower or leaf.

In the example below the green and cream are repeated by two other adjacent plants while the raspberry chevron is picked up by a planting of magenta phlox in the distance

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Clearly defined form helps distinguish these three variegated plants together with a carpet of solid green . Design by Daniel Mount, Seattle WA

Seattle designer Daniel Mount has got a remarkable eye for color and detail,  weaving plants together into  luxuriant tapestries that seduce the unwary visitor. How can you resist running your fingers through the cascading waterfall of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) or testing the springiness of the perfectly clipped variegated boxwood? This artistic combination is discussed in more detail here and we have several more of Daniel’s designs to share with you in our upcoming book Gardening with FOLIAGE FIRST (Timber Press, January 2017).

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland, OR

Thomas Vetter is another Pacific Northwest gardener with  an uncanny ability to shoehorn an abundance of plants into a relatively small space yet do so in a  strategic way to create layers of contrasting and complementary foliage with floral and other artistic accents added as precisely placed punctuation points.

Painter’s Palette knotweed brightens up a corner of his front garden, illuminating a purple smoke bush while adding a stage upon which the pineapple lily (Eucomis ) can truly show off her shapely form and flowers. See how those burgundy stems draw the eye to the chevron detail on the knotweed? The faded allium seedheads add a delightful  softness to the composition, juxtaposed with the bronze succulent foliage of the pineapple lily and mimicking its star shaped flowers.

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland OR

Nearby  this knotweed variety is given a new twist by introducing the red bell-shaped blooms of a flowering maple (Abutilon) and flirty Hot Lips sage (Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’) both of which serve to really pull out its rosy foliage markings. Balancing the wispiness of the Hot Lips sage, a variegated agave adds bold texture and form while Fire Power heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica ‘Fire Power’) transitions the color palette into more golden hues.

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland, OR

When viewed from a different angle, one can better appreciate the clever use of contrasting leaf texture while repeating the key colors in this vignette.

What would YOU pair this with? Do leave a comment here or post a photo to our Facebook page! And stand by for a truly STUNNING combination using Painter’s Palette knotweed in our new book, designed by Daniel Mount. It’s one of my personal favorites.

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Do Your Poppies POP?

Visit any nursery at this time of year and the chances are you’ll come across poppies in full bloom. In my own garden the annual varieties and perennial Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica) are still tight buds but the oriental poppies (Papaver orientalis) have been showing off their gaudy colors for a few days now.

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Large and luscious  – the oriental poppy loves full sun and dry or well-drained soil

Their ephemeral beauty can be lost, however, without great foliage to show them off. I’ve shared one such vignette with you before; Creating a Picture Frame with Foliage but rather liked this  combination I spotted in my garden yesterday that we could call…

Fire and Ice

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A fleeting Garden Moment – without the foliage these poppies would just be flowers.

The vibrant orange  oriental poppy (an unknown variety that was a gift from a friend) gains depth from the rich hues of Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’) behind it while Skylands spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) glows to one side.

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Backed by Orange Rocket barberry the poppies become serious Drama Queens

Tempering this heat, the cooling silver and blue-green foliage of a weeping willowleaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) and Blue Shag pine (Pinus strobus ‘Blue Shag’) create a soothing backdrop.

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The reflective silver leaves of the weeping pear

A large, wide boulder adds a sense of solidity to the scene, balancing the vertical lines of the poppy stems.

What other foliage plants would transform  these everyday orange poppies into something special?

Fire

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Double Play Gold spirea opens orange before transitioning to gold tipped with red.

Many spirea have foliage in shades of gold with orange-red new growth at this time of year e.g. Magic Carpet, Goldflame, Double Play Gold.

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Coppertina ninebark glows in the sunshine

Coppertina, Center Glow and Amber Jubilee ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious) all boast warm colors of amber through mahogany in spring.

Ice

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The new growth on Old Fashioned smoke bush

I love the Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’) with its soft blue-green leaves. The new growth and stems are usually rosy pink that only adds to the charm

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Silver Brocade wormwood  could be used as a groundcover under the orange poppies.

There are many silver leaved shrubs and perennials that could substitute for the weeping pear from the old fashioned daisy bush (Brachyglottis greyi) and silverbush (Convolvulus cneorum) to wormwood (Artemisia) varieties e.g. Silver Mound   and dusty miller (Senecio cineraria).

How have you paired your poppies with foliage to really make them POP? Leave us a comment below or post a photo to our Facebook page. We’d love to see and hear your ideas!

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Food with Fine Foliage

Food with Fine FoliageRecently I was chosen by the National Garden Bureau to be one of 5 garden writers to attend a fun event in California called the California Spring Plant Trials. Think of it as the spring fashion show of new plants coming to market in 2017 and beyond. Breeders and growers from all over the world come to show off their pride and joy to the nurseries, buyers, wholesalers who can help them bring these new plants to the attention of gardeners everywhere. 

Obviously, I was particularly enamored with what new foliage I could find and the very first stop was the Hort Couture display where edibles were one of the superstars! They had a gorgeous display of edibles that they call “Culinary Couture”. Beautiful plants that are both tasty AND lovely to design with in the landscape were the BIG take-away here. 
Food with Fine Foliage Food with Fine FoliageHort Couture is taking the idea that I have been promoting for a long time that I like to call “Ornamedibles” to a whole new level of style and sophistication. Why in the world can’t your summer borders include plants that are practical AND beautiful? 

Food with Fine FoliageI can’t WAIT to get my hands on these new black basils for next year!!! Imagine these in container designs? YOWZA!!! 

Food with Fine Foliage

Food with Fine Foliage Now if you growing tomatoes anyway, isn’t it MORE fun to have both a chartreuse foliage color tomato along WITH your green foliage? What a brilliant idea! And I saw the fruit that came from these plants- luscious!!! 
Food with Fine FoliageSo riddle me this; why WOULDN’T you use food with Fine Foliage rather than the boring same old same old? With so many amazing opportunities to blend the useful with the beautiful, we should all be experimenting MORE with pushing the boundaries of good design and yummy food. With all of the amazing choices coming to market, it’s time to get out there and shop, then EAT.:-)

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Crepe Myrtles – with a Twist!

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Family vacations invariably meant camping, hiking and gardens….2008 Mendocino Botanical Gardens, CA

On our family adventure to sunny California many years ago I was fascinated by the large blooming trees that seemed to line every major street. Huge blossoms in sumptious shades of pink and white gave cities a carnival atmosphere and the attractive peeling bark only enhanced that effect. I had no idea what they were so stopped at a nursery to ask – they were of course crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia). Pretty funny for those of you who live in areas where these trees are popular to the point of being ubiquitous, but rather exotic and therefore exciting for an English lady living now in the Pacific Northwest.

It turns out that some varieties are even hardy in warmer areas of Seattle e.g. the white flowering Natchez, but not where I garden. (Here’s an excellent article on crepe myrtles in the PNW if you’d like the botanical background on breeding etc)

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that in fact there are some forms of crepe myrtle that even I can grow, being  hardy to USDA zone 6 and they have outstanding foliage! Now you’ve got my attention.

Here are three from the First Editions line that Bailey’s Nurseries in Oregon are growing and are widely distributed.

Ruffled Red Magic

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This beauty is the largest of my trio, growing as an upright, dense shrub to 12′ tall and  8′ wide. Right now the deep olive green foliage is dressed up with the glowing new crimson growth. Place this where you can enjoy the sunlight streaming through to appreciate this spring spectacle.

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Photo courtesy Bailey’s Nurseries

As spring moves to summer the foliage of Ruffled Red Magic will be dark green – the perfect backdrop to showcase the ruffled red carnation-like flowers. Christmas in July perhaps?? If these are deadheaded there is a promise of repeat blooms later in the season.

Fall foliage color is orange-red; definitely something to look forward to!

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This would work well as a backdrop in a mixed border, as a three season screen or an informal deciduous hedge.

Planting companions could include Kaleidoscope abelia whose green and yellow variegated leaves would add sparkle while the dark red stems would echo the growth and flower color of the crepe myrtle.

Moonlight Magic

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If you prefer your crepe myrtle to be more tree-like Moonlight Magic should be on your shopping list. This would make a perfect patio tree as it reaches 8-12′ high but only 4-6′ wide.

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Photo courtesy Bailey’s Nurseries

The rich deep purple foliage is very striking and I can hardly wait to see the effect when it blooms with abundant clusters of white flowers in late summer.

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What would you partner this with? In a container I might anticipate the white flowers so introduce green and white variegated Emerald Gaiety wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) as a simple color echo around the edges together with hot pink million bells (Calibrachoa) and trailing silver falls (Dichondra argentea)

Midnight Magic

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Like the purple foliage but want something a bit sexier? Midnight Magic has deep pink flowers set against rich purple foliage – reminds me of dark chocolate gelato with a hint of raspberry and a drizzle of framboise…..

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Photo courtesy Bailey’s Nurseries

This has a more rounded shape growing 4-6′ tall and wide so could be used in a large container or the landscape.

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All these shrubs are deer resistant, show good leaf spot and disease resistance and are hardy in zones 6-9. That means even I can grow them!

So there  is yet another excuse to go shopping – and perhaps try something new. Look for the purple First Editions branded pots at your local nurseries.

first-editions

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My New BFF

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Blade of Sun snowberry

What’s sparkles in the shade, is deer resistant, drought tolerant, smothers weeds, propagates easily but isn’t invasive, has hot pink berries in fall and helps control soil erosion?

Let me introduce you to my new BFF (Best Foliage Friend)  Blade of Sun snowberry (Symphoricarpos chenaultii ‘Blade of Sun’). You NEED this plant….

Why I Love It

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It has a low growing, spreading habit and where the branches touch the ground new roots develop. You can sever this rooted branch from the mother plant to get more plants – it’s a really easy technique called layering except that this snowberry does all the work for you.

If it gets too wide simply snip away with the pruners. No special technique or timing needed for success. Since the main plant will easily grow to 2′ wide – more as it layers – it make sense to set it back from the edge of the border even though it is low growing.

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The froth of golden foliage is easily trimmed to keep the path clear but tumbles down the stream bank, rooting even into the muddy soil of the stream itself! This plant is now almost 5′ wide from side to side and was planted three years ago.

The bright golden yellow foliage is semi-evergreen and holds its color well throughout the year although by mid-summer mine tends to be more chartreuse. It has proven to be drought tolerant in my woodland garden where it is planted in dappled shade and clay soil with no irrigation. A younger plant in more sun may need extra water and in the full sun of hotter climates it may scorch.

I have never noticed the pink flowers and the berry production is not extensive – consider them a bonus because this shrub is really all about the leaves.

Design Ideas

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This seasonal stream can fill to the top in winter but that never fazes the blue flowering bugleweed or snowberry

I planted a Blade of Sun snowberry on my moderately steep stream bank to hold the soil in place. It’s layering habit meant that this was so successful that last year I took several cuttings and planted them farther downstream to continue the splash of gold: I’m delighted with the look!

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Catlin’s Giant bugleweed creates its own river of blue along the streambank in spring

Try inter-planting this with one of the larger bugleweed‘s e.g. Catlin’s Giant whose purple-black  leaves offer striking contrast while the azure-blue flowering spikes easily penetrate the lax branches of the shrub. Classic blue and yellow – perfect recipe for spring.

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Red Carpet barberry, Blade of Sun snowberry and Catlin’s Giant bugleweed, mingling and thriving together.

Red Carpet barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Red Carpet’) also has a prostrate habit and I have used several on the sunnier sections of the stream bank. I love their association with the golden yellow snowberry leaves. If barberries are invasive where you live consider substituting with a dwarf loropetalum e.g. Purple Pixie or dwarf weigela e.g. Midnight Wine.

It may look like  a box of crayons but this red-blue-yellow combo is grown up enough for enthusiastic gardeners of all ages.

In another part of the garden I have mixed Blade of Sun snowberry with several hosta and two rusted metal spheres which pick up on the tawny-pink stems of the shrub.

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The bronze new growth of Rodgersia podophylla ‘Rotlaub’ offers bold contrast to the other streamside plantings

In fact this small golden leaf would work with everything from dissected fern and astilbe leaves to bold Rodgersia. Or just imagine how this splash of yellow would wake up the tired rhododendron border in summer and fall !

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A different perspective; fun to repeat the gold color with Carex ‘Bowle’s Golden’ and oxslip blooms (Primula veris). Acer palmatum ‘Orangeola in the background.

What would YOU plant it with? Do leave a comment below or on Facebook – or tell me when I see you at the nurseries! Happy gardening.

Available from Forest Farms

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Spring Shopportunity

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We know you love to buy plants – you are our sort of people after all! So when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom we want you to feel empowered, encouraged and inspired to purchase with intention. And the way to do that of course is to know what stellar foliage plants you already have – or also need to take home – to show off your floral floozies. Because let’s face it, in August you will wonder why you purchased the said rhodie.

This delightful combination was designed by the talented Mitch Evans, a WA state designer who has recently sold this remarkable garden. In fact he warned the new owners that he may find either Christina or I taking photographs underneath his prize Japanese maples at sunrise on any given day…..

Here’s why this works

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Succumb to your floral fantasy knowing we have your back. In this case we have Rhododendron sargentianum ‘Liz Ann’, a dwarf that grows to just 1′ high in 10 years or so and is hardy to -5’F. The daphne-like flowers open very pale pink but fade quickly to white. Keep those two colors in mind as they are your design cues.

Highlight with foliage

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Since you have a white flower look for white in a neighboring foliage plant to highlight it – or two. We refer to this as a color echo.

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In this case Mitch chose a variegated hosta and a specimen floating cloud Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’). You NEED this tree – yes you do. Just look at the delicate variegated leaves and pink stems……

Now add some contrast 

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A simple burgundy leaved Japanese maple works perfectly. In this case the weeping form and finely dissected leaves of a cultivar such as Crimson Queen or the slightly smaller Red Dragon will give a design nod to the pink flush of the newly emerged rhodie flowers while also adding depth to the combination and introducing a new form and leaf shape.

How easy is that? Now show us what you do.Leave us a comment here or on Facebook. We love to glean ideas from you too! (Don’t be alarmed if you find us in your garden at odd hours will you?)

Oh MY Iris!!!

There are grasses and all manner of spiky plants to add colorful texture in the garden, but its extraordinary to find iris with phenomenal foliage used to great effect. It used to be something rare and unique, but now iris of all kinds are being favored for the personality they bring to the landscape with leaves and not just flouncy flowers. 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Paired here with a lavender Japanese primrose (Primula sieboldii), these variegated yellow flag iris make a classy color combination for spring at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Now look at how different that same iris looks with the emerging new foliage of this astilbe. Red and yellow are so vibrant together! 

Oh MY Iris!!!The the same iris again in front of this deep green ilex….. I don’t think fans of foliage would have hurt feelings if I said that I wouldn’t feel bad if this never bloomed would you? 

Oh MY Iris!!!
This beautiful German style iris is perfectly suited to this spring display with Forget-Me-Nots, Iceland poppy, pale yellow carex grass and moonlight toned wallflower. I have to hand it to the designers at Chanticleer, they know how to make a fashion statement all right! 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Another Siberian iris ‘Gerald Darby’ makes you stop in your tracks to get down and check out the marvelous legs on this plant! Blue-purple and not even a flower yet. Imagine the design possibilities! 

For more information on the amazing world of iris, see “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts” from our good friend of Fine Foliage Kelly Norris. And a good companion option for all of the other amazing iris selections out there is this one, “Bearless Irises: A Plant for every Garden Situation” by Kevin C. Vaughn.

In the mean time, join us over on our Facebook page for more daily doses of leafy inspiration by clicking HERE!