One Special Tree – Four Stunning Seasons

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We all want instant gratification in our gardens; plant today – lush tomorrow. At some point most of us have learned the hard way that plants just don’t work to our schedule and we have to wait for the plants to fill in and mature before they really fulfill our vision.

Occasionally I come across something that exceeds my expectations and such is the case with the deciduous tree Ruby Vase Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica ‘Ruby Vase’).

Purchased and planted in 2012, I was attracted by the slender silhouette (as compared to the typical Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), that spreads up to 30′ wide) as well as the promise of fall color and winter flowers. I did not expect to be grabbing my camera every few weeks during spring and summer to capture the remarkable kaleidoscopic display of foliage colors, however.

Through the Seasons

Early Spring

Opening a bright, fresh green the leaves are often edged with purple or burgundy

Summer

Incredible variation with each passing week and seemingly from one year to the next! Click on the images, or hover over them, to see the month/year each one was taken

Fall

All I can say is thank goodness for digital photography or this tree would cost me a fortune in film! Again different weather patterns from one year to the next seems to affect the coloration. Since today’s (August 15th 2016) foliage is already rich purple I wonder if it will turn orange at all?

Winter

I may have purchased this tree for the foliage but the silhouette, bark and winter flowers add to its ornamental value. I believe that as the tree gets older the bark will start to peel and reveal interesting colors.

Design ideas

In my own garden I have it combined with tall burgundy tipped grasses and black eyed Susan for a meadow-inspired look. Large mossy boulders and a rusted arbor complete the scene that overlooks an open grassy area and rough meadow beyond.

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Seen from the front the framing is slightly different with a snag playing into the vignette together with golden spirea and many other foliage colors and textures.

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For a completely different look you might prefer to add silver; perhaps giant lambs ears (Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’), or a wormwood (Artemisia).

Vital statistics

Mature size: 28’h x 12- 16’w

Shape: upright, vase shape

Full sun – part shade (best color in full sen)

Average, moisture retentive soil

Average-low water (I do not have irrigation and rarely give this supplemental water)

USDA 4-9

Ready to go shopping?

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August 2016

Ask for this at your local nurseries! I have not found it available to purchase online but it is becoming more widely grown and therefore accessible to landscapers and garden centers.

Want more ideas?

Well you may want to pre-order our new book Gardening with Foliage First because we have featured this tree in two different seasons and great combination ideas just for you!

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Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage

BRAZELBERRIES pink icing - medallion pot horiz LAB c2014 (5)

Thousands of Olympians head to Rio de Janeiro with only one thing on their minds; GOLD. The quest to be best is what they’ve strived for their entire career. They have trained and perfected their sport just the same as we strive to perfect out gardens each year.

As we root on our favorite athletes your landscape is also in competition to show off its best assets too! Now is the time to create a space worthy of a gold medal. Just like Olympians, it can take some hard work to continually achieve gold, but the plants Team Fine Foliage will show you today are already winners without the all of the sweat.

To go for gold, contenders must embody certain characteristics. A low-maintenance plant with multiple-seasons of beauty that is suited for the space and climate and is pest and disease resistant will be leaps and bounds ahead. Plus, champions must provide added benefits to people and the planet. But when our winners have Fine Foliage, that is a DOUBLE win!

In the photo above you have our first Gold Medalist for Edibles: BrazelBerries® Pink Icing™ blueberryWith breathtaking spring and fall foliage, Pink Icing is sure to win any competition. Spring brings a lovely new foliage color that has varying shades of pink mixed with blue and deeper greens. In winter, Pink Icing’s foliage takes on a stunning iridescent turquoise blue foliage hue, which looks striking when planted en masse.

BRAZELBERRIES 'Sunshine Blue', Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage Speaking of four seasons of interest, these are the delicate blooms on one incredible blueberry from last spring. Can you believe they are blooming AGAIN right now?

BRAZELBERRIES 'Sunshine Blue' , Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage Just take a gander at how handsome that incredible edible Olympian is in the summer landscape with its beautiful perennial team mates!

BRAZELBERRIES 'Sunshine Blue' , Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage When you have a GOLD MEDALIST that has great foliage as this blueberry does, you can use it in the landscape partnering with other shrubs that make it shine! Above is gorgeous blueberry foliage with Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’.

Speaking of plants that will have more than one season of interest; August happens to be a great time to get your fall greens started too. Why not choose edibles that can strut like supermodel Gisele Bunchen in the opening ceremony?

Culinary Couture, Hort Couture, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage

Culinary couture, Hort Couture, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage

When you can have fresh and tasty greens from your garden that look as beautiful as this ‘Edibliss’ Italian Black kale from Hort Couture’s new line called “Culinary Couture”, maybe you win a silver or a gold medal but your healthy strut says “You look maaaahvelous dahling!”

Red Leaf Lettuce, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage
Team Fine Foliage wants you to think about making your choices for edibles as pretty as they are yummy. After all we eat with our eyes first right?!

Red Swiss Chard, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage High energy foliage colors in the late summer and fall landscape give you that extra something to cross the finish line and make gardening a lot more fun!

Cabbage, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage To bad Gisele wasn’t holding this cabbage as she walked across the stadium, it would have MADE her outfit! :-) This extraordinary blue is a big winner for foliage color in this edibles olympic race.

If you just get out there and plant something that looks as great as it tastes, then you and your landscape are GOLD medal winners just for trying!

What Olympians are you featuring in your landscape that have winning foliage this summer?

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New Introductions – New Favorites

I am always excited to see what new plants growers are offering, especially if they have fabulous foliage. Bonus points for deer resistance! Reading about them is only half the story, however. Actually growing them in my own landscape and/or containers is the true test as to whether I recommend them to you or use them in future designs for clients. Here they have to deal with deer, rabbits, lack of irrigation, squishing into pots or neglect. The latter is never intentional but I must admit I do sometimes put smaller test plants into ‘corners’ and promptly forget about them. It’s a wonderful surprise to discover them a few months later and see the plants thriving!

These are a few of the shrubs and perennials I have been testing in my own garden this summer.

Summer Ruffle Hibiscus

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Hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

There are a few variegated hibiscus on the market now; Sugar Tip is a beauty that I have written about before, but at 5-6′ tall and wide it is a fair size. Summer Ruffle is a new introduction  and one of the First Editions collection that got my attention for its petite stature at just 3-4′ tall and wide. That makes it a prime candidate for container design as well as smaller gardens.

The foliage is a soft blue-green with wide creamy-white margins. It is a beautiful shrub even without blooms.

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hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

The ruffled semi-double flowers open lavender and fade to blue – very pretty.

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Lots of blooms on this young shrub

Place this near blue-green conifers, green and white variegated grasses and deep purple foliage such as barberry, weigela or Loropetalum for a delightful combination that puts foliage first but celebrates the summer blooms

Purple Preference Euphorbia

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Euphorbia ‘Purple Preference’

On a recent trip to Portland I called in at Xera  (of course) and scooped up three of these Purple Preference euphorbias. I fell in love with the smoky purple new growth over the dusky green older leaves – oh my. This is an evergreen perennial so it promises year round beauty.

Purple Preference a fairly new introduction from England (well that explains it – we spoke the same language…) and is said to grow to 2′ tall and wide. In terms of self seeding the growers state it as being well behaved. I haven’t had it long enough to give feedback on that but I can tell you that both in a mixed container and in the landscape it looks stunning. Try it in front of peegee hydrangeas (e.g. Hydrangea p. ‘Quickfire’) for a delicate color echo as the flowers fade from white to rose, or mingled with  silver foliage such as this next perennial.

Quicksilver artemisia

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Quicksilver artemisia

At first glance this new introduction from Proven Winners seems to be identical to Silver Brocade with its felted silvery-white leaves and groundcover habit. It is certainly more vigorous; mine are at least 4′ in diameter and I find myself wishing I had  allowed them more space! Where they appear to be superior to Silver Brocade is that this new Quicksilver does not flower. So no little yellow flowers to clip off in order to keep the plant looking its best. That makes it lower maintenance – always a good thing.

Drought tolerant and deer resistant, I use this as a weed suppressing groundcover in my sunny borders.

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Delosperma x Jewel of the Desert ‘Opal’ with Quicksilver artemisia

Try it with the Purple Preference euphorbia mentioned above, perhaps adding the new ice plant Delosperma x Jewel of the Desert for some bold flower power.

Cool Splash Diervilla (Bush honeysuckle)

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Cool Splash foliage in full sun

This is one TOUGH little shrub! But let’s back up…..have you grown the native bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)?

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Northern bush honeysuckle grown in full sun

Here’s a photo taken in a full sun, never watered, exposed to elements type of border in my own garden. Gorgeous, right? Look at the coppery new growth and imagine the fragrance from those lemon blooms.

So here’s what I like about its relative, the new introduction from First Editions; Cool Splash diervilla (Diervilla sessilifolia ‘Cool Splash’) can take full sun or a lot of shade. This next photo shows the shrub that has been totally neglected since planting it under a towering Douglas fir tree three months ago. It has never been watered unless it rained and gets only 1-2 hour of direct sun, being in open shade for most of the day.

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Cool Splash grown in dry shade

What you’ll notice is that the variegation isn’t as remarkable as the first image and it isn’t blooming – yet. However it is very much alive and doing fine, despite my less than stellar nurturing! Having said that, the growers recommend this shrub for full sun but I think I have proved a point that it isn’t a primadonna. The shrub in my sunny border rarely gets watered either and is squished between several exuberant perennials.

This deciduous shrub grows up to 4.5′ tall and wide and its crisp variegated leaves will brighten both shade and sunny combos. Try it next to early blooming shrubs that can look lack luster by August such as lilac or forsythia. Or partner it with the variegatedCanadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Glentsch White’) shown below;

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Gentsch White Canadian hemlock

and perhaps a delicate rose such as the David Austin rose ‘Wildeve’ for a romantic vignette;

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Wildeve rose

Pearl Glam beautyberry

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White flower buds on Pearl Glam beautyberry

Beautyberry (Callicarpa) is known for its metallic purple berries in fall. The problem – until now – has been waiting that long for the shrub to be of interest. Problem solved with the new variety Pearl Glam from Proven Winners.

Although the emerging foliage is green it quickly turns dark; a perfect foil for the white flowers shown here. I can’t wait to see how it looks with the purple berries!

This variety is said to grow 4-5′ tall and wide, making it a great candidate for a container or the landscape.

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Pearl Glam beautyberry

Try it with chartreuse foliage for high contrast or silver for a more contemporary look.

I have one in a mixed container (first image) and one in the landscape (above). The latter has never been watered since it was planted but is thriving. It is also on the ‘wildlife freeway’ through my garden but seems to be untouched. A very exciting new shrub for sure.

Lots more to share with you in the near future so be sure to stay tuned!

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BIG Blue Foliage

While out watering my garden the other evening, I was STRUCK by how handsome this Lawson’s blue cypress is in particular at this time of the year when paired with the summer pink blooms on my ‘Quickfire’ Hydrangeas that snuggle closely to it right at my back gate. This bold blue color has SO much personality!
Lawson's Blue CypressThat’s not to say that I haven’t written about this combo at other times of the year too, such as in fall when the hydrangea foliage has a lovely golden glow against the blue, or in spring when the hydrangea blooms are creamy white and pristine. It’s just that right now- that pink and blue combo is dee-lightfully summery and more feminine than I typically favor. If you saw the BOLD orange container combo directly in front of this scene, you would know that I’m typically not someone who does “dainty”.:-)

This got me thinking about other blue foliage that may not necessarily always be large in stature but are sure filled with BIG personality. So off we go exploring a few…..

Honeybush, Melianthus majorHoney Bush or Melianthus major is a tropical with a ton of BIG personality all right! Whether it’s an annual or a reliable perennial where you live, brush by it and you won’t forget its Peanut Butter scent. If it reaches its full-sized potential of 6-8 ft tall and wide or even wider then it’s REALLY happy, and you will be rewarded with deep red flower spikes. The foliage looks as if someone cut it with fancy edged scissors and it looks just as beautiful when droplets of water or dew balance on the leaves like few other plants.

Blue Chalk Fingers, #SucculentsBlue Chalk Fingers or Serpents Fingers Senecio vitalis ‘Serpents‘, talk about a name for a small plant with BIG personality! If you love succulents, whether this one is an annual or a year round evergreen for you, this is one that you need to play with at some point in your gardening life. THAT blue is just so, well….BLUE!!!

Dianthus I just want you to imagine this scene above without that showy ribbon of BLUE Dianthus foliage running through the middle of this display. See? The blue makes the violet shades even MORE violet!

Hosta 'Blue Angel' Not to be outdone on any level, the sheer size and voluptuous nature of this giant hosta ‘Blue Angel’ is a sheer spectacle of blue foliage with BIG personality all right! This photo really does not do justice to show the scale and size of these giant leaves at roughly 12″ across. A heavy bloomer, hummingbird favorite and less favorable to slugs, this easy perennial pairs well with all kind of flowers and shrubs. Wink wink, nudge nudge….look for this one to appear in Gardening with Foliage First due out in 2017!

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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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