New Fine Foliage To Watch For

My recent road trip with the National Garden Bureau was a hortiholics adventure of the first order. I was one of four garden writers invited to attend the 2018 California Spring Trials (CAST) as their guest on a week long, plant-peeping extravaganza.

CAST is the opportunity for plant breeders across the country to showcase their latest introductions, hoping that plant growers will select, grow and then sell these treasures onto the retail nurseries where you and I can finally get our hands on them!

Most of the plants shown here will not be available until 2019 – this is your insider’s peek into what’s happening behind the scenes, focusing in this post specifically on plants which had outstanding foliage.

New Succulent Creations

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Echeveria Coral Reef Aqua – by Greenfuse Botanicals Inc.

Yes please!! I’ll take half a dozen of these! LOVED the dual-tone, ruffled edges on this Coral Reef Aqua echeveria by Greenfuse Botanicals. Fabulous color blend. So easy to repeat these apricot tones with foliage and flowers too – or simply plant this solo in a terracotta vessel for easy elegance.

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Coral Creations from Proven Winners

Succulent breeder Chris Hansen has teamed up with Proven Winners to come up with what is sure to be a HOT collection of succulents  called Coral Creations.  Their display at CAST showed some highly desirable planters brimming with these colorful treasures. Chris has even provided recipes for attractive, long-lasting  combinations that production greenhouses can use to mimic these designs.

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Design by Proven Winners

I for one would be hard-pressed to only pick up one of these! Thankfully the plants will also be sold individually I believe, so we can pick and choose our own selections.

A New Deer Resistant Perennial

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Walberton’s Silver Fountain Gaura by Plant Haven

I’m a huge fan of gaura for their drought tolerance, deer resistance, and long flowering display. Walberton’s Silver Fountain is a new variegated form that promises cold hardiness down to zone 5 and a tidy habit. I know of at least one plant producer that has purchased this from the breeder so I for one will be knocking on their greenhouse door next spring!

So many Coleus!

There were extensive coleus displays throughout our tour – these were just two that stood out to me.

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Coleus Pinkplosion by BallFloraPlant

Coleus Pinkplosion had a fun twist to the end of each leaf, as well as a clean multi-colored variegation and a distinctive purple margin and purple stems. I found myself drawn to it time and again.

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Coleus Main Street Rodeo Drive by Dummen Orange

This one had Christina’s name written all over it! Main Street Rodeo Drive was fun, flirty, crinkled, frilly, colorful in a “Look at ME!” kind of way…. you know what? Adjectives just aren’t enough. Here’s another photo:

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See the incredible pattern of veins underneath the leaves? And the molded-tortilla shape?

Here’s the really good news – you can buy this one NOW

Silver Standouts

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Dib’s Moonlight begonia by Greenfuse

The photo of Dib’s Moonlight begonia really doesn’t do it justice, check out this image on the breeder’s website to get a better sense. Each leaf was almost the size of my hand, and the silver color shone as though polished. With burgundy undersides and stems, and a crinkled texture reminiscent of dinosaur kale it was far superior to any similarly colored begonias introduced to market so far in my opinion.

Here’s a fun tidbit: The Dibley family are from Wales and have been working with the Greenfuse for many years, breeding this and other outstanding Rex begonias. Readers in the UK  may enjoy visiting their nursery which specializes in begonias and streptocarpus.

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Artemisia ‘Makana Silver’ by Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc

Be jealous – I have four of these Artemisia ‘Makana Silver’ in my “holding area” waiting to be planted into the landscape and container for testing this year! This annual opens a pale seafoam green before maturing to a metallic silver that is nothing short of stunning.

Deer resistant, rabbit resistant, and drought tolerant – you knew I’d love this one didn’t you?

Last but not Least

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Trifolium 4luck Red Green by Greenfuse Botanicals

When I posted this photo of Trifolium 4luck Red Green on Facebook recently it drew a lot of interest. Really pretty, perennial groundcover for shady spots. (Note that the colors of my photo are accurate – those on this website link are not).

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Trifolium 4luck Red Stripes

It’s new relative Trifolium 4luck Red Stripes is equally beautiful – reminds me of a kaleidoscope. You should see this next year (2019).

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Alternanthera ‘Choco Chili’ from Westhoff

Voted “Outstanding Plant of 2017“, Alternanthera ‘Choco Chili’ was a very attractive annual foliage plant, at first glance reminiscent of a fringeflower (Loropetalum) but with softer leaves. Suitable for full or partial sun, the colors will be darker in full sun (greenhouse conditions had lessened the color during CAST). Noted for its heat tolerance.

It’s a Wrap!

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Well that wraps up this post, but it is also time for Christina and I to wrap up this blog. While we will keep it published so you can access the archives, make notes on your “must-get’ foliage plants and pin your favorite images to Pinterest, as busy designers, traveling speakers, and authors we need to scale back our everyday workload.

We’ve enjoyed getting to know you and sharing our passion for all things foliage, and have been both humbled and profoundly grateful for your enthusiasm, encouragement and cheerleading.

Do keep in touch – our contact information and social media links are here for Karen and here for Christina, and for now at least we will keep the Fine Foliage Facebook page going.

Keep loving your gardens, one leaf at a time!

Karen & Christina

Fine Foliage Fusion

It’s going to be a stunning spring day here in the Pacific Northwest and I’m thinking about shade combinations with pink foliage. All of these plants are on my back porch waiting for their starring role in my client’s landscapes and containers for the summer.

Obviously, there are still more choices to add to this for more contrast, but I wanted to focus on some of the amazing foliage at my fingertips today in this slim color profile. There’s an unending number of coleus and caladium options that I can add in here too, just too many to share today. What other pink foliage can you think of for a shade garden or container?

As I get ready to run out the door to get working, I hope you enjoy a quick little tour of the pink display I’m enjoying right outside my window until they get installed!

Cordyline fruticosa

Variegated Fuchsia Magellanica

Rex Begonia

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’

Hypoestes (Polka Dot plant)

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Pink Angel’

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Frankie’

Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’

Need more pink foliage ideas? Go on over and click that button to sign up for Fine Foliage to be delivered to your inbox. EASY PEASY! 

Do you want to be a superstar expert at Gardening with Foliage First? Click here to learn more about our books! 

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Spring Bloomers that Keep on GOING!

Now why on earth is Team Fine Foliage extolling the praises of FLOWERS you may ask? Because THESE spring blooming perennials have outstanding foliage, either by virtue of color or texture, that continues to add value to the landscape through fall or even beyond. (Part-timers that peter out mid-summer don’t qualify for this list). Intrigued?

Jack Frost Siberian Bugloss

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Landscape design by Edith Silbert, as featured in Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

First to bloom, last to fade. That means color, bold texture and remarkable performance from March to late October in my  garden.

Forget-me-not type flowers are perfect for  diminutive posies, blooming for well over a month. The silver veined green leaves expand to form large mounds of heart shaped gorgeousness – stunning with ferns, hostas and all your other favorite shade perennials. They also work exceptionally well in containers.

Still not convinced? Think FREE PLANTS. Those clumps keep getting bigger and it is really easy to separate out small plants to add to other areas of your garden. Why not create a “river” of these as Adrian Bloom does in his world-renowned garden?

Check out all the fine details of this stunning perennial here.

Pasqueflower

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I first got to know  pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) in England, finding the purple flowers enchanting and invariably in bloom at Easter time. Many decades and a cross-Atlantic voyage later, I realized that there was far more to this spring perennial than just the flowers.

The lacy, fern-like foliage is a wonderful textural addition to the garden, and is evergreen in mild winters for me. Children of all ages will be fascinated by the fuzz of silky-white hairs that cover the stems and buds creating a halo effect that adds to the charm. Even after the flowers fade, don’t be too quick to nip them off – check out the seedheads!

Varieties are now available with red, purple, rose or lavender flowers. Use them to line a pathway where you can enjoy the details up close. The delicate foliage looks good with bolder textures such as lungwort (shown below) and variegated winter daphne

Cheddar Pinks

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Although these don’t start blooming until mid-spring, Cheddar Pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) make up for lost time, often re-blooming in fall.  Their spicy, fragrance is unforgettable.

Colors are mostly in the pink family, with plenty of named varieties to choose from but my favorite is Firewitch. Intense magenta-pink flowers are set off by the cushion of blue-grey foliage to perfection. Shearing off the spent flowering stalks in mid-summer will encourage the re-bloom; well worth a few minutes on your hands and knees with a pair of scissors!

But that foliage is swoon-worthy alone. Evergreen, compact, drought tolerant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant, the clumps expand slowly to become a weed-smothering groundcover that thrives in a well drained sunny area (but tolerates my amended clay soil, despite references to suggest otherwise).

Combine it with foliage in shades of silver for a romantic look e.g. Bella Grigio lamb’s ears, or add drama with deep chocolate foliage such as Little Devil ninebark or Spilled Wine weigela. Mmmm.

English Primrose

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Now I’m not talking about those psychedelic horrors you see outside the grocery stores! Such in-your-face colors scream too loud for my tastes.

I’m talking here about the true native (to the UK) primrose – a soft buttermilk yellow that blends easily with other plants , is reliably perennial, and encourages chubby children’s fingers to pluck a few stems for a thimble-sized table display. The flowers even have a faint scent too.

I’ve included them here as you may be surprised to learn that the crinkled green foliage grows into a large hosta-sized mound by mid-summer and those clumps are easy to divide in fall or spring to start your own primrose-lined pathway. Unlike hosta, however, they are deer and rabbit resistant. (Oddly enough the rabbits nip the flower buds off my cowslip (Primula veris) but never these).

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I mingle mine with a carpet of Georgia Blue veronica (just starting to bloom) in the woodland garden

Lungwort

Pulmonaria collage

Combination top right featured in our book Fine Foliage (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013)

Another favorite from my childhood growing up in England – lungwort (Pulmonaria sp.). One of the common names for this perennial is “soldiers and sailors” on account of the flowers changing color as they age, from pink to blue.

The variety shown above, inherited when we bought the garden and house) is most likely Mrs. Moon but there are many others to choose from with flowers in deep cobalt blue or lavender-pink.

As you’d expect, the flowers are only the opening act for what becomes an exceptionally long season of interest thanks to the silver and green spotted foliage which grows into monster sized, deer and rabbit resistant clumps. The degree of silver patterning varies  – some varieties have an almost entirely silver leaf. Explore some of the options here.

Although essentially low maintenance, these tips will help you get the most from the plant:

  • After blooming, sheer the entire plant (leaves and flowers) down to the crown. It will regrow within two weeks and the new foliage is much less likely to succumb to mildew by mid-summer
  • In early spring cut away any winter damaged foliage for a cleaner appearance

This perennial is from the borage family – you will feel the similarity in the leaves, so wear gloves to avoid irritation.

Recommended for the shade garden in moisture retentive soil, I also grow it in almost full sun with no irrigation as you can see by the combination with the silver artmesia above. It does fine with just some supplemental water after exceptionally hot summer days – experiment in your own garden. You may be surprised. (My soil is amended clay and mulched)

Others high performing spring bloomers to consider

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

Barrenwort (Epimedium sp.)

What’s YOUR favorite?

Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page to tell us! And remember you can ideas using these and many more in our books Fine Foliage and Gardening with Foliage First.

Note: this post contains affiliate links

Emergent Fine Foliage for Spring

Whether it’s delicate spring ephemerals, gasp-inducing shrubs, perennials with personality or colorful ways with groundcovers if you keep your eyes open spring is sprouting all around you. I know in some of the colder parts of the country it might not feel that way right now, but Team Fine Foliage can at least entertain and keep your eyes busy while you wait for it!

The blue-green and silver tones of Trillium sessile’s camouflage patterned foliage will never fail to impress with its bold performance the minute it’s up and out of the ground. This plant is set for “all systems SHOW” from mid-March onward in the woodland garden where it can have some protection from the heat of later spring and summer. The flower ranges from mid-to deep red and is fragrant too!

Emergent Fine Foliage for Spring Commonly called the Lily of the Valley bush, Pieris is an amazingly versatile group of shrubs. From large to small, they often have quite showy new spring growth at about the same time as they flower with panicles of white, pink or almost red blooms. They have a sweet aroma that typifies the scent of spring for many people.

The top image shows Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’ with intense rosy pink new growth that stands out against the variegated foliage that it will fade back into come summer. A moderate sized plant, this one will mature at 2-4ft. tall and up to 5 ft. wide. in zones 6-8.

The bottom image shows one of the dwarf cultivars that might be either Pieris ‘Sarabande’ or ‘Cavatine’ which are both nearly identical except that ‘Sarabande’ is about 4x4ft tall and wide at maturity where ‘Cavatine’ is more likely going to be smaller at 2x2ft. tall and wide, but can get a bit larger under optimal circumstances. Either one is a winner with caramel and russet toned new growth in spring and constrasting pure white, fragrant flowers on glossy evergreen foliage year round.
Team Fine Foliage knows full well that not everyone can enjoy the plants in the barberry family the way we do in the Pacific Northwest due to its proclivity to procreate. But, if you live in areas where they are not invasive, you have a wealth of deer and rabbit resistant options to choose from in wonderful new spring growth. The one above is ‘Golden Rocket’ and we love it’s more vertical growth habit versus the rounded mounded types in gold. It produces little to no viable seed, so it’s a safe bet where invasiveness is in question. The stems where these beautiful little golden leaves emerge have a lovely reddish tone to them offering a nice contrast of another warm note on cool spring days. At 3-5 ft. tall and only 2ft. wide, it fits nicely in tight parts of the garden where you need that warm golden light. Contrasted with the blue-green foliage of the daffodils, it makes a beautiful spring scene that no varmints with bother!
The day that a gardener meets an iris named ‘Gerald Darby’ is an unforgettable moment indeed. I know it was for me. That utterly amazing purple new growth in spring hits you in the wallet because you’re often on the hunt for it thereafter! This new growth fades back to the medium green that is standard for iris x robusta, but it also features a respectable burst of purple blooms in June too. So this hardy perennial definitely earns its place even after the spring foliage show!
This unknown member of the Lilium family is boasting the most scrumptious bronze on the growth tips for spring, echoing the rich russet-red toned foliage in the background. It will fade back to a mid green before blooming, but it’s always worth noting when you see this kind of coloring as it might give hints as to the eventual tone and color of the blooms in summer too.
Last but not least on my little tour of fabulous spring foliage emerging right now is this simple little Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’ that’s here to teach us to stop and look down loooooow once in a while and notice the lowly little groundcover screaming to get our attention! The cool spring weather lends it that shock of bright pink glowing on the margins and will fade back a bit in summer to a still lively three-way color combo. Drought tolerant and polite, this little mat-forming succulent blooms from late spring to mid-summer. I love to use this one at the edges of combo pots that might not get watered as religiously as most containers would want and it thrives!

Hopefully, these few tidbits gave you the urge to go out and find spring in your area if you can and if it’s still too cold, hang tight! Team Fine Foliage is posting on FB daily. 🙂

If you need still more inspiration, be sure to click the follow button to play along with us here regularly and then, of course, click here to see our latest book Gardening with Foliage First!

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Celebrate Spring Bulbs using a Foliage Picture Frame

It’s been an exciting week in Team Fine Foliage Land – the sun came out!! Yes, we have been gardening in T-shirts, polar fleece peeled off and hung up by 9am. Hallelujah!

That means the next round of spring bulbs are making their debut; daffodils are in full bloom and tulips won’t be far behind.

What about planning some stunning foliage to showcase your favorite spring blooms? Here is one combination we know you’ll want to copy, designed by the uber-talented Daniel Mount.

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Design by Daniel Mount (Mount Gardens)

Why it works

This is the perfect balance of contrast and similarity. Two yellow and green variegated plants (yucca and boxwood) clearly share the same color palette yet their differing leaf shape and form adds excitement. Tall Mediterranean spurge in the background tempers the dizzying variegated leaves while adding Dr-Seuss-like flower heads in a bright lime green to wake things up.

Together this foliage trio creates a picture frame for the large, lily-shaped tulips which open scarlet with coral and yellow accents before maturing to salmon pink. They are the perfect height for sandwiching between the yucca and spurge – and that one rogue red flower makes me smile!

Foliage Framework

Variegated boxwood spheres (Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’)

Bright Edge yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’)

Large Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias  ssp. wulfenii)

Finishing Touch

Perestroyka tulip (Tulipa ‘Perestroyka’)

More ideas?

If you’d like to see more of Daniels’ designs be sure to order our latest book Gardening with Foliage First where you will find no less than EIGHT of his amazing combinations. (Seriously this  guy is amazing with color!).

You also find lots more ideas for spring in there too.

What are YOU doing with spring bulbs and foliage this year?

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One Can’t Exist on Fine Foliage Color Alone

PowellsWood Garden, Federal Way, Washington

A spectacular winter scene at PowellsWood garden in Federal Way Washington.

When we wrote the original book Fine Foliage, we knew that addressing all of the other components of strong foliage based design would need extra focus in the follow-up book Gardening with Foliage First. Twigs, berries, bark, thorns, rock, art, color echoes, and so much more were some of the things we touch on in that book in a multitude of ways.

When I was out photographing in the drizzle of a late winter day, this vignette nearly took my breath away as it exemplifies so much of what we were trying to describe. The magnolia that takes center stage here utterly glows with gold lichen and swelling glittery silver flower buds.
We like to re-enforce for all of you foliage fans just how important noticing these types of details can be to design work in your own landscape.

Another classic point we like to emphasize often is how your eye moves through a landscape scene with color. Even on a cold, rainy day, color directs the eye where you want it to focus. The large maple in the background is largely responsible for why this magnolia stands out the way it does. Then your eye naturally sees the showy red-twig dogwood shrub to far left and then circles down to notice the orange new growth on the spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’ below it on the right.

In some of my research on color and design, one technique that I have learned and still employ in my own design work is to think of leading the eye in the pattern of a lower case “e”. If you start your “e” from the magnolia and curve it around to the maple, then over to the dogwood shrub and down to the spiraea, you can see the “e”!

The warm glow these colors provided on a wet gloomy day here in the Great Pacific North-Wet was welcome indeed and I hope you enjoyed it too!

As of today, it’s only 21 days until SPRING!!  Follow along with Team Fine Foliage to see what we have up our sleeves for spring and summer by clicking the subscribe button!

Need more foliage in your hot little hands? Then click here to order our books Fine Foliage and our latest Gardening with Foliage First! 

Easy Care Foliage for Late Winter

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Conifers bring color and form to the winter landscape: Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (foreground) with Wissel’s Saguaro Port Orford cedar (background) are two favorites. Both began life as 1g container plants.

Here in the Seattle area we have transitioned from endless rain  to  frosty mornings followed by chilly but sunny afternoons – perfect for gardening!

I’m still cleaning up the last of the leaves which managed to weld themselves into the twiggy structures of deciduous shrubs and trees, and stomping down endless mole hills (a bizarre dance which our new 14 week old puppy finds very entertaining!)

Being outside yesterday also gave me the opportunity to appreciate anew those shrubs that offer so much value in late winter with their colorful foliage, unique textures, and varying form yet require minimal maintenance.

Here are my personal favorites:

Best Low Maintenance Conifers

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Frosted, silvery-blue dwarf Arizona corkbark fir plays against golden foliage.

The more conifers I grow the more I love them. Smaller specimens make ideal centerpieces in year round containers; a great way to save money when you eventually transplant them into the garden. That’s exactly how I came to have a mature Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’) in my garden. It started as a one gallon container plant in 2010 and is now approximately 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide – a stunning, glowing focal point. Likewise Mr. Wissel as he is affectionately known, or more correctly Wissel’s Saguaro Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsonianna ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’) began as a skinny blue-green conifer in a pot but now is also 8 feet tall or so, although the deer have spoiled the cactus like appearance somewhat after rubbing against him. Regardless, he still adds a statuesque presence to the winter garden – you can see them both in winter designs in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First.

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Quart sized conifers start off in a container garden: Blue Star juniper and Rheingold arborvitae

Other favorites for their easy care attitude are steel-blue Blue Star juniper, Rheingold arborvitae that transitions from chartreuse to mid-green to deep orange, dwarf  Arizona corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa ‘Glauca Compacta’) – a gorgeous silvery blue with a dense, compact shape, and  Sungold thread-branch cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera ‘Sungold’) which creates a mop-like mound of golden yellow foliage that looks fabulous next to broadleaf, dark green evergreens such as  camellias.

All these conifers are low maintenance as they require no pruning for shape, size or color and do not shed needles (the way pines do for example). In my garden they are all deer resistant although I suspect the Rheingold arborvitae has just been lucky so far and Mr. Wissel was pressed into service as a rubbing post as I mentioned earlier.

Best Easy-Care Evergreen Shrubs

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Tucking a small Rainbow drooping fetterbush (at 9 o’clock) into a container design is a fun and inexpensive way to grow your shrub collection. Photographed in fall

For me to consider an evergreen shrub worth growing, pruning should not be a necessary part of its management either for shape, size control or best color, and I also expect it to be disease resistant. Since foliage interest is key to all my designs it should also have great leaf color with bonus points for seasonal color variation and double points if it also blooms.

As if those criteria weren’t tough enough, I also have to ensure deer resistance and drought tolerance once they are established.

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Winter color on Rainbow drooping fetterbush

A top winner for me is Rainbow drooping fetterbush with its chameleon-like color change from summer green/cream to winter deep red. It has a fabulous, arching form and spring flowers too! Start it off small in a container design then transplant it to the garden if you only see small sizes at the nursery. Scarletta is another great variety with deep ruby-red color.

Oregon grape (Mahonia sp.) is a star genus year round in the garden and there are many species and cultivars to choose from including tall, upright growing varieties such as Charity and a low growing, native ground cover. Yellow blooms attract hummingbirds, the blue berries that follow are edible, while the dark green holly-like foliage is welcome for its architectural status in the garden. The foliage of the ground cover form (creeping Oregon grape) even changes to deep purple in winter – wow!

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Twiggy box honeysuckle introduces an intriguing texture behind the red barberries. (Combination photographed at Bellevue Botanical Garden)

Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida cvs.); from the larger Baggesen’s Gold and Red Tips to the shorter and more compact Twiggy I love them all for their finely textured foliage and great color. I personally think the larger forms are best allowed to tumble in an informal mound although they do take well to shearing. For smaller spaces stick to Twiggy and skip the size control issues. In exceptionally cold winters these may lose some leaves but generally come through just fine in my 6b garden.

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Hedgehog holly is a sterile option if you cannot grow English holly – and look at that color!

If you like variegated English holly but it is invasive in your area, you might like the Hedgehog holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ ) same great color but a sterile clone.I think the extra spines on the leaves make it truly fascinating.

Milder gardens may also enjoy distyllium (e.g. Cinnamon Girl) and Goshiki Japanese false holly. I grow both although the tips sometimes suffer frost damage, although the shrubs eventually grow through that.

More resources and ideas

There are so many great plants out there yet I know it can be challenging to select plants that aren’t going to be a maintenance nightmare. Good news – I’ve created a short, inexpensive online course to help you called

Secrets to Selecting Low Maintenance Plants!

Sorry – open registration has now CLOSED.

Secrets to Selecting Low Maintenance Plants

This course is currently only being offered to new subscribers of my newsletter. You are welcome to sign up here (and receive a free gift!)

 

And of course we always have lots of ideas for you on our Facebook page!

Disclaimer: this page contains affiliate links

Spring Dreaming of Fine Foliage

While others fantasize about sitting under the rainfall of cherry blossoms gently sprinkling down over picnic blankets in the park on an early spring day, I’m strategizing wicked combinations of foliage for designs.
A few days ago, one of my friends who is a gifted breeder of many amazing plants, just announced that he is bringing a new sedum into the world. His name is Chris Hansen and he is the creator of a fun series of collectible little succulents called “ChickCharms” (Sempervivum) that are ultra colorful hen and chicks that get even more colorful in cold weather.

As if those aren’t tempting enough, Chris just announced THIS new sedum and now I am tapping my toes with anticipation! POW! If that doesn’t wake you up on a gray rainy day in winter, nothing will!
This is ‘Dream Dazzler’ from the Sunsparkler series of sedum is SO right up my alley! I can already see the potential options for designing with the color and pattern on this one. Let’s look at a couple of ideas.
Can’t you just see that sedum snuggled right up under that fabulous silver Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’? The soft, fuzzy texture, and upright habit would contrast handsomely with this showy sedum for certain!
Or for a low maintenance yet dramatic option, that amazing sedum could be peeking out from under this ultra-blue Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce shrub. This is a wonderfully drought tolerant combo as well.
If playing up the berry tones is something you like then using annuals such as this Alternanthera ‘Purple Knight’, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and blue fescue grass with that sedum would be a stunning combination!

Going for the glitter in silver is always in vogue and this Astelia fits the bill elegantly. Though not technically a grass, its texture gives that feeling and with the chunkiness and pattern of ‘Dream Dazzler’ will pair brilliantly in a container for example.

Plant collectors get ready to start your engines. The days are already getting longer and we will surely be complaining about the heat in no time, right? RIGHT?! 😉

*This is NOT a paid endorsement, nor was I given any free plants for writing this post.*

Does this foliage extravaganza have you all hot and bothered to see what we have up our sleeves for spring and summer? Then click the subscribe button to follow along with other passionate foliage enthusiasts.

Need more foliage in your hot little hands? Then click here to order our books Fine Foliage and our latest Gardening with Foliage First! 

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Refresh your Garden Color Scheme

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Spilled Wine weigela and Magic Carpet spirea – bright, bold and beautiful, but you can have too much of a good thing!

Did you get swept away by the purple-and-gold craze a few years ago? Those two high contrast colors certainly wake a garden up – but they can also make your garden look rather dated – like that well worn jacket you keep reaching for because it’s familiar.

GOOD NEWS – it’s easy to update the look with a few new foliage accessories in silver or blue.

Singin’ the Blues

Look at the difference blue makes to the small container design below. The cobalt blue pot acts as a frame for the three golden elements (two conifers and a trailing creeping Jenny) while the inclusion of Blue Star juniper and a blue-green rush (Juncus ‘Blue Dart’) ensures repetition. A dark purple leaved bugleweed could be used in place of the Burgundy Glow variety shown here and the contrast would still be muted pleasingly thanks to the blue foliage.

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Clockwise from lower left: Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star, Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’, Ajuga repens ‘Burgundy Glow’, container design as featured in our book Gardening with Foliage First

Shimmering Silvers

If you prefer something even softer, try silver in your design. It looks stunning with gold and purple.

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Clockwise from top left: Senecio g. ‘Sunshine’ with Elymus magellanica and the light golden foliage of a winter hazel , dusty miller, Bella Grigio ‘Mighty Velvet’, Festuca glauca ‘Beyond Blue’

More Candidates for your New Look

Got you thinking? Here are some more plants with silver-blue or blue-green foliage to consider adding into your existing designs to refresh the look. Think of them as the new scarf to update last years outfit. Look how pretty that silver dusty miller is against the purple heuchera.

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Clockwise from top left: Standing Ovation little bluestem, Hebe ‘Quicksilver’, Cotinus ‘Old Fashioned’, dusty miller (with a purple heuchera).

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Indoor Fine Foliage – Begonia Bliss

Happy 2018 Fine Foliage fans!

Since the majority of the country is under ice and snow right now, I was looking for blog post ideas for this week and noticed how beautifully my indoor begonia looks right now. BINGO!

But first, I do need to confess that although I know a lot about growing houseplants and have grown many in my years in horticulture and design, it is easy to say that they are not my top priority these days and I tend to have a “thrive or die” mentality toward them.

I brought two of these ‘Jurassic Green Streak’ begonias in last fall assuming they would certainly be toast by Thanksgiving when I’d inevitably replace them with the incredible orange poinsettias I had in this space last year. (There are two identical pots like this that flank my living room window) But, to my shock, they continued to thrive despite my benign neglect. Even going so far as to bloom for weeks now. Now as we are officially in the new year and spring is technically right around the corner, I feel obligated to make sure I get these beauties back to their royal status outdoors in my container gardens.

As my good friend and official “Begonia Guru” Lloyd Traven from Peace Tree Farm in Pennsylvania has told me, begonias thrive on abuse and die more frequently from too much love than neglect. My level of neglect seems suited to them, hopefully, I am making my sensei proud! Peace Tree Farm is one of the east coasts leading growers and wholesalers of unusual, unique plants. Ask at your local garden center for their plants, you won’t be disappointed if you are on a quest for the extraordinary!

This particular plant sits adjacent this east facing window, so it’s not getting any intense sun, plus the shades are half way down blocking some of the light too. It’s also near the warmth of the gas fireplace blocked by a tall bookshelf. The begonia gets the warmth it craves all winter long.

The ONE thing that can stress and be the undoing of begonias quickly is powdery mildew, so the trick is to let them dry between watering thoroughly. Technically, begonias LOVE humidity. I think I get away with not having to use the typical humidity tricks indoors because this one is still in its grower pot and sits in this slipper pot with an inch or so of gravel under it so that it drains well and the water is evaporating from under it easily. My laziness pays off!

Here are some more photos of incredible begonias of all types. I have come to adore them in my container designs since they are tough as nails when it comes to FINE FOLIAGE!

Did you overwinter any this year too? 

These photos only represent a mere fraction of options available in some of the fancier begonias. There is a sea of options on colors and foliage types in nearly every color imaginable.
Explore some for your self as soon as you can get to a cozy warm greenhouse near you!

For fun and wasting some of that indoor time until you thaw, here’s a link to my Pinterest page on Begonias! Begonia Bliss

Need More inspiration? Our latest book Gardening with Foliage First is cleverly organized to help you find designs just for fall for either shade or sun. Have you got your copy yet? Check it out here or using the affiliate link above.

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