Transitions

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

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

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

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

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

Simple tricks often work best.

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

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Fine Foliage Southern Style

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

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

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

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

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

Fine Foliage Southern Style

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

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

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

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Easy Window Box Display

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Why make things complicated?

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

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

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

The foliage framework

Lava Rose coleus

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

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

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

Illumination periwinkle

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

The Finishing Touch

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

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

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New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want more ideas?

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

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

Time to Visit your Favorite Nurseries!

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

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

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

Sun Savvy

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

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

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

Shady Style

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

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

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

Want more ideas?

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

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

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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