Author Archives: Karen Chapman

About Karen Chapman

Owner of Le jardinet, co-author of Fine Foliage and general plantaholic (who is still trying to outwit the deer)

Local Botanical Gardens Yield Inspiration

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The only limitation is your imagination – scene from a waterwise design at Bellevue Botanical Garden

As I sat on a shady bench, waiting for the perfect light (a photographer spends as much time sitting & waiting as standing & clicking it seems to  me), I watched the many visitors meandering through the Bellevue Botanical Garden (BBG). There were couples picnicking on a blanket, young families who were letting the kids run off some steam, professional photo shoots of wedding parties and graduating seniors  – and relatively few folks actually looking at the plants. That surprised me, because your local botanical gardens are often the best place to find inspiration for your own garden.

Whether you are looking for design ideas for moist shade, waterwise combinations that can take the heat or lush mixed borders, BBG has it all and a whole lot more.

In fact sometimes there is so much to absorb that it can be hard to spot the ‘take home’ ideas, so I thought I’d show you one especially colorful part of the large perennial border and take a closer look.

First Impressions

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Yikes – where do you look first? What does your eye go to? To the bold, bright, variegated leaf in the foreground? The orange flowers at the back? It’s too much to take in all at once and most of us would not be seeking to create this level of complexity in our own borders, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t design lessons here for us.

Let’s move  further down the path…

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There’s still a lot going on but our frame is a little more manageable now that we have eliminated the border to the right side of the pathway and reduced the dominance of the variegated dogwood shrub in the foreground.

Initial Design Lessons

  • Imagine what would this look like without the orange and magenta flowers. Actually pretty darned good because there’s lots of great FOLIAGE (even if you don’t know their names, analyze the colors and shapes). There are oval variegated leaves, big rhubarb-type leaves,  dark purple sword-like leaves, round purple-brown leaves, wispy grasses, a golden conifer, some tall silvery-white grasses and plenty of more ordinary green leaves tucked in too. In other words there is a fabulous foliage framework unifying this scene.
  • Now imagine what this would look like if all those leaves were green. Not so interesting! The color of the leaves adds drama to the scene and sets the stage for some fun vignettes using color echoes and contrast. To see that in more detail let’s narrow our focus a bit more.

Lessons in Color Repetition & Contrast

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This is where things start to get exciting!

  • Foliage Framework

In the foreground is fleshy, purple pineapple lily (Eucomis) foliage rising like bold swords and pointing us (very helpful!) upwards towards the similarly colored large, round leaves of a leopard plant (Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’). A large ornamental rhubarb leaf ( Rheum palmatum ‘Atrosanguineum’) also jostles for our attention, framing the left of this scene.

Perfect Foliage First design!

  • Finishing Touch (the flowers)

Sandwiched between the purple leaves are ribbons of red and white astilbe. The whote froth is needed for contrast and separation, even though the color echo between the purple leaves and red asilbe flowers was well thought out.

And how about the orange lilies in the distance? They repeat the deep orange-yellow blooms just beginning to open on the leopard plant. The blooms on other leopard plant varieties tend to be much more yellow – this one was specifically chosen for its closer connection to orange.

And orange really pops against such dramatic, dark foliage. Excellent contrast.

Lessons in Form

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Notice the contrast between the two layers of upward-pointing (vertical) astilbe blooms and the more horizontal plane of the leopard plant leaves. Beyond them the tall lilies add another vertical punctuation point. Incidentally the astilbe blooms will be left as seedheads well into fall so this design element is remarkably long-lived.

Lessons in Details

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There’s one final detail beyond the leopard plant – look at the ruby thorns on the stems of a wingthorn rose (Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha) and how they repeat the dark notes of the foliage and flowers in this vignette while once again introducing a vertical line. Genius.

So while botanical gardens are indeed a delightful location for your next portrait session, do take time to enjoy the planting combinations and glean ideas for your own garden. The combined genius of so many talented professionals is on your doorstep!

Want more ideas? Well we know of two rather excellent books to get you started…. Also be sure to sign up to our blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Foliage Favorites for Summer Fun

Whether you’re looking for a design boost for your containers or need a little ‘something’ to perk up the summer border, FOLIAGE is the answer. Yes we know those geraniums and fuschias are so tempting – and we’re not suggesting you avoid them, but simply that you consider the leaf as well as the flower before making your selection.

Here are a few of our top ‘go to‘ foliage annuals and perennials that are great to use as fillers in pots or the landscape.

Croton

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As featured in Country Gardens magazine, spring 2017

Whether you prefer the variety Zanzibar with its bad-hair-day attitude or the more familiar form (Petra) shown here, croton (Codiaeum) will add a serious color punch to any shade combination. In smaller containers it can be used as the focal point – often referred to as the ‘thriller’. In larger designs you may prefer to consider it as an understory plant to something larger such as banana or elephant ears (Colocasia).

Coleus

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Two different coleus are used to frame Dakota anthurium, while Vinca ‘Illumination’ trails from the center

With a gazillion varieties of coleus to choose from you can find one in any size, color and habit you need. The trailing variety used above is Lava Rose. I love how the touch of white on each leaf adds a little sparkle. (For lots more coleus ideas click on the coleus tag in the sidebar. There are some real beauties!)

Quicksilver artemisia

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Velvety, silver foliage of Quicksilver artemisia quickly fills in around shrubs.

Deer resistant, drought tolerant and perennial – this vigorous groundcover may be just what you need to fill a bare spot this summer. A new introduction from Proven Winners , I can personally highly recommend it after trialing it in my own garden last year. The cooling silver foliage is outstanding.

Purple Queen

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Purple Queen – stunning purple foliage

Previously known as Setcresea, recently re-classified as Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Queen’, one thing taxonomists agree on – it’s gorgeous! A dramatic groundcover in warmer climates or a tough annual in cooler areas – either way you NEED this plant.

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Purple Queen is used to echo the rich container color and deep veins in the Blue Hawaii elephant ears (Colocasia).

Place it at the edge of a container where it can mingle and tumble to its hearts content

Beefsteak plant

 

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Beefsteak plant looks like a sun-tolerant coleus

Hot fuchsia pink, burgundy-purple and  emerald green – yes it looks like a coleus but you will find beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens ‘Magilla’) much more adaptable to both sun and shade designs.

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Love this combination with lantana and sweet potato vine

The only limitation with this annual? Your imagination. What will YOU pair it with? Golden conifers? Hot pink geraniums??

Autumnale fuschsia

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When is a fuchsia more than a fuschia? When it has leaves like THESE

While I certainly have my own photos of designs using this variegated fuchsia, none compares with this stunning design by Christina! In case you’re not sure, the Autumnale fuschia isn’t even in bloom in this photo; it is the red/yellow variegated leaf trailing at the front of the pot. WOWZA! Use it to repeat orange-red tones elsewhere such as these coleus leaves and Gartenmeister fuschia blooms.

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Different combination – this Autumnale fuchsia is still a winner

The combination above is one I put together for a client a few years ago. Here you can see the fuchsia weaving through multiple pots to great effect.

Bella Grigio lambs ears

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Pretty in Pink – as featured in our new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

What’s big, silver and ultra-strokable? These GIANT lambs ears! This combination will appeal to gardeners who want lots of flowers but it’s the inclusion of foliage plants that really makes this design sing. Bella Grigio lambs ears (Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’) are also wonderful additions to the landscape and are both deer and drought tolerant. In many areas they are considered a perennial but they don’t fare well in my cold, wet winter soils so I accept them as a summer annual.

Want more ideas? Well we know of two rather excellent books to get you started…. Also be sure to click on our blog tags such as coleus and container design to find more inspirational posts.

 

The Foliage Backstory

Savvy Solution – as featured in Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

We’re delighted to hear that you have been enjoying our new book Gardening with Foliage First – thank you for all your encouraging messages telling us how  inspiring the combinations have been!

Behind every published combination there were typically several dozen images taken from unique perspectives or framed in different ways. You see even when we knew we had found an exciting vignette, it often took a few attempts to  discover the best way to present it to you. With that in mind, we thought you might enjoy this ‘behind the scenes’ peek at the evolution of  Savvy Solution  discovered in Mary Palmer’s  garden in Snohomish, WA.

Initial inspiration

Walking down one of several intriguing pathways, this scene is what initially caught my eye:

Stopped in my tracks by this Foliage First combo

I was struck by the color echo between the variegated Color Guard yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’), golden juniper and acid-yellow blooms of the spurge (Euphorbia), all contrasting with the dark red barberry and framing a triumphant explosion of blue sea holly (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’). Yet this angle seemed a little too busy, the horizontal roof line was distracting, the bare tree-trunks were rather too dominant, plus I was tantalized by glimpses of a large, silver leaf hiding behind the spurge, so I continued a little farther down the path.

Hidden Treasures

Soft and spiky – a great textural treat just waiting to be discovered

Now I could see what I’d been missing and fell in love with the steroidal, silvery foliage of yellow mullein (Verbasum epixanthinum). What fun to see the sea holly valiantly poking through those velvety leaves!

However this was just one part of a much wider scene that now opened up.

Too much of a good thing?

This is where this member of Team Fine Foliage had to be resuscitated with a recuperative glass of wine – WOW! Where to begin? From this perspective I could still appreciate the relationship between the yucca, spurge, sea holly, barberry and mullein but now there was a tall dark-leaved daphne (Daphne houtteana) and a golden incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens Berrima Gold), joining in the fun. Success? Not quite – I could live with the glimpse of the home’s roofline – but not the landscapers red truck visible through the stems. There also seemed to be too many vertical lines confusing the story in the upper left quadrant

The final cut

So a slight angle change and a final re-framing was called for, to focus the story on the key plants – and Savvy Solution was born.

As we tell you in our book “If you want drama without the dramatics, this may be your answer. Thriving in poor, dry soil and a sun-drenched site, this trio will reward you with color, fragrance, foliage and flowers. The juxtaposition of soft and spiky textures with the alluring color scheme of silver, blue and yellow creates a memorable combination. All three plants are deer resistant and drought tolerant, making them a wise choice for many landscapes.

To get information on how this design will evolve over time as well as full plant profiles just turn to pages 24-25. Then enjoy the other 126 combinations we found for you!

Did you know?

The Royal Horticultural Society recommended Gardening with Foliage First in their latest RHS Garden magazine (May issue) ? They also included it in their spring books promotion throughout their shops and mail-order service! A huge honor and one that the British half of Team Fine Foliage is especially appreciative of 🙂

Meanwhile it continues to rock the Amazon charts on this side of the Pond – have you got YOUR copy yet?

 

 

 

Tiny Courtyard Makeover

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AFTER: the ferns and bugbane are still dormant in this newly renovated border yet it sparkles thanks to planning the design  #foliagefirst

You don’t have to be big to be beautiful – or to have potential.

This pint-sized courtyard had been planted with the ubiquitous builders basics of the Pacific Northwest – rhododendron, azaleas and andromeda (Pieris japonica).

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BEFORE: predictable Builders Blah

While all three are evergreen offering ‘year round interest’, in reality they were seriously BORING, not least of all because their foliage was identical in color and shape. What this needed was a quick foliage makeover.

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A dwarf coral bark maple provided a focal point, height and stunning red stems. It is important when selecting a tree for winter bark that you don’t hide it behind shrubs! In this instance I selected perennial ferns and grasses that would be dormant during those months, allowing the tree bark to be the star.

To add more color, Pink Frost hellebores were planted in a cluster. With evergreen foliage and a bounty of pink, burgundy, cream and apple-green flowers that last for many months, this variety remains one of my top picks. The pinkish-red tones echo the color from the maple tree too.

A few rugged boulders completed this updated vignette, contrasting perfectly with the soft, white-variegated Japanese forest grasses and finely textured Western maidenhair ferns. One rock was selected for its water-retaining depression in order to attract birds and butterflies.

Rich color contrast will come from the dark-leaved Hillside Black Beauty bugbane, while its height (typically 4-5′) will add balance to the composition and the vanilla-scented flowers will scent the late summer air.

Note that as with all designs, large and small, the final plant placement was somewhat different from the original plan. Never be afraid to move things around!

Is it time for you to tackle that less-than-stellar entry border? You’ll get lots more ideas for plant combinations that put Foliage First in our two books.

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Deer Resistant Spring Bloomers – with GREAT foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

Every gardener loves to celebrate SPRING with early blooming perennials. After months of rainy, grey Seattle skies I’m first in line at the nurseries for anything with color. Be warned, however, that your desperation for early spring flowers may result in late spring frustration – simply because you have forgotten to keep the FOLIAGE in mind. What will this perennial contribute to the design once the flowers are done?

Not to worry, Team Fine Foliage has you covered with  some of our favorite spring blooming perennials that also have stunning leaves to make sure that today’s impulse buy will continue to bring you pleasure tomorrow.

1. Gold Heart bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Goldheart’)

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Gold Heart in front of Mountain Fire andromeda

How can you not love the glowing, fern-like golden foliage of Gold Heart? The pink heart shaped flowers are a bonus! Combine this with a foliage plant that echoes the pink stems and flowers such as a pink toned heuchera or an andromeda, whose new growth is often pink or red (shown above). Alternatively work with the gold detail by siting this next to a spotted leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’).

In my experience this variety is not as vigorous as the regular bleeding heart but it is a delightful addition to the spring landscape or containers nonetheless. Just plant a couple more if you are looking for a massed effect.

Don’t care for the pink flowers? Then look for white-blooming White Gold from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.  Try this paired with a green and white variegated Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’) or variegated acanthus (Acanthus ‘Whitewater’)  to highlight the white flowers.

Bleeding heart is also reliably deer resistant in my garden and either the rabbits haven’t found it or they don’t care for it.

2. Double Stuff Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum ‘Double Stuff’)

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Tall arching stems of richly variegated leaves are a delightful addition to any shade garden. Add an abundance of white, bell-shaped flowers dangling from each burgundy stem in spring and the delight is doubled; Double Stuff is well named. Translucent yellow fall color makes sure that you enjoy this perennial through to the very last day of fall.

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Terra Nova Nurseries Inc display garden

For companion planting take your inspiration from the breeders own display garden shown above: a dark purple heuchera to echo the stem color and golden forest grass for contrast.

Mercifully it is ignored by deer and rabbits too.

3. Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) varieties

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Jack Frost Siberian bugloss

While Jack Frost may be the most popular variety with its large heart-shaped leaves displaying a network of silver tracery over green, it is not the only one. Hadspen Cream is more sensitive to sun but is loved for it broad creamy leaf margins and is one of several white-variegated forms. Spotted Langtrees has been available for many years and offers a more subtle effect.

All Siberian bugloss have a remarkable display of blue forget-me-not type flowers in spring and in my native England are often called ‘perennial forget-me not’. My daughter used to love picking these and English primroses for tiny floral displays on the kitchen table.

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Sea Heart Siberian bugloss in a late summer container display

While Siberian bugloss make stunning landscape plants Team Fine Foliage loves to use them in containers. They mix with tropical caladiums and bromeliads just as well as ferns and heuchera. From contemporary to cottage – you can’t go wrong!

Bonus points for deer and rabbit resistance.

4. Berry Exciting corydalis (Corydalis ‘Berry Exciting’)

Delicate, fern-like foliage in brilliant gold, each leaf brushed with crimson- who needs flowers? You do? Well, for you we can add grape-colored  flowers held a few inches above this delightful shade loving groundcover. Tuck this under weeping Japanese maples, interspersed with black mondo grass or Maroon Beauty saxifrage (as seen above). Also a great addition to containers.

This may go dormant in summer heat but with adequate moisture and shade will continue to shine until fall.

Deer resistant, although rabbits may try to nibble emerging shoots. A spritz with Liquid Fence helps mine get large enough to be ignored by the inquisitive bunnies.

5. Lungwort (Pulmonaria varieties)

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Believed to be Mrs. Moon (P. saccharata)

Do you have favorite flowers from your childhood? This is one of mine. In England  one of the common names for Pulmonaria is ‘Soldiers and Sailors’, a nod to the blue and pink flowers that appear at the same time on this perennial. Some varieties have now been bred for pure pink, cobalt blue or white flowers , but I love the old fashioned ones such as Mrs. Moon that opens pink and fades to blue. The cut flower stems make exquisite posies  and the foliage is virtually evergreen.

Although gardening books will recommend this for rich, moist soil in partial shade I have successfully grown this in full sun with only occasional supplemental water.

Combine with other spring blooming perennials such as hellebores and primroses in the woodland garden, or mass at the base of white barked birch trees where the dappled light will offer protection and the tree bark will enhance the silver spotted leaves.

I have found these benefit from trimming back the foliage as well as flowering stems when blooms are done. This seems to prevent powdery mildew developing on the leaves in summer, and the new clumps resemble healthy, spotted hosta as seen in this next image.

Want more reasons to buy it? It is both deer and rabbit resistant, and hummingbirds love it! Also very easy to divide to get new plants in fall or spring. You NEED this….

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Spotted lungwort at the bottom left of this image, making an important contribution to this dappled shade border in Portland. (Design by 4 Seasons Gardens LLC)

Combination Ideas

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Our new book Gardening with Foliage First has more inspiring combination ideas for all five of these key plants! Have you got YOUR copy yet?

You’ll even find most of them in foliage-only combinations in our first, award-winning book Fine Foliage.

And there’s more….

Hellebores -some of the newer introductions have variegated or speckled foliage as well as amazing flowers. So many to choose from….

Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ – new and fabulous!

Mukdenia ‘Crimson Fans’ – gorgeous for the shade garden

Bergenia ‘Lunar Glow’ – lemon and lime colored leaves with pink blooms. Worth hunting for.

What’s YOUR favorite spring blooming perennial  – with GREAT FOLIAGE?

Tell us in a comment below or post a photo to our Facebook page.

 

Enjoy this post? GREAT! Be sure to sign up to receive more juicy foliage-focused ideas, delivered right to your inbox.

Sharing the Foliage Love -Enter to Win BIG!

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Bejeweled: an exquisite Foliage First composition at the Horticulture Center of the Pacific, Victoria B.C. and featured in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

PLEASE NOTE THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO WINNER BITTSTER

Team Fine Foliage loves to share. Whether it is our passion, knowledge, ideas, photographs, tips or garden produce – it’s just what we do! Today we are excited to offer you the chance to win BIG in our best ever GIVEAWAY!

Our new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press) is rocking the Amazon sales charts and has consistently been  a Best Seller in multiple categories since its release in late January.With 127 inspiring designs organized and color-coded into season and sun/shade this is a reference book you will want to keep at hand. Whether you need ideas for a container or acreage, drought tolerant or deer resistant – we’ve got you covered. You may enjoy this blog post for an insider peek (note that the giveaway mentioned in that post has now closed).

The fabulous, colorful combination featured above is just one example. We called this Bejeweled.

This artisan collection sparkles with shades of red set in a distinctive framework of gold. From the vivid dogwood stems to the smoky sweetspire foliage and tiny clusters of crimson flowers nestled within the isu tree, red foliage is clearly the linking theme, yet each of these layers showcases a unique texture. The glowing Japanese cedar in the background sets off all the flowers, foliage and bare stems. Any one of these elements would add beauty to the garden, but the artistry comes from achieving the perfect balance between each component.”

You can read How The Design Grows as well as get full details of each of the featured plants on pages 246-247.

What reviewers are saying…

Our good friend and gardening guru Shawna Coronado recently posted this review and VIDEO PREVIEW of our book on Facebook:

“This collection of 127 combinations introduces gardeners to the idea that a well-planned garden starts with a solid framework of foliage. Organized by season with options for sunny and shady locations, each plant combo includes design descriptions that will equip readers with the knowledge they need to get creative and devise their own.” —Garden Design

“This is a useful resource for new gardeners testing their design teeth and for experienced horticulturalists looking for some new inspiration. Regardless of the reader’s experience and expertise, the recipe format is charming and engaging. . . . If you haven’t designed a “foliage first” garden before, Chapman and Salwitz have design recipes in hand, and a willingness to help and inspire you.” —NYBG’s Plant Talk

Come and say hello!

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We anticipate great excitement during our official launch at the upcoming Northwest Flower and Garden Show (February 22nd-26th). Forget the circus, THIS is the Greatest Show on Earth – if you can possibly get to Seattle you really need to visit. Display gardens galore, a tempting marketplace, the new Container Wars (lots of giveaways for the audience), and hundreds of free educational seminars – this will be an unforgettable event.

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Christina and I will be there on most days as judges, speakers, Container War contestants and of course signing our books. (It’s a great opportunity to request a special personalized copy or three for your gardening friends and family). Here’s a snapshot of our appearances:

Wednesday February 22nd:

11am – noon Container Wars (Karen)

1.45-2.30pm One Ingredient – Two Designers  (Karen & Christina)

2.30 – 3.00pm Book signing

3.15-3.45pm Garden 101: Don’t let Moving Scare the Plants out of You (Christina) NB: starts at 2.15

3.45-4.15pm Book signing

Thursday February 23rd:

11am – noon Container Wars (Christina)

Sunday February 26th:

3.15-4.15pm Spring Container Fashion Show (Karen)

4.15-4.45pm Book signing

For more details see here

Sharing the Foliage Love!

To celebrate our book launch we have teamed up with three of our favorite plant growers to offer  a chance to win the following fabulous collection of prizes – our best ever giveaway.

About the  Growers and their Prizes:

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Bailey Nurseries is a family owned company with over 110 years in business. We have featured their First Editions plants many times in out blog posts because they have so many outstanding shrubs that offer downright delicious foliage! Add to that the fact that we have found everyone in this company to be friendly, knowledgeable and extremely helpful – the sort of folks we love to work with.

You may select your prize from the following selection of luscious leaves:

Clockwise from top left: Tiger Eyes sumac, Cool Splash bush honeysuckle, Rainbow Sensation weigela, Summer Ruffle hibiscus, Amber Jubilee ninebark, Cinnamon Girl distyllium, Limoncello barberry, Little Devil ninebark. All images courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

pwccProven Winners® ColorChoice® Flowering Shrubs are sourced from all over the world, then tested and trialed in North America for a minimum of 5 years before being introduced to local gardeners. With hundreds of Color Choice® shrubs now available and more on the way, why settle for plain green?!

Team Fine Foliage will be visiting their primary growing facility this spring and we are SO excited!

A representative will assist you in selecting something suitable for your climate, soil type and landscape style but may be suggest a few of our personal favorites (some of which are NEW for 2017)?

Clockwise from top left: Double Play Painted Lady spirea, Gatsby Pink oak leaf hydrangea, Lil Miss Sunshine bluebeard, Red Rover silky dogwood, Strait Laced black elderberry, Wild Romance hebe, Pearl Glam beautyberry, Lemony Lace elderberry. Photos courtesy Proven Winners

logoMonrovia is a brand name known worldwide for high quality plants and more than 200 plant patents and trademarks. Monrovia offers the gardener a truly outstanding selection of trees, shrubs, perennials and more.

Wondering what to buy with your gift certificate? Enjoy this video on selecting foundation plants by our good friend Nicholas Staddon to get you started with some great ideas – and fab foliage.

How to Enter

Leave a comment below telling us what your favorite foliage plant is and why.

One lucky winner will be drawn using a random number generator on Tuesday February 21st at 9am PST  and notified by email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours they will forfeit their prize and a second name will be drawn – so watch your email!!

The not-so-small small print

  • You may only enter once 🙂
  • Comments left on social media while appreciated will not be included in the drawing: only those left on this blog post.
  • Entries are limited to residents of the United States (sorry …)
  • The winners name and mailing address will be forwarded to Bailey Nurseries, Monrovia and Proven Winners. They will contact you to arrange shipment of your prizes.
  • Bailey Nurseries and Proven Winners will determine a mutually convenient shipping date and the size of plants that you receive. Availability may impact these decisions.
  • Your book will be shipped separately.
  • Cash alternatives are not offered

And finally…

Please share this post with your Valentine, family and friends!

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If you have already been enjoying our new book please write a review on Amazon for us – it would mean so much. (If you can’t wait a minute longer and want to buy a copy you can use the same link!)

Thank you to our friends at Bailey Nurseries, Proven Winners and Monrovia for sharing the foliage love and sharing in our celebration!

Last Leaf Standing

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What can I tell you – it’s been darn cold. Here in Duvall, WA we had snow followed by sub-freezing temperatures for several weeks. Today is the first day in what seems like forever when my grass has been green rather than frosty white so I ventured out into the garden to see how things had held up. It wasn’t pretty.

Following the weather forecast across the country these past few weeks I’m know I’m not alone surveying the aftermath of crazy winter storms, assessing one sad looking plant after another. This is where inexperienced gardeners would be tempted to grab their pruners – DON’T! Except in the case of dormant deciduous trees and shrubs, pruning can stimulate new growth which will get killed by the next frost and possibly cause die back further down the branch.

Before you start hacking, chopping or pruning take a few moments to read this post and determine if the plant in question is ….

Dead, sulking or sleeping?

The answer depends on the type of plant and the severity of the damage. Here are examples from my own winter-weary garden this afternoon

Conifers

For the most part these are remarkably resilient and some of the most cold-hardy foliage in the garden. However if your Hinoki cypress looks like this, forget the pruners – get the spade out!

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No hope for this Hinoki, but  frost was just the final straw not the true cause of its demise

This has been on a slow decline for two years following a summer drought the year it was planted. I gave it a fair chance but when this much of the foliage is brown, it is toast.

If you have Blue Star junipers (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) with one or two small sections that have turned brown (a common occurrence in my garden during winter ) you will be able to snip that off in spring after danger of a freeze has passed, and by summer you’ll never know it happened.

Most of my conifers thankfully looked OK.

Evergreen shrubs

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Winter daphne shows the worst damage on the more exposed foliage.

It is common to see brown or black, frost-damaged leaves on shrubs such as this winter daphne. The more exposed foliage suffers the worst; branches closer to the house or protected by adjacent shrubs or upper branches may be completely unscathed.

Although these brown leaves will drop, the plant itself is still fine with most buds and a lot of the inner foliage still intact. No action is needed other than raking up leaves as they fall. New foliage will grow in spring.

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Frost damaged brown foliage on Goshiki Japanese holly

So much depends on location. This Goshiki Japanese holly (Ilex heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’) suffers frost damage and die back every year, yet another bush that is closer to the house and under a deciduous tree is completely untouched.

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The white speckled variegation on this Spider’s Web aralia has turned black with cold

This young Spider’s Web Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web) may eventually lose the blackened leaves but I expect I shall see new growth from the base (at soil level) as well as the main plant in spring.

Semi-evergreen shrubs

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Most of the purple fringe flower foliage has turned brown

Many shrubs are listed as semi-evergreen which means the plant will keep its leaves in mild winters but may lose the majority when the weather is colder. For me this includes abelia,  and fringe flower (Loropetalum). No action on my part is needed until spring at which point I will prune out any branches that show no sign of life by late April and trim healthy branches back to the uppermost bud (thereby removing frost damaged tips). Some shrubs will grow from the base as well as breaking from dormant buds along the stems – leaving the frost-damaged branches in place will protect these inner areas.

Tender shrubs and perennials

Lavender falls into this category for me – some varieties are more cold hardy than others. Russian sage, hardy fuchsias and gaura should also be treated in the same way.

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This lavender will be fine after spring pruning

You can see this lavender plant has a  mix of healthy silver needles and cold-damaged brown ones. DO NOT PRUNE UNTIL ALL DANGER OF FROST HAS PASSED. Right now there are signs of healthy silver foliage right down the length of each branch. Those lower, healthy buds are the insurance policy in case any more of the exposed areas get frost damaged. Avoid any pruning until temperatures are warmer as it will encourage the shrub to push out delicate and vulnerable new growth.

Rosemary is another tender plant for me and some do better than others….if only I could find the tags!

My Jerusalem sage (Phlomis russeliana) is another frost casualty.

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A sulking Jerusalem sage – easily redeemed

I actually prefer to cut this to the ground in spring anyway as it helps maintain a nice shape to these shrubby perennials. My approach with this plant is to cut it half way back just to get it off the grasses. I will leave approximately 2′ of frost damaged stems in place to protect the crown from further frost damage before cutting the whole thing down to ground level in March or April when it is warmer.

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At first glance this donkey tail spurge looks dead  – but it’s just sleeping

Donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) was added to my garden last year to repel the psky voles so I’m really hoping it survives the winter despite my less than favorable clay soil, getting trodden on by deer and being frozen for several weeks.

I can see new growth at the crown and the tips themselves look OK even if the stems appear to have lost some leaves.

Evergreen perennials

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Blackened leaves can protect the plant

Even super-hardy perennials such as fleabane (Erigeron sp.) can suffer frost damage as can be seen by all the blackened leaves.

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Inner growth is green and healthy

I wait until spring to pull these out, knowing that new foliage will be healthy and green. In fact leaving the frost damaged foliage in place can shield the inner leaves.

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Ugh….but there is hope

Rock rose, also called sun rose (Helianthemum cvs) is either evergreen or semi-evergreen. Mine are showing blackened leaves in patches which will eventually fall away. However I’m confident that new growth will emerge from buds along the branches in spring. I’ll just gently rake the groundcover with my fingers to remove any slug-enticing mush (a new horticultural definition for you).

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Yuk! NOT the Fine Foliage we prefer!

In the case of my semi-evergreen dalmation iris (Iris pallida ‘Aureo-variegata’), the frost damaged leaves are lost – but new growth is already apparent.You can tidy it up by removing the old leaves now.

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Patience rewards the gardener with new leaves

Frost heave

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The root ball is almost entirely out of the ground

Finally, check your plants for frost heave. This deer and rabbit nibbled heucherella has been pushed up out of the soil with the freeze-thaw action. I need to dig a new hole and re-plant it correctly. Many smaller plants are susceptible to this.

Celebrate the Survivors!

Thankfully there are still many great looking shrubs and trees even in January. Besides the many conifers, Little Heath andromeda (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) has to be a favorite of mine, especially with its rosy winter blush.

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Little Heath andromeda – colorful and reliable

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Easy Combinations for Winter

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

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

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

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

Ruby and Amethyst Shades

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Snow Queen hydrangea photo credit; Monrovia

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

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

Using a Colorful Pot

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

Sunshine in the Shade

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

Monochromatic Elegance

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

Hummingbird Favorite

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

Berry Beauty

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

Caramel Deliciousness

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

Delicate Details

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

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

Berried Beauties of Fall

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

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

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

Brandywine viburnum

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

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

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Brandywine viburnum – a fabulous shrub for larger spaces

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

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

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

Cranberry viburnum

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl Glam beautyberry

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Pearl Glam beautyberry – new for 2017 from Proven Winners

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

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

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

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

Parney’s cotoneaster

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

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

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

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

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

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