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)

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.

 

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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

How’s your garden doing? Need new ideas for your garden? We have just the book for you! Our brand spanking new book Gardening with Foliage First is on the road heading to bookstores near YOU. Have you ordered your copy yet?

 

 

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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Fall Container Inspiration

Ready to switch your petunias for pumpkins? Here are four ideas you can whip up in no time.

Caramel Flavors

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It all begins with the pot, in this case a frost resistant glazed container in rich caramel tones with just a hint of copper. The pheasant tail grass at the back of the design repeats these shades perfectly and creates height while adding a wonderfully airy texture.

The bold mahogany colored foliage of Blondie heuchera separates this grass from the similar texture of golden Everillo carex, an evergreen grass-like plant that drapes down the front of the container. (I love the dense clusters of ginger-cream flowers on this heuchera too).

Also included are evergreen, multi-hued Ascot Rainbow euphorbia and Twiggy box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’).

Soft Touch

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No signs of orange here, yet this design will see you through pumpkin season and into spring with style. It also shows how you can  easily ‘cheat’ a little. None of these plants were tall enough to be the key element so I simply cut some curly willow stems from the garden and stuck the branches into the pot. When the willow leaves shrivel, run your fingers slowly down the stems to remove them, leaving the contorted bare branches to add sculptural interest and height to the design.

Likewise that interesting green leafy plant in the foreground is Nova Flame mukgenia. It will have glorious fall color and pink blooms in spring – but as a herbaceous perennial it will die back during winter and leave a visual blank spot in the pot as will the tufted hair grass. No problem; add small white pumpkins, pine cones, decorative pebbles or other seasonal accents, removing these in spring to allow for the new growth.

Other plants include shiny purple Spellbound heuchera, pink/white/green variegated Rainbow drooping fetterbush, deep pink Svenja bud bloomer heather and Northern Lights tufted hair grass.

Portable Feast

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Bright Lights Swiss chard is a popular vegetable for cooks and gardeners alike and it’s no wonder with such vibrant colors.  I selected one with hot-pink stems and burgundy foliage and used it to anchor a rustic pot glazed in deep earth tones.

To brighten things up a trailing  Yellowstone Falls heucherella cascades down the side of the pot. Each yellow leaf has a deep burgundy venation, helping to connect it to the colors of both the pot and chard.

Other plants include Obsession heavenly bamboo (a sport of the popular Gulf Stream that exhibits deep burgundy year round), autumn fern and the beautiful marbled foliage of Winter Moonbeam hellebore

Putting on the Glitz

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For those who want sparkles and frills. First the pot; shades of turquoise, accented with deep purple and given a finish reminiscent of encrusted barnacles sprinkled with silver glitter. Wow!

Tying into the silvery-blue colors I added the shimmery Silver Falls dichondra, a blue star juniper, Silver Swan euphorbia and a gorgeous Silver Veil hellebore, one of the Gold Collection hellebores that is so new I can’t find a link for you! (I will contact the grower and ask about that….) Height was added with the new Hot Rod switch grass, those warmer colors being echoed by Crimson Fans mukdenia. Softening the contrast is a Lemon Lime heavenly bamboo which unlike most varieties does not turn red.

To look its best through winter when the dichondra freezes and the mukdenia becomes dormant, I would replace the trailer with  golden creeping Jenny and add some silver balls to disguise the sleeping perennial. Voila – ready for the next Holiday!

 

All pots from AW Pottery.

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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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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