Author Archives: Karen Chapman

About Karen Chapman

Owner of Le jardinet, co-author of Fine Foliage (2013) and Gardening with Foliage First (2017) and general plantaholic (who is still trying to outwit the deer)

New Fine Foliage To Watch For

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

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

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

New Succulent Creations

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Echeveria Coral Reef Aqua – by Greenfuse Botanicals Inc.

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

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Coral Creations from Proven Winners

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

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Design by Proven Winners

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

A New Deer Resistant Perennial

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Walberton’s Silver Fountain Gaura by Plant Haven

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

So many Coleus!

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

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Coleus Pinkplosion by BallFloraPlant

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

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Coleus Main Street Rodeo Drive by Dummen Orange

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

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

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

Silver Standouts

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Dib’s Moonlight begonia by Greenfuse

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

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

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Artemisia ‘Makana Silver’ by Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc

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

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

Last but not Least

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Trifolium 4luck Red Green by Greenfuse Botanicals

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

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Trifolium 4luck Red Stripes

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

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Alternanthera ‘Choco Chili’ from Westhoff

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

It’s a Wrap!

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

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

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

Keep loving your gardens, one leaf at a time!

Karen & Christina

Spring Bloomers that Keep on GOING!

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

Jack Frost Siberian Bugloss

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

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

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

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

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

Pasqueflower

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

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

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

Cheddar Pinks

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

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

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

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

English Primrose

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

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

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

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

Lungwort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others high performing spring bloomers to consider

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

Barrenwort (Epimedium sp.)

What’s YOUR favorite?

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

Note: this post contains affiliate links

Celebrate Spring Bulbs using a Foliage Picture Frame

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

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

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

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Design by Daniel Mount (Mount Gardens)

Why it works

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

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

Foliage Framework

Variegated boxwood spheres (Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’)

Bright Edge yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’)

Large Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias  ssp. wulfenii)

Finishing Touch

Perestroyka tulip (Tulipa ‘Perestroyka’)

More ideas?

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

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

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

This post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

Easy Care Foliage for Late Winter

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

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

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

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

Here are my personal favorites:

Best Low Maintenance Conifers

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

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

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

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

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

Best Easy-Care Evergreen Shrubs

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

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

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

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Winter color on Rainbow drooping fetterbush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More resources and ideas

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

Secrets to Selecting Low Maintenance Plants!

Sorry – open registration has now CLOSED.

Secrets to Selecting Low Maintenance Plants

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

 

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

Disclaimer: this page contains affiliate links

Refresh your Garden Color Scheme

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

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

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

Singin’ the Blues

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

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

Shimmering Silvers

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

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

More Candidates for your New Look

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

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

Need more ideas? Follow us on Facebook!

Wishing You Peace

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Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

May you find Peace in your hearts, homes and gardens this season and throughout the coming year.

Karen & Christina

Foliage Inspiration from Chanticleer

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Summing up my recent trip to Chanticleer in a single blog post is impossible. Every turn, every vista, every nook elicited gasps, and if I’m truthful a silent tear or two – it was that remarkable. I was in awe. Bear in mind that this visit was at the very end of October, just before the garden closed for the season and you’ll understand why I’m eager to return again and again.

To give you just a flavor or two of the foliage combinations that had me reaching for my camera I’ve created this ‘inspiration scrapbook‘ which I hope you’ll bookmark – or pin to Pinterest – to kick-start those creative juices next spring.

Containers

Clustered terracotta pots facilitates fast makeovers when each one is planted with a single specimen. Keeping to a lemon, emerald and silver color scheme allows the foliage textures to shine.

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Wake up a traditional facade with two trios of teal pots featuring non-traditional foliage plants – flowers are a bonus!

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Plants include Vinca major ‘Illumination’, Cordyline australis ‘Torbay Dazzler’, Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum, Euphorbia martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’,  Laurus nobilis, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, Muehlenbeckia complexa, Pennsylvania, Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’, and Trachycarpus fortunei,

Containers within the border itself echo the color of the Bismark palms while creating a bold counterpoint to the spiky textures.

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Rustic teal pots in the Teacup Garden raise the drama tenfold!

Foliage Combinations

Monochromatic elegance from this tropical medley that includes a skirt of Calathea ‘Zebrina’.

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Drama in true Chanticleer style – love the wispy Mexican feather grass tucked in-between the bolder foliage

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Echium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ with Nassella tenuissima

We all love coleus, and often combine them with ferns, but this color pairing was really special.

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Alternanthera ‘Tiny Rubies’ (purple leaf) , Blechnum brazilense (fern) , and coleus (an unnamed Ball Hort sample),

Solo Players

And then there were the foliage plants that needed little in the way of accompaniment.

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Swoonworthy – Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Tiger Fern’

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Exquisite Details

To me though, Chanticleer is all about the attention to the tiniest of details – and many of these rely on foliage.

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Succulents planted in a summer-dry rain chain

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Foliage as embellishment and picture frame

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Chanticleer: Imagination and creativity in equal measure

Want to know more?

I recently wrote a post on my own blog; Lessons from Chanticleer – When a Path Becomes an Experience. Intrigued??

Order their latest book The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer (Timber Press, 2015). It would be a truly inspiring gift for any occasion and any gardener and is choc-full of dreamy photos by the talented Rob Cardillo. Use this affiliate link to find out more and to save a few pennies.

Plan to Visit

Chanticleer will be re-opening on March 28th 2018.

If you live close enough, consider a 2018 Season Pass for yourself or a friend!

Happy Thanksgiving from Team Fine Foliage! 

 

Foliage First Fall Design Inspiration

 

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It begins with a single leaf – Jelena witch hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’). Look at those colors! Purple, gold, green….

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pumpkin-orange and hints of ruby….

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with a touch of magenta.

Pair these rich jewel tones with the peeling cinnamon-colored bark of a paper bark maple (Acer griseum)

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Then calm things down with a carpet of native, green salal (Gaultheria shallon)

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Want to keep playing? Add some bright red berries and glowing fall foliage  – in this instance Sparkle barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Sparkle’)…

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To complete a delightful fall vignette….

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….that is also mercifully deer resistant.

PSST! For more on this stunning garden designed by Deborah Heg, as well as over a dozen more  deer resistant gardens,  watch out for Karen’s next book with Timber Press, due for release late 2019.

Share your fall inspired Foliage First designs with us on Facebook!

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

Favorite Fall Foliage – Arkansas bluestar

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A large planting of Arkansas blue star beginning its fall display

There are some plants I just can’t get enough of – and top of that list is the perennial Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii). While many herbaceous perennials are selected for their flowers, this beauty is invariably chosen for its outstanding feathery foliage that transitions from bright emerald green to shades of orange, gold and copper in fall. For the flower-loving folks, yes this does indeed have blue flowers in spring but even a glance at these photos will quickly convince you that it really is all about the autumnal foliage display.

How to use it

Even one plant can be a star in a container.

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Mingling with other late season foliage stars, the bluestar adds height, texture and color

I added a group of seven one-gallon plants to the far end of our ‘island border’, a key display border viewed from many vantage points within our large garden, from the patio and from most windows of the home.  As is typical, the perennials took three years to look significant – you need vision in the early days! I nestled these feathery beauties against a large mossy boulder to play off the texture.

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Color companions I enjoy the most are silver and purple, both of which work equally well with the summer or fall display.

To give you ideas from other gardens, here is an example from the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden where it mingles with golden sneezeweed (Helenium sp.).

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At Walter’s Gardens, the nursery that grows perennials for Proven Winners, I spotted it offering feathering companionship and powder-blue flowers to spring blooming peonies and poppies in the test garden.

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Of course I am not known for my minimalist approach so you won’t be surprised to hear that when I had a new raised bed to plant by our patio I decided to fill it with over 50 Arkansas bluestar! The design idea was to create a transition from the more ornamental plantings besides the patio to the distant summer meadow and woodland beyond.

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Anticipating the fall foliage color, we used steel to form the arc at the rear of this bed, knowing its weathered, rusted surface would look visually exciting with the autumnal display.

This is only year two for this bed but I’m already thrilled with how it is evolving. I also know I’m going to be out taking photos each day as the colors change!

Why you should grow it

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Arkansas blue star is reliably drought tolerant in my non-irrigated garden. This summer we didn’t have any measurable rain for three months and our temperatures were frequently in the 90’s with almost a week closer to 100′, yet I didn’t water the Arkansas bluestar in the island border even once and it still looks fabulous. I did water the newer plants by the patio a total of three times as after two months without rain a few plants were showing signs of stress. That may be due to them being in a raised planted rather than in the ground, or due to them being less well established. Next year will tell. Certainty they have started their fall display earlier but I don’t mind that at all!

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They are also both rabbit and deer resistant – YAY!!

More combination ideas

Our new book Gardening with Foliage First has several fabulous design ideas. Check out  Golden Threads (p285) and  Aquascapes (p140). The latter uses a different variety of this perennial called Halfway to Arkansas, but the effect is identical.

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Golden Threads – full design and planting details in our book!

Cultural details

USDA: 5-8

Size: 2 feet tall and wide (but tends to splay outwards to a bit wider than this)

Soil: average, well drained.

Site: Full sun

Water: minimal once established

How are you using this perennial? Share your ideas with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Big Ideas for Designing with Mini Leaves

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Whit’s End – a paradise for children of all ages – and a wonderful showcase of design ideas using miniature foliage

I’m just back after a whirlwind tour of Buffalo, New York – boy do those folks know how to do foliage! Hostas must be the #1 selling plant, available in every conceivable shade of green, blue-green, blue, gold and white and ranging in size from monsters to miniatures. I was especially struck by the creative ways homeowners found to showcase the more petite specimens.

The American Hosta Society has set various standards as to what constitutes a mini (and these criteria have changed over the years). You can read about them here. I had a hard time imagining how they could be incorporated in my 5 acre garden (assuming deer and slugs left them alone) but after seeing these ideas I’m feeling inspired.

Edging a border

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Mike Shadrack places smaller specimens where they won’t be obstructed from view

By placing these minis at the front of a stone-edged border they invite closer viewing, while having larger hostas at the back of the border gives a fun play on distorting the perspective!

Word Play

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Marcia Sully plays with her Mouse series hostas

I’m sure you’ve come across the Mouse Ears mini hosta that started the popular series in 2000. There are now lots of sports from the original blue Mouse Ears including this one (whose tag I forgot to photograph – sorry!)

Love how Marcia has used the cute metal mouse to emphasize the name, but she didn’t stop there…

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A game of cats and mice

This grouping of mini hostas, watchful cats and cute little mice is a wonderful display. I could have sat and made up fun stories of these characters for a series of children’s books, couldn’t you?

While many of the mini hostas are displayed in their own container, a few are grouped together.

Creating a Scene

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Mixed design using mini hostas with other elements

When combining mini hostas with other plants, it is essential to keep the scale in mind. The container above is an excellent example, with several mini hostas, each offering a unique leaf shape and color, combined with a dwarf conifer in an aged hypertufa trough accented by a cheeky snail. The largest green/white hosta plays the role of a large tree or shrub in this scene.

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Just one of several remarkable train set vignettes in this garden known as Whit’s End (A play on the homeowner’s last name)

Once again, hostas are combined with dwarf conifers, this time creating a life-like vignette, as two men pump the handcart endlessly around the train tracks! Such fun.

Ideas to Take Home

Although these ideas all feature mini hostas you could re-interpret them to showcase your favorite miniatures such as:

  • Smaller succulents
  • Mini coleus
  • Dwarf conifers

Share your ideas with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.