Author Archives: personalgardencoach

About personalgardencoach

The Personal Garden Coach and Co-Author of Fine Foliage. Container and small garden designer, national speaker, life, food and Pug enthusiast. You can Tweet me @CSalwitzGardens and find me on Facebook at The Personal Garden Coach.

Fine Foliage Fusion

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

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

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

Cordyline fruticosa

Variegated Fuchsia Magellanica

Rex Begonia

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’

Hypoestes (Polka Dot plant)

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Pink Angel’

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Frankie’

Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’

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

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

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Emergent Fine Foliage for Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One Can’t Exist on Fine Foliage Color Alone

PowellsWood Garden, Federal Way, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Dreaming of Fine Foliage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Indoor Fine Foliage – Begonia Bliss

Happy 2018 Fine Foliage fans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you overwinter any this year too? 

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

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

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

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Framing a View with Fine Foliage

 

A literal frame in the landscape of Alyson Markley.

Do you have a spectacular view somewhere in your landscape that you would like to highlight? No? OK, how about a mediocre view? Or even a peek-a-boo view? Maybe your view is around a corner and down a path. Or maybe it’s not a “view” at all but a focal point like a tree, garden art or seating area that you want to feature.
Leading the eye by using foliage “frames” the view and thereby directs the eye to where you want to look. In the case above, the bamboo is planted densely, enclosing the path and making you want to venture further to see what’s at the end of the path.
This view of the pool house at Chanticleer is iconic. The copper verdigris roofline echoes the exquisite color of the Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Blue Ice‘) on either side of the entry gate. They provide a sense of scale against the cupola as well as luscious fragrance.
Here at the famous Hidcote garden, this section of the border was emphasized with all manner of red and burgundy foliage that takes you all the way down the path, looking left and right as the color carries you to the gate at the far end.
Another iconic view at Hidcote stops you abruptly to look at the masterful pruning of the boxwood and then to the fountain pool and then further through the archway and beyond.
The beautiful garden art sculpture set into the yew hedge is masterfully framed by this unique arch of what I think is a type of Hornbeam, but I can’t confirm which one. The foliage was a very silvery white!
The intense blue of this epic glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly against the pink toned building in the background is expertly framed by multi-trunked Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees and their reddish toned bark guides you straight down this path. All of the colors are working together brilliantly.
Sometimes not exposing the full view of the scene (Huntington Botanic Garden), but simply giving the taste of what’s beyond and through is just enough titillation to make you want to find a way to see what’s over there.
This tightly constricted view to the meadow beyond forces you to stop, sit and ponder.
Here’s a glimpse through a hornbeam tunnel that you would meander down to the bench you see in the photo above in the gardens of Bourton Hall.
OR, maybe you want to show off an expansive view (Pettifers) all at once and make the landscape scene feel ever more accentuated by creating a perspective that forces both close inspection of certain plants and design as well as appreciating the overall composition.
I love the way the designers at Chanticleer used vertical and contrasting colored chunks of cut foliage to mark this path edge and force your focus toward the meadow beyond.
The same idea, only in much larger scale here at Bourton Hall, uses fastigiate yews to guide your eye parallel the water feature and into the distance.

When you think about your landscape design, large or small, are you using foliage to frame or lead your eye the parts of your design that you really want to emphasize?

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

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If You Could Only Choose One….

If you were to chase me through the garden with a gun, forcing me to choose only ONE category of plant that epitomizes what fall looks like to me, once I stopped blathering about all things leafy and my enthusiasm for many beloved ginkgo in my past, I’d have to say it’s miscanthus that wins my heart.

We can discuss all of the amazing merits of this group of grasses all day, but the ONE reason that it stops me in my tracks year after year is the way the low angled fall sun sparkles on the soft blooms like diamonds on magic wands.

Since I also love lots of strong color, I am always taken aback by just how much I love the warm, muted beige and sand tones that you only get in fall. It shows up beautifully against the electric gold of  Solidago ‘Fireworks’.

Lastly, it takes great restraint not to wax poetic about the effect those miscanthus blooms have on their unwitting neighbors. But, I will close with this; the movie star quality that the Belladonna lily (also known as Naked Lady) enjoys in this shot would not be the same without these grass blooms. It reminds me of those old movies where the female star got a romantic close-up and the camera operator would put vaseline around the edge of lens for the soft focus effect.

The next time you pass a gracious stand of Miscanthus hopefully, you will take note of these points, because if someone were chasing YOU with a gun through the landscape in fall forcing YOU to choose a favorite piece of Fine Foliage hopefully, you will thank me for making your choice much easier. 🙂

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.

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Dynamic Fall Texture with Zebra Grass

Whether you choose the full-sized Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) that grows 5-8ft. tall or the dwarf form that stays much shorter and more compact, Zebra grass is a wonderful addition to the fall landscape. The horizontal bands of cream on green are striking under gray skies, adding tons of character.

As the autumn temperatures cool, this clump-forming grass begins to turn soft gold. And if it’s allowed to stay without pruning through winter, you will be rewarded with handsome beige color as well as crown protection in cold climates.

Using contrasting and complimentary grasses to balance this one is a nice design choice where this grass is SO striking that you don’t generally need masses of them to stand out. The copper/pink flowering tips hold up well for fall arrangements too!

Here’s a link for more information on Zebra Grass. 

For more foliage based design ideas check THIS out! And be sure to sign up to receive more leafy goodness in your email by clicking the button to sign up for more posts from Team Fine Foliage! 

 

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Fine Foliage and the Glory of Fall

The entry drive at PowellsWood Garden.

While much of the country is beginning to feel the first tell-tale signs of fall, with cooler nights and even a first frost warning or two, in the Pacific Northwest, we frequently get the best of both worlds in late summer. We know how spoiled we are to be able to enjoy both seasons at once until the real fall hammer drops when the rains arrive. As I write this, my door is open this morning, and it will likely be 80 by dinner tonight.

In spite of that, our landscapes are all talking about the slow march to the true fall weather. Our abundant Japanese and native Vine maples are coloring up like crazy with the heat stress of our long drought this summer. Understandably, these trees are tired and ready for rest soon, but we will enjoy them as long as we can!

The conifers of all kinds are gearing up to takes the center stage for winter soon. The stately weeping hemlocks in this photo are protected from the heat of summer under the broad canopy of a giant fir tree as well as the dappled canopy of the maples. They lend such a fine texture, blue-green foliage color, and the perfect scale for the mid-border.

One of my favorite things about the photo above is how the intensely colored spikes of blue fescue contrast with the orange of the vine maple. Blue and orange are always such happy friends on the foliage color wheel. A great point to make a note of if you are planning any changes or additions to your home landscape this fall.

When we zoom into the center of this bed, we can take note of even more amazing details. The hydrangea aspera (‘Plum Passion’) from Monrovia shows more purple color intensity on the foliage in a higher light location. In this dappled light, it is pale, but the pink veining and flowers are no less attractive and interesting at providing marvelous details.

Below the hydrangea, euphorbia a. robbiae (Mrs. Robb’s Bonnet) fills in densely with glossy green rosettes of foliage. This ground cover can strike fear in the heart of gardeners with its aggressive nature, so it’s one to plan and plant carefully. However, the cheerful yellow bloom bracts in late spring are so welcome after long winter. Once it’s done blooming, giving this plant a hard prune to tidy it up for the rest of the year, results in this textural backdrop for falling orange maple leaves.

Whether you are fully ready and committed to dismantling your summer garden now to enjoy fall, or if you are trying to squeeze every last ounce out of the late summer landscape, noting some of the fantastic details that make this “shoulder season” dramatic in its own way are a good way to be “in the moment” with your fine foliage design goals. 

Gardening with Foliage First is another way to see some excellent ideas for fall combination drama. And of course clicking the SUBSCRIBE button on your right brings this blog to your inbox monthly for even more ideas! 

Designing with a Point of View

This handsome zen garden demonstrates how you can view it from four sides and have a completely different interpretation of what it represents with each passing angle. One step forward and you might see islands in the ocean, two steps back around the other direction and you may see something entirely different. Other zen garden styles force you to view them from only one angle in an enclosed setting. Each experience is unique and yet the intrinsic reverence for nature and simplicity are both honored by differing views.

This vignette at the Franklin Conservatory was a wonderful example of this same idea for allowing us to experience the garden from many vantage points. The designers used the angles of the walking paths along with the dips and turns to make the most of each particular view. It made a huge difference in how you see the complexity and layers of this gorgeous foliage. That’s saying a lot for this photographer who is VERY close to the ground.
Layers and layers of luscious grasses, conifers, shrubs and specimen trees came together here with subtle color echoes, textural crescendo’s and ethereal color tones that force you to stop and take it all in slowly. These are very large-scale examples obviously, but what can we learn in our own landscapes about how we can make the most of each view-point?
This large garden is a sunny jewel toned mix of color, texture, and layers. While voluptuous lemon-lime toned privet adds ruffles in the foreground, the ribbon of Russian Sage creates an amethyst river that is a complimentary color. The red-ombre effect from hard pruned smokebushes are a delightful larger leaf that brings a marvelous garnet color addition. The point of view, in this case, was broad and deep. There is a hedge in the foreground that hides a colorful foliage and bloom surprise.
Blues and golds or purple and yellow are such happy friends on the color wheel. When you look closely at the entirety of the design from afar, you can’t see this perspective. But, it sure was worth coming up for the close-up! The entire river of Russian sage was underplanted with ‘Samantha’ Lantana, a fantastic choice with that incredibly jubilant foliage. It was like stage lighting for the sage to glow against.
Next time you’re out perusing your garden with a glass of your favorite beverage, force yourself to look at it from angles you might not ordinarily see. From the neighbors view? From the back facing toward the house? From under a tree even! In small or large expansive landscapes, we can all afford to be more open to all of the views, not just the ones we are used to seeing.

Want more foliagey goodness all to yourself? Get your own copy of Gardening with Foliage First or the perennial favorite Fine Foliage right here! Or just keep tabs on what we whacky designers are up to by clicking the button to follow the blog. 🙂 

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