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.

Luscious Layers with Foliage First

We have earned the right to whine a bit about our weather here in the Seattle area lately with record-setting rains the likes of which have not been seen since records were kept in this area. The gardens are all in quite a state of shock and disorientation, so when I went to look back at this date last year, it was quite amazing to fathom the variance!
Hostas and Saxifrage are Luscious Layers with Foliage FirstI found this shot in last years file for this same week in 2016 photographed in an amazing garden called PowellsWood. This garden is very close to my heart as they spoil me SO much as a designer and a photographer. But, also because it’s an exquisite gem of a garden.

Just look at those layers of hosta fern, grass and ‘Variegata’ saxifrage in full blooming glory for spring! So what’s the design recipe here? Add one white variegated hosta, one solid blue hosta, and marbled golden saxifrage WITH the graceful show of spring flowers. Following those saxifrage blooms will be the hosta flowers and now you have a recipe that Team Fine Foliage and Foliage First would say is a BIG winner for demonstrating how to have luscious layers in the shade garden this year. The ferns and grass are bonus elements!

With some luck and possibly a drought we may be slightly less damp in July than we are today. But, I still have to shave the moss on my legs this week! 😉

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

If you enjoyed this post be sure to sign up to receive our leafy news direct to your inbox!

Gray Skies + HOT Foliage = Landscape Design Psych-Out

Damp Desert, Succulents in the Rain

Rainy day at the Huntington Botanical Garden

The Pacific Northwest would typically see 3.5 inches of rain in March, we are currently looking down the barrel of the umbrella gun at 7.5 inches by Friday when we are finally expected to see only our 8th day of dry weather since October. Not cool Mother Nature, not cool indeed!

I have officially dubbed the “Emerald City” now part of the Great Pacific “North-Wet” now. You may scoff and say “But, it’s Seattle, it’s always rainy there!” To a degree, you’d be right, but in reality, we are part of a larger drought zone for most of the year, it’s just that the gray skies for long periods tend to overshadow the spectacularly sunny days that we REALLY hide from outsiders. Well, I guess except the 80,000 who have been moving here every year.

So, what is a gardener who is sitting in front of one of those special “sun” lights to do to keep from going horticulturally “postal” to do? You have to make sun where there isn’t any with HOT foliage designs. Use those hot colors to warm up a space and psych yourself out at least for early spring.

Hellebore, Epimedium, Spring Foliage
Get at least one warm toned color to accompany whatever else might be going on in a design and voila, instant warmth! I see SO many bleak, monotone landscapes that are all brown and gray in my travels, I just don’t buy into the idea that there aren’t options to brighten things up and add a splash of sun.

I truly realize that we are FULLY spoiled for options here in the Great Pacific “North-Wet” but even in colder climates across the country, there are ways with Fine Foliage! It doesn’t have to be huge, fancy, rare or even unique, but there are options besides living with the gloom.

Gold Pine at the Rotary Botanic Garden

Pinus strobus ‘Hillside Winter Gold’ (white pine) at the Rotary Botanic Garden.

Chief Joseph PineJust yesterday I was adding some Sedum ‘Angelina’ still flushed with her winter orange to a client’s garden and was amazed at what a happy, bright note it added to the whole bed I was designing. A HUGE difference, though I was planting in rain gear while standing in mud. 🙂
Sedum 'Angelina' As we leave the warm, dry fireside of winter and venture out into the spring landscape, we need to look for ways we can create energy and excitement until the full force of spring hits. The winter-blooming camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ below is paired with the shrub dogwood ‘Mid-Winter Fire’ to a great warming effect here.

Cornus 'Mid-Winter Fire', Camellia Sasanqua 'Yuletide'
I’m a sucker for the new growth on Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’ in the landscape with just about anything. The variegated foliage and blooms are always interesting, but that HOT coral new growth is dee-vine!

Pieris 'Flaming Silver'
Calluna vulgaris, springThis Calluna vulgaris offers up a jolt of excitement with those flaming red new growth tips in spring!

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' Even soaking wet, the Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ offers up a bit of warm toned foliage goodness right now!

I’ll be prepping for shorts and tank tops planting season soon when I will also post about adding “Cool Color” to hot spots in the landscape too. But, right now I have to go shave the moss on my legs.

Moss Garden
What will YOU do to bring warmth to your garden for spring?

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

Simple, Straightforward and Serene Foliage

Sweet, Simple and Serene FoliageAs Team Fine Foliage recovers from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show week, the official launch to the local gardening public of Gardening with Foliage First and as of today Karen Chapman is officially a “Nana”, we’re truly in recovery. So this post about “simplicity” seemed SO appropriate right now. 🙂

This shot above from the show last week was taken from the garden designed by Nature Perfect Landscape and Design, it was a crowd favorite for sure! But, for our purposes today, I’m only showing you this small portion of it even though there was MUCH more to it.

So why DOES this work so beautifully? It was SIMPLE! Groundcover plants were strategically used in this geometric patio design along with polished river rock and pavers. Small ‘Gold Moss’ stonecrop positively glows in this setting and having the black mondo grass as a contrast along with one of the many shades of Club Moss lining the wood pile/boulder seating space make it almost a magical detail that drew many many raves.

Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageThis small section from a garden design at the show also provided a great lesson in simplicity. Using golden sweet flag grass in multiples as a groundcover in this space looked sophisticated and would stay low around the spheres and dwarf rhododendrons. Designed by Jefferson Sustainable Landscape Management and Avid Landscape Design, the other elements in this display were fantastic as well!
Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageLast but certainly NOT least is “Mid-Mod-Mad….It’s Cocktail Hour in the Garden” another of my very favorite award-winning designs at the show from creator Father Nature Landscapes and designer Sue Goetz. Though I’m not showing you all of the display here, to further our point on simplicity, this one is a very good showing!

Proving the point that you don’t need 800 different types of plant material to have an excellent design. Sue chose to use lots and lots of Orange Sedge to surround and fill this space and bring your eye to the fire bowl, seating area and water feature in the background. Water loving umbrella grass sits in the water giving a nice vertical look on the colorful wall.

There you have a quick look at simple and serene ideas for using foliage repetition with a small palette of plants. Hope you enjoyed a few photos from the show, I’m sure you will see MANY more in future posts.

Cheers to catching our breath!

If you liked this post and want to see more ideas in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First that’s burning up the charts 🙂 Click here! 

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings

Team Fine Foliage is ever forward thinking, and today we’re considering all of the ways we can use coleus this spring. Seize the day and start your dreaming now so that you can hit the ground running when it’s time to shop.

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusWith a coleus (Solenostemon scutellaroides) for every design need imaginable, it’s hard to fathom a spot where this fantastic group of plants doesn’t make any combination better. What’s not love? When the color range, leaf shape and multitude of growth habits available are SO vast, it can make your head spin. I know I have landed on a few that have turned out to be my own “go-to” selections, but each year I try to break out and try new ones.

There are coleus selections available for BOTH morning and afternoon sun AND shade, so don’t assume that you might have too much or too little of either situation because the breeders are working overtime to bring new ones to market that are tougher than ever. But, to be safe, be sure to make an assessment of the time of day and how many hours of sun your spot will get to make sure you get the right plant for the right place.

**Plant tags are notoriously difficult in regard to sun/shade needs when it comes to coleus. Be sure to ask your local Independent Garden Center salesperson which are best for YOUR needs if you aren’t quite sure. Telling them apart can get a bit tricky and some plants can easily thrive in BOTH exposures, which is another reason why we love them so!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusThe incredible glowing burnt orange of this one called ‘Campfire’ by Ball Horticulture is a large scaled one that features this incredible purple shadow that is very subtle but really shows when you put anything purple next to it. A new favorite one for sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusOne fo the interesting things about coleus is that there are so many that are seemingly the same yet are different and so it’s a challenge to know for certain if you have the same one as last year without seeing the tag for yourself. I have often seen to that look identical at different garden centers, and they will have different names, so bear with me if you see one that I name as X, but that you know as Y. It happens ALL the time!

The one above is one that I happen to know as ‘Wedding Train’, fabulously colorful trailing option for showy, colorful foliage when a potato vine would be overwhelming in a container design. It can take more sun than you might imagine too!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusBlack potato vine makes a really neat groundcover at the front of this bed with hot pink Angelonia sandwiched in between another coleus from Ball Horticulture called ‘French Quarter’.  A significant thing to note here, if this coleus stands up to the same heat as Angelonia which wants to roast in the HOT summer sun, then you know this coleus is a toughy!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusNeed a desktop sized coleus? A terrarium sized coleus? A mini-gardening sized coleus? I found it! Hort Couture has created this incredible line of new coleus called Under the Sea ‘Sea Monkey’ and they come in a few colors. This one is ‘Sea Monkey Apricot’ and I ADORE it!

http://www.hortcoutureplants.com/product-detail/coleus-under-the-sea®-sea-monkey-rustHort Couture also created this one that I love called Under the Sea ‘Bonefish’As you can see, I let this one go to flower, and there are two philosophical camps regarding this idea, here’s my two cents on the topic; let them bloom if you enjoy it OR don’t let them bloom if you don’t. Some gardeners seem to think there is a real right or wrong on this and I think it totally depends on the plant, the combination and the time of year. I tend to let all of them bloom by the time September/October rolls around, why the heck not? However, I DO keep all of my coleus pinched for tidy growth especially the larger upright ones until then. But, you should do whatever floats your leafy boat!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsPersonally, these ones with the striking veins like ‘Fishnet Stockings’ seriously rev my foliage design engines!!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis one also from Ball Horticulture called ‘Vino’ was new to me this last year. But I tell ya, this dark, moody devil was one of the most hardcore TOUGH plants in my entire garden last summer! It held up in pretty extreme heat like a champ!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThe rich black of ‘Vino’ creates such an excellent tonal effect with the other plants in this container design, it quickly became a favorite for me. 

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Team Fine Foliage is positively green with jealousy over parts of the country where caladium thrive, it is a much tougher proposition up here in the Great Northwet. But, to combine them with coleus……that’s just salt in the wound of our jealous leafy hearts. 🙂 YOWZA!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsFrom the files of the weird and wonderful, the giant leaves of Solanum quitoense has wonderfully sensuous leaves until those big scary thorns grow in. Paired here with the silver lace of Senecio leuchostachys, Coleus (possibly) ‘Black Beauty’ is a dramatic combination to be sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis last shot strikes at the heart of all that Team Fine Foliage stands for, BODACIOUS foliage at its very best! Sexy sexy bromeliad combined with other foliage to create this dreamy scene, all topped off with ‘Sedona’ coleus to mark the sunrise/sunset tones of this wonderful composition shot at the Chanticleer Garden a few years back. This one never gets old!

So there you have it- a teeny tiny overview of some incredible ways to get your coleus craving fix. Drop us a note and tell us about YOUR plans for coleus this year. Need more ideas? Click here to peek at our newest book Gardening with Foliage First. And if you already ordered, we would be honored if you wrote a review too.

Cheers to the coming spring! 

Design Goals in the Garden for 2017

RHS Wisley 2016

RHS Wisley 2016

After looking over my photos of gardens that I visited in 2016 as well as my own, I am feeling the need to review some design choices I have made in the last few years. When you’re inside on a 25-degree day in Seattle, sunny though it may be, there’s no better time to start thinking ahead. The garden show season, garden tours and nursery hopping will be upon all of us hort-nerds soon enough and I want to have at least a minor plan of attack.

Maybe you need more bold colors of foliage in your spring and summer garden like the energetic heuchera above that provides a wonderful color echo to the elegant Japanese maple in the background.

Color echo with Hydrangea and Japanese maple

Or for the late summer and early fall, maybe you need to consider the color echo that this incredible hydrangea and maple duo bring in deep plum tones!

Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Chelsea Flower Show 2016

OR if you are a flower person in your heart of hearts but you are here with Team Fine Foliage because you need a leafy nudge to balance your impulses, then maybe adding more repetition is in order. The floriferous notes in any garden stand out better when you pick one color and texture in a foliage plant and use it to its fullest with repetition. This could just as easily have been boxwood and have a very traditional look, but the use of the silver foliage of this Senecio is much more interesting!

Paperbark maple

Paperbark maple

Maybe you are craving more interesting details in your landscape such as fascinating bark, berries, rock or art. Well, Team Fine Foliage certainly will have you covered there for 2017 when “Gardening with Foliage First” becomes available SOON!!! 

A sumptuous feast of fall color here!

A sumptuous feast of fall color here!

Our tendency as trapped winter garden designers is to load up the landscape with all things spring when we’re first let out of the house and released into the wilds of the garden center. But, it’s so important to make sure that you’re also thinking about the important and colorful transformation of color that happens in late summer and early fall. So, keep that in mind when you’re planning!

Foliage BONANZA! :-)

Foliage BONANZA! 🙂

Here is a snippet from one of my favorite little sections in my own garden that I am considering revamping a tad this year. I welcome your thoughts about what you might do. It’s jammed packed I know, but that my style and that likely won’t change, but other than that, bring it on. Give me some ideas designers! 

Let us know what YOUR leafy goals are for your landscape in 2017. Post a comment, we would love to hear from all of you in this upcoming and exciting year of the “Foliage First” garden! 

 

Fine Foliage Dusted with Snow

My front sidewalk lined with alternating dwarf barberry and euonymus and powdered sugar like snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had our first little snow event in the Seattle area this morning, so I just wanted to share a few shots of the lovely foliage. Well, the foliage close enough to while still in my jammies. 🙂

Nandina 'Gulf Stream' peeking up through the snow and showing her jaunty red in the white landscape this morning.

Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’ peeking up through the snow and showing her jaunty red in the white landscape this morning.

The tips on this little half-high blueberry in the pots that mark my front entry walk are beautiful in every month of the year. AND you get fruit!

The tips on this little half-high blueberry in the pots that mark my front entry walk are beautiful in every month of the year. AND you get fruit!

The foliage of sedum 'Angelina' go from gold to lime in winter. I LOVE how it looks in the lavender pot against the coral bells truly purple foliage ('Forever Purple').

The foliage of sedum ‘Angelina’ go from gold to lime in winter. I LOVE how it looks in the lavender pot against the coral bells grape- purple foliage (‘Forever Purple’).

Euonymous 'Silver King' holds up like a champ in all kinds of weather and the gold shows up so well too!

Euonymus ‘Silver King’ holds up like a champ in all kinds of weather and the gold shows up so well too!

Fine Foliage Dusted with Snow

Certain textures like this hebe are quite exaggerated with the snowy backdrop.

THIS is why I planted a variegated holly!

THIS is why I planted a variegated holly!

This 'Threadleaf' nandina looked SO pretty in the melting snow.

This ‘Threadleaf’ nandina looked SO lovely in the melting snow.

The stems where once intensely colored blue berries on this viburnum 'Davidii' reveal a rosy pink in the snow.

The stems where once intensely colored blue berries on this viburnum ‘Davidii’ reveal a rosy pink in the snow.

One of my favorite plants, Euphorbia 'Silver Swan' looks great in the snow too. I love that blue!

One of my favorite plants, Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ looks great in the snow too. I love that blue!

Speaking of BLUE! This chamaecyperis is one of the bluest blues year round and looks great against the hydrangeas for most of the year, even with the dried flowers.

Speaking of BLUE! This chamaecyperis is one of the bluest blues year round and looks great against the hydrangeas for most of the year, even with the dried flowers.

The snow capped seed heads in black and brown of the Ninebark look neat weeping over under the weight of snow.

The snow capped seed heads in black and brown of the Ninebark look neat weeping over under the weight of snow.

Mexican Orange is not feeling like summer right now, but the golden glow of this evergreen foliage still brings us a bit of sun.

This Mexican Orange is not feeling like summer right now, but the golden glow of this evergreen foliage still brings us a bit of sun.

Since our new book "Gardening with Foliage First" is due out very soon, we feature berries, bark and all of the wonderful things that partner WITH great foliage. These bright red wintergreen berries are a wonderful example for winter.

Since our new book “Gardening with Foliage First” is due out very soon, we feature berries, bark and all of the beautiful things that partner WITH great foliage. These bright red wintergreen berries are an excellent example for winter.

 

Ready for winter now? This is a good time to be inside and taking stock of your winter landscape to see how everything looks in the colder months and where you can tweak or add some more interest to your garden of foliage.

If you’re still doing some holiday shopping, consider (click the link) pre-ordering “Gardening with Foliage First” for the gardeners on your list and they will get it just after the New Year to begin planning their landscape for 2017!

Happy Holidays, CHEERS!

 

 

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

If you have the space to enjoy the gentle form and bright green new leaves of a weeping Willow, there’s a place to start!

Need some calm STAT?
There seems to be a plague of high-tension across the land. The holiday hustle is pretty much underway and while you’re pulling out the wrapping paper, Team Fine Foliage wants you to think about all of the ways that that you can bring a sense of serenity and peace to your landscape next year when times seem to be so stressful and chaotic.

You always have the landscape, no matter how large or small to focus on and bring a sense of peace and calm. Right now, I’m choosing to make these my own meditations. If they bring you some ideas for your garden or just the pleasure of relaxing with a cup of tea while you ponder what serenity means for you, then we have succeeded in our mission.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

The cool serenity of white birch bark in repetition against a pale autumn sky makes a placid scene.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

A spot to sit and meditate on the interesting textures and colors that surround you is relaxing.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

Surrounded by tall evergreens, this reflecting pool brings your focus into view with ease.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

Even succulents and cacti can be tranquil. The peek-a-boo view here between trees allows you to focus on the shapes and forms in repetition.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

The sounds of moving water can be one of the best facilitators for relaxation. The gorgeous foliage surrounding the water feature in this shade garden are a bonus.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

Concentrating on the unique shape of a leaf is a meditation all on its own.

Fine Foliage and Tranquility

The classic lily pads on a pond are one of the oldest garden visions for serenity. Take this vision with you into our harried world and remember to breath.

Five Reasons Why We’re in Love with Fall Foliage

Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThere are all of the text book, expected reasons to love fall foliage of course. But, we like to keep you on your toes with ideas and combinations that might stretch your design muscles. Even friendly partners of fall foliage counts!

Five Reason Why We We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 1:  The awe-inspiring world of conifers for fall. No matter where you live there are incredible options to feature conifers in the landscape year round. From diminutive to giant, there is an incredible conifer option to fill every situation. Whether a Lemon Cypress or the Italian Cypress as above, exclamation points are helpful when making design points.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageGold is something that we often talk about in this blog. When it comes to conifers, gold can be a stylish and showy option in a cold climate for fall. It stands out beautifully against anything you show it against. Many gardeners don’t realize that there are even conifers that change color in the fall and winter. Cryptomeria is one of our favorites that turns a lovely burnished red in autumn.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage Number 2: Now add grasses to your conifers and fall landscapes and you get even more design inspiration options! This Little Bluestem grass is the MOST divine color in fall against the blue of the Weeping blue Atlas Cedar.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThese golden arborvitae are another way to show off the extraordinary color of the Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) grass in autumn.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage We also love the tall blond amazingness that is Karl Foerster grass that brings such a strict verticality to the lateral structure of this pine.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage The fluffy puffiness of this stipa is an interesting echo of shapes against the weeping Japanese maple in the background.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 3: When late season perennials show off great seed heads that are SO perfect against fall foliage, it’s an easy win-win. Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia) are a natural choice for a prolific and easy flowering perennial.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageAstilbe seed heads are one of Team Fine Foliage favorites, shown here against the incredible coral toned bark of the ‘Pacific Fire’ Vine Maple.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 4: Evergreen plants that change color! WHAAATTTTT? Yes indeed there are many hardy, evergreen plants that DO change color in fall and winter and the Calluna vulgaris above is  just one of those options. These fall into the group of plants many of you might know as heath’s and heathers. They come in a rainbow of colors and many change dramatically in fall and winter.
Five reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThe heaths and heathers that change color SO well in fall and winter are also late season bloomers. One more reason to love them!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageOrange and blue are an unexpected fall and winter combo to be sure!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageSedum ‘Angelina’ is a top performer, possibly even a little “too easy” at times, but for all of her potential flaws she has some excellent qualities too. We adore her burnished apricot tones in fall and winter and rely on them after she is done with her audacious chartreuse performance in spring and summer.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 5: Try the not-so-obvious choices for fall and winter interest! This soft leaf yucca lends a tropical feeling and a green-blue color that pairs so well with the traditional fall colors.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage Speaking of blue! This Donkey-tail Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) is an amazing blue textural interest. Mixed here with Sedum ‘Angelina’ before she shows off her russet tones in the cold weather to come, we can still get a taste of that soon to be color when we focus on the INCREDIBLE peeling bark of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in this combo.
Five Reasosn Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageWant to have some function to your fall fashion? Well then grapes might be an excellent way for you to get your fall color and eat it too! These happen to be an ornamental form of the typical edible vine, but you can still eat these grapes though they are smaller.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageLayer, layer layer! Whether evergreen, grassy, seeded or for the sheer personality of it all, get out there and fall in love with some new ideas for autumn!

Want to know about what Team Fine Foliage thinks about designing with foliage though all four seasons? Then you came to the right place! Click here for more info on our upcoming book coming out in early 2017 from Timber Press titled “Gardening with Foliage First”. 

If you aren’t already enjoying our weekly wit and design wisdom then you NEED to click that button over there >>>>>>>>> to get Fine Foliage delivered to your email easy-peasy like! 🙂

Fine Foliage Southern Style

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

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

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

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

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

Fine Foliage Southern Style

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

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

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

Want more ideas?

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

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want more ideas?

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

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