Category Archives: Foliage

The Foliage Backstory

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

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

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

Initial inspiration

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

Stopped in my tracks by this Foliage First combo

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

Hidden Treasures

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

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

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

Too much of a good thing?

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

The final cut

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

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

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

Did you know?

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

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

 

 

 

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.

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Tiny Courtyard Makeover

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

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

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

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BEFORE: predictable Builders Blah

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

makeover

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

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Deer Resistant Spring Bloomers – with GREAT foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

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

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

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

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Gold Heart in front of Mountain Fire andromeda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Terra Nova Nurseries Inc display garden

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

Mercifully it is ignored by deer and rabbits too.

3. Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) varieties

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Jack Frost Siberian bugloss

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

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

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Sea Heart Siberian bugloss in a late summer container display

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

Bonus points for deer and rabbit resistance.

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

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

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

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

5. Lungwort (Pulmonaria varieties)

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Believed to be Mrs. Moon (P. saccharata)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Combination Ideas

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

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

And there’s more….

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

Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ – new and fabulous!

Mukdenia ‘Crimson Fans’ – gorgeous for the shade garden

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

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

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

 

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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! 

Sharing the Foliage Love -Enter to Win BIG!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What reviewers are saying…

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

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

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

Come and say hello!

Speaker Email - Speaker badge 2017.jpg

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

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

Wednesday February 22nd:

11am – noon Container Wars (Karen)

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

2.30 – 3.00pm Book signing

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

3.45-4.15pm Book signing

Thursday February 23rd:

11am – noon Container Wars (Christina)

Sunday February 26th:

3.15-4.15pm Spring Container Fashion Show (Karen)

4.15-4.45pm Book signing

For more details see here

Sharing the Foliage Love!

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

About the  Growers and their Prizes:

first-editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Enter

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

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

The not-so-small small print

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

And finally…

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

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

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

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! 

Last Leaf Standing

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

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

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

Dead, sulking or sleeping?

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

Conifers

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

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

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

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

Most of my conifers thankfully looked OK.

Evergreen shrubs

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

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

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

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Frost damaged brown foliage on Goshiki Japanese holly

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

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

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

Semi-evergreen shrubs

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Most of the purple fringe flower foliage has turned brown

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

Tender shrubs and perennials

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

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This lavender will be fine after spring pruning

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

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

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

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A sulking Jerusalem sage – easily redeemed

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

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

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

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

Evergreen perennials

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Blackened leaves can protect the plant

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

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Inner growth is green and healthy

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

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Ugh….but there is hope

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

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Yuk! NOT the Fine Foliage we prefer!

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

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Patience rewards the gardener with new leaves

Frost heave

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The root ball is almost entirely out of the ground

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

Celebrate the Survivors!

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

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Little Heath andromeda – colorful and reliable

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

 

 

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!