Category Archives: Foliage

Refresh your Garden Color Scheme

IMG_1744

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

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

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

Singin’ the Blues

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

collage 1

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

Shimmering Silvers

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

silver 1

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

More Candidates for your New Look

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

silver 2

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

Need more ideas? Follow us on Facebook!

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.

SaveSave

Wishing You Peace

IMG_0629

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

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

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

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

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

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

Karen & Christina

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.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Foliage Inspiration from Chanticleer

IMG_9314

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

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

Containers

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

IMG_9197

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

IMG_9265

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

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

IMG_9141

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

Foliage Combinations

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

IMG_9235

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

IMG_9274

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

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

IMG_9224

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

Solo Players

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

IMG_9218

Swoonworthy – Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Tiger Fern’

IMG_9254

Exquisite Details

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

IMG_9445

Succulents planted in a summer-dry rain chain

IMG_9323

Foliage as embellishment and picture frame

IMG_9387

Chanticleer: Imagination and creativity in equal measure

Want to know more?

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

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

Plan to Visit

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving from Team Fine Foliage! 

 

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.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Foliage First Fall Design Inspiration

 

IMG_7331

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

IMG_7337

pumpkin-orange and hints of ruby….

IMG_7335

with a touch of magenta.

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

IMG_7290

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

IMG_7292

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

IMG_7158

To complete a delightful fall vignette….

IMG_7144

….that is also mercifully deer resistant.

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

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

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

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! 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

Favorite Fall Foliage – Arkansas bluestar

IMG_6674

A large planting of Arkansas blue star beginning its fall display

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

How to use it

Even one plant can be a star in a container.

IMG_8489

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

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

IMG_8562

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

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

IMG_6181

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

IMG_1928

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

IMG_6682

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

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

Why you should grow it

IMG_0017

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

IMG_0268

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

More combination ideas

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

IMG_6787

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

Cultural details

USDA: 5-8

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

Soil: average, well drained.

Site: Full sun

Water: minimal once established

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

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!