Tag Archives: Acer palmatum

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! 

 

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 for Clay Soils

Anyone who has ever broken a pick axe or had to use a digging bar to plant even the smallest plant knows the torture of gardening in clay soils. Whether your clay is a sculptors sort of muck or more like rock and sometimes even both, spending your gardening hours chipping, scraping and banging your way to your dream landscape in clay takes patience and fortitude.

Fortunately, there are secret weapons that can turn you hours of sweaty labor into less of a dreadful return on investment. First weapon of choice is using the right tool for working in clay so that you aren’t working harder than is really necessary. I won’t go through the myriad of available tools, but I’ll just mention my favorite here, and it is indeed a “digging bar”. This is what mine looks like, but there are a number of types and my neighbors borrow it constantly. 🙂

The second weapon is ironically, improving your soil. The old adage “Never put a five dollar plant in a ten cent hole.” By adding compost, and other high quality soil amendments to your clay soil, you help the beneficial organisms in your soil to literally grow MORE good soil. If you continue to do this over time, you will end up with the deepest and dreamiest soil. Here is the name of one of my very favorite soil amendments by Kellogg Garden Products- Soil Building Conditioner, made specifically for helping to break up and add nutrient density to heavy clay soils.

Fine Foliage for Clay Soils
The other, and MUCH more important tool in your arsenal for saving money, time and labor when landscaping in clay soil is, wait for it….., “RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE”! Choosing the best possible plant options to thrive in your soil type from the very beginning makes for lazy gardening in the best possible way!

So to that end, Team Fine Foliage presents you with just a handful of extra yummy foliage based options to consider for your landscape if you suffer with clay soil like we do!

Switchgrass or Panicum v. 'Shenandoah' or 'North Wind' are some handsome medium sized grass for the middle of the border.

Switchgrass or Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘North Wind’ are handsome choices for medium-sized grasses in the middle of a border.

Pennisetum 'Hameln' or 'Burgundy Bunny' are long time favorites of ours!

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ or ‘Burgundy Bunny’ are long time favorites of ours!

'Little Blue Stem' is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

‘Little Blue Stem’ is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus saneness left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Miscanthus sinensis left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for it's spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for its spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Hellebores are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options!

Helleborus are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options! This is one of the lesser known types, the Bearsfoot Hellebore.

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore 'Silver Lace'

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore ‘Silver Lace’

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is 'Samobor' featuring distinctive black markings.

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is ‘Samobor’ featuring distinctive black markings.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It's a champ! This one is 'Neon' with its exh uberant pink flowers!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It’s a champ! This one is ‘Neon’ with its exuberant pink flowers!

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap root that they put out that helps them survive.

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap-root that they put out that helps them survive.

Soft Leaved Yucca

Soft Leaved Yucca

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spirea! This is 'Magic Carpet'.

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spiraea! This is ‘Magic Carpet’.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called 'My Monet', a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called ‘My Monet’, a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

The notoriously long lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

The notoriously long-lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

So now you have a SMALL taste for what you can choose for everything from perennials to ground covers and shrubs to trees, we expect to hear about all of the Fine Foliage that YOU discover at your local garden center to try in your clay soil. Toil no more!

Here are two great resources for a MUCH more expanded list; 1) Royal Horticulture Society, Plants for Clay Soils 2) The Missouri Botanical Garden’s list and additional tips. 

Want even more ideas to feed your Fine Foliage addiction?
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Cool Color on Fresh Foliage

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage

 

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage, White Ornamental Kale

BRRRRR…..For those of you bundled up near your fireplace with seed catalogs and dreamy garden books, Team Fine Foliage does not want to make you more cold with a discussion about cold season white foliage, but quite the opposite. We want you to begin thinking and planning now for the possibility of adding elegant white foliage to your warm weather landscape.

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage, Salvia, Red Barberry, White Variegated Grass

Whether white in the garden means grasses, perennials, conifers or even annuals, trend watchers in design are all pointing the refreshingly old-fashioned charm and gentility of this clean, high contrast element in fresh new ways. Now, the thing about white is that it can cover a WIDE variety of variations depending on how you choose to interpret its use.
It was once very en vogue to have an all white garden, but that really meant the flowers. Then there was the transition to favoring the idea of the “moonlight garden” where the flowers were still prominent, but the foliage began to also take stage as a prominent focus of the theme with silvers and creamy whites adding to the mix.
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageWhites, creamy tones, silvers, variegation and even tones that border on being more blue can all translate to white depending on how they are used. And they can even work in harmony together.
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageAbove, a ‘Butterfly’ Japanese maple harmonizes with a ‘Spiderweb’ Fatsia, both with white leaning variegation, but both also work beautifully with the grasses that have a distinctly creamy variegation.

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Dappled Willow, Variegated Comfrey

The purity of the shade of white in the variegation of the Dappled Willow (above) (Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’) is always sweet. Paired with the bolder variegation of the unusual perennial, Variegated Comfrey, this combo shows the cool whites used beautifully for a shade combination.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel'On the other end of the white spectrum, the buttercream color in this Acanthus ‘Tasmanian Angel’ shows beautifully against the deep dark shady background.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Polyganatum 'Striatum', Actea Snow white stripes on the rich green of this unique variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum ‘Striatum’) contrasts brilliantly with its neighboring deep black actea foliage.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Caladium, WhiteNow if you live in a warmer climate zone, you are likely already familiar with Caladium, but just look at that giant, pure as snow-white leaf! Think of what you could do with it!
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageWhether you are familiar with Alocasia or Colocasia, in warm climates, both are handsome and dramatic. This velvety off-white variegation has oodles of design possibilities!
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Solanum, Centaurea, ColeusSpeaking of BIG leaves! This large solanum ‘Quitoense’ is the perfect 1/3 of the dreamy trio for its bold surface area that contrasts perfectly with the lacy qualities of both the Centaurea ‘Colchester White’ and the racy red coleus.
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageAnother close view of Centaurea ‘Colchester White’.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, CentaureaThis view of Centaurea ‘Colchester White’ was seen at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens where we are green with envy about this plant thriving!! The pink flowers are such a bonus! 🙂
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Arundo donaxVanilla toned Arundo donax var. ‘Versicolor’ is a large-scale grass that needs room in the landscape to thrive, but oh what a suave thug!
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Carex 'Everest' From BOLD to now delicate and feminine, this Carex ‘Everest’ is ever so appropriately named for the snow-white variegation on this hardy little evergreen grass. An award winner too!
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Stachys 'Bellagrigio'Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Stachys 'Bellagrigio'Whether you try the brand new, award winning Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’ in the landscape beds or in container designs, this is a bright white foliage that is showy! The new cousin to traditional Lambs Ears is a fun alternative.
It’s time to start thinking ahead to warmer times when we will all be whining about our need for air conditioning and what you may want to plant to lighten and brighten the landscape this summer. At least whites are COOL right?

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. We’d love to know!

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Stylish Early Fall Shade Garden

One of the most common complaints that I hear from design clients about their gardens is that they feel defeated about what to do in the shade garden. After spending time and energy trying plants that were too water needy, can’t tolerate being moist, disease prone or simply needing more light than they realized, it absolutely can be frustrating, not to mention expensive.
So, when I mention some of the great shade standards such as hosta, they scrunch their face up and reply with a response that usually describes their boredom and lack of enthusiasm for these seemingly “pedestrian” options. However, when we begin to talk about the exquisite varieties that they can plant and which plant pairings can go with them such as conifers and grasses, there is a distinct change of expression and excitement like a little kid who can’t wait for Christmas.
Here are a few early fall shade garden examples of just such options this week from the spectacular garden called PowellsWood in Federal Way, Washington. Much of this garden resides under mature fir trees with superb plant pairings that absolutely shine in the shade.
Stylish Early Fall Shade GardensStylish Early Fall Shade GardenThese chalky blue hosta (‘Hadspen Blue’) or ‘Halcyon’ are the perfect counterpoint under the chartreuse color of the Japanese maple. Layered together with one of the MOST unique new hosta available called ‘Praying Hands’ with its upright dark green, wavy foliage featuring fine white edge details, it is one of my favorite vignettes in the entire garden.
At the back of this captivating foliage combination, the tips of a hemlock shrub, ‘Gentsch White’ glow in a soft and misty white detail. It will grow up and have even more prominence standing up over this combination in the future.
Stylish Early Fall Shade GardenSplendid Chinese wild ginger spreads out elegantly in the shade of this palm tree garden paired with Astelia ‘Westland’ that sports a subtle bronze stripe. The spiky upright habit of the Astelia is perfectly suited in size and lacy texture of the Japanese ‘Tassel’ fern while billowy grasses thrive partial shade in the background to compliment them.
There is no need to be frustrated and disenchanted with your shade garden plants. These photos in a spectacular shade garden illustrate how common types of plants in uncommon forms, paired with new options you may never have considered, can give you stylish options. Ask your local independent garden center to provide new and unique plants that will inspire you to try combinations that excite and delight you in your shade garden

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Winter Survivors and Thrivers

This is a good time to review those winter containers and see what has thrived despite extreme temperature swings, inconsiderate deer and neglect. Let’s face it, January is not the finest hour for most gardens but if we can keep a few containers looking stellar in the ‘off season’ it’s easier to ignore those iffy garden corners.

After several years observation I have found these plants to be reliable performers with little or no winter damage in my zone 6b/7 garden. Although Christina and I only live about 45′ away from one another my garden is much colder and I have to deal with deer so like some of you I have plant envy at times!

So take this foliage selection as a little winter pick-me-up. You can totally justify a trip to the nurseries to find one or more of these – just tell them Team Fine Foliage sent you.

Curly Red drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red’)

IMG_1134Evergreen, leathery twisted and puckered leaves take on rich burgundy tones in cold weather deepening to purple in winter. This dwarf shrub  grows slowly to about 16″ tall and wide as a tidy mound so is perfect for a container but also works well in the landscape, perhaps planted as a mass groundcover or as a compact specimen to accent more delicate foliage.

IMG_8698It makes a stunning contrast with golden conifers such as the Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’) shown above.

IMG_8117In summer the foliage is mostly green, the younger leaves being a lovely fresh shade.

Color ideas

I’m thinking of planting a group in my woodland near a stand of Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’), autumn ferns (Drypoteris erythrosora), dwarf green spruce and yellow  cowslips. To one side is a young Rhode Island Red Japanese maple (Acer p. ‘Rhode Island Red’) and the whole group is in the dappled shade of a golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’). Mmmm.

Cultivation notes

  • Well drained soil in partial shade, partial sun
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Somewhat drought tolerant when established
  • Hardy in zones 6-9

Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

IMG_9793

The winter color is deeper

 

I have many different conifers in my garden from towering 60′ Douglas fir to dwarf spruce  with colors from darkest green to bright gold. Each has earned its place and is loved for different reasons but if I could only pick one and it had to be tough as nails, had never shown any winter burn, had great color, didn’t need pruning, was disease resistant, drought tolerant and was ignored by deer the humble Blue Star juniper would be my pick. We featured it on the cover of our book Fine Foliage and we have some breathtaking combinations using this conifer in our next book (still busy writing that one….). It’s inexpensive, easy to find…. Have I convinced you yet?

IMG_4064

The foliage is a duskier blue-green in summer

Use this low growing conifer to edge a border, add to a container, soften a stone wall or snuggle up to a large boulder.

Color Ideas

Take a leaf out of our book (pun intended – couldn’t resist) and pair it with Berry Smoothie coral bells for year round color

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen in spring with pink and gold companions

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen here in spring with pink and gold companions

Looks equally fabulous with bold orange and hot red; think dark leaved barberries or weigela in an orange container with black mondo grass….

We have a multi-trunked Himalayan white birch tree (Betula utilis var. ‘Jacquemontii’) underplanted with Blue Star junipers anchoring one end of a large border. ‘We’ (aka my long-suffering husband) has just moved my large orange pot into that area so it is now framed by the blue conifers; those colors really POP.

Cultivation notes

  • Compact 3′ x 3′ mound
  • Evergreen
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Drought tolerant once established
  • Full sun
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Blondie coral bells (Heuchera ‘Blondie)

 

Heuchera_Blondie_2b

Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

Some heuchera do better than others depending on where you live – agreed. In fact you may find this post I wrote with breeder Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. to be helpful in helping you fine-tune your selection.

I have some I consider annuals, some that look terrible in winter but revive so well in spring that I let them stay, others that I consider short term perennials (great for 3 years – maybe 4) and just a few that I have to stand back and admire because they truly exceed my expectations.

These are neither deer nor rabbit resistant so I am limited in how I can use them but the value of a colorful, evergreen bold leaf is such that I keep a few on hand for my designs. Blondie is one of my current top picks.

IMG_8109

The round leaves are a soft ginger in fall (as seen here), getting deeper throughout the winter and rich mahogany in spring. Each leaf is ~ 2″ in diameter so it wont swallow neighboring plants, making it a great container plant.

IMG_8103

Blondie has some of the showiest flowers of all the coral bells. Fat spikes of creamy flowers on red stems bloom profusely over many weeks. These make great cut flowers or leave them for the hummingbirds to enjoy.

Color ideas

I can’t give too much away here as we have a five star combo featuring Blondie in our new book! I’ll give you a clue; the colors are deep teal, deep rose and burnt orange……

Cultivation notes

  • I keep this in a corner of my fenced vegetable garden, ready for me to add it to a container as needed. It has done equally well in that semi-landscape setting as it has in pots
  • Partial sun and partial shade are generally recommended but mine was in full sun all summer and never scorched.
  • A smaller, more compact variety than most; mine measures 10-12″ tall and wide after 2.5  years.
  • Evergreen
  • Do not over-water.
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’)

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Walk into any nursery in February and get ready to swoon…………it’s the time of year when winter daphne tickles our olfactory senses – or perhaps assaults rather than tickles! Some may find the sweet and spicy fragrance cloying but I love it and have two of these semi-evergreen shrubs near our front door.

Daphne have a reputation of being rather fickle but I haven’t found that to be the case at all. I’ve grown them in containers then transplanted them without a problem. Mine are in morning shade and afternoon sun (the opposite of what many books recommend), I never water them (my soil is moisture retentive but well drained and good quality loam) and the deer have ignored them.

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

In many areas these daphne are evergreen. In my  garden they can lose up to 75% of their gold and green variegated foliage during an extremely cold snap  but quickly leaf out again and the flowering buds never seem to be affected. I therefore consider them worthy of inclusion here!

Color ideas

Pick up on the pink and white flowers with the addition of hellebores – there are so many to choose from right now.

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Check out the last post Christina wrote on choosing hellebores for their foliage too.

Penny's Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink foliage would be a fun companion to the daphne, bringing pink and yellow color echoes. I’d soften the duo up a bit with some fine textured grasses such as the variegated moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’ ) which would look good even dried and bleached in winter while the very finely variegation of green and soft yellow would be pretty from spring-fall.

Cultivation

Do as I do or do as I say? Up to you! I’ve already told you how mine grows. Here’s the official line;

  • Grows to 4′ tall and 6′ wide
  • Prefers light, open or dappled shade
  • Water occasionally
  • Hardy in zones 7-9

Consider us your enablers – we’ll see you at the nursery!

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Our Next Step

Team Fine Foliage gets a new look!

Team Fine Foliage gets a new look! Photo by Ashley DeLatour

We tend to forget that not all our wonderful readers also follow our foliage frolics on Facebook so in case you missed our announcement, here it is;

We have signed a contract with Timber Press to write a new book, tentatively called

FOLIAGE FIRST!

It will be filled with even more leafy goodness but this time we will show you how to build a foliage picture frame or backdrop and layer in other design elements such as flowers or artwork. In other words we’ll show you the next step in our design process. We’ll have ideas for all four seasons and the clear layout you love will be essentially the same if not even better. If everything goes to plan it will be released in 2016. Stay tuned!

And now back to our regular program………………….

As maples begin their glorious colorful display it's a good time to assess whether or not they are shown off to their best advantage

As maples begin their glorious colorful display it’s a good time to assess whether or not they are shown off to their best advantage

Last week we admitted to you our passion for Japanese maples. Actually we’re passionate about lots of leafy plants but Japanese maples are so versatile they give us oodles of design inspiration. They are available in all shapes and sizes, varying leaf textures and colors and many are suited to container culture as well as the landscape.

With such staggering beauty it can be a little daunting to figure out what to put them  with – and that’s where Team Fine Foliage comes in! Here’s what we would be looking for;

  • Contrast in color either in all seasons or just focusing on one time of year
  • Contrast in texture
  • Either a contrast or repetition in form (shape of the tree)
  • The WOW factor

To achieve all that my first thought is to explore the world of conifers.

From dwarfs to giants, all shades of blue, green and gold, different leaf textures and their unique shapes I can usually find something that will work. In their natural environment they are also found in association with one another which of course is a great design clue.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Opposites attract

Koto-no-ito Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Koto-no-ito) behind Wissel’s Saguaro false cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’)

The warm tones of Koto-no-ito Japanese maple are tempered by the rich blue green of the conifer

The warm tones of Koto-no-ito Japanese maple are tempered by the rich blue green of the conifer

This is all about contrasts; lacy leaves and delicate branches juxtaposed with stiff spires of deep blue-green needles, and the wide dome shape of the maple against the columnar form of the conifer. Yet the two also work in concert  as warm colors of the maple are tempered and enhanced by Mr. Wissel (my pet name for this great conifer).

A unlikely pairing yet all the more beautiful for it.

2. Try the color-mush test

IMG_0814I’ve always loved blue toned conifers with red foliage and this combination shows how well the colors work together. I know the photo above is a rather ‘arty shot’ with the red maple in the background all fuzzy but actually that can be a helpful way to assess the basic shapes and colors without being distracted by the details. Try squinting to get a similar mushy effect.

Here’s the same combination photographed differently;

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Design by Mitch Evans

Now we can appreciate the fine foliage too. This Oregon Sunset maple (Acer palmatum ‘Oregon Sunset’) is quite short and so the rare low growing  Home Park cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani ‘Home Park)  has to grow in front rather than underneath.

You could get a similar effect using Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) under any upright red leaved maple such as Fireglow  (Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’)

3. Crayola combo!

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Design by Mitch Evans

What’s more beautiful than one Japanese maple? LOTS of Japanese maples! This glorious fall display celebrates the season in full technicolor with the aptly Crimson Queen (Acer p. ‘Crimson Queen’) in the foreground clearly the star. The vivid golden foliage behind is a Lions Mane maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’) while the orange leaves forming an overhead canopy are from a Forest Pansy redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’)  and Iijima sunago (Acer palmatum ‘Iijima sunago’) on the upper left.

This autumnal extravaganza needs a place for the eye to recover and the two conifers on the left provide that quiet visual resting space to do just that. Simple fanned foliage of a bright green Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’) together with the spiky Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) needles are both great choices.

When the last of the leaves have fallen and we are left with only our leafy memories, the stalwart conifers offer color, structure and a promise of a repeat performance next year.

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2014 Fine Foliage LEAFY AWARD

2014 FF LEAFY AWARD
Team Fine Foliage is proud to present the first ever 2014 Fine Foliage LEAFY AWARD! Every year we will choose a plant to honor and profile for its extraordinary foliage. The criteria for the award will be:
1) The sheer, mind bending beauty of the leaves (of course this IS Fine Foliage after all!) 🙂
2) The usage and flexibility of the foliage in design.
3) Popularity and availability of the foliage nominated during the course of the year.
4) The number of votes each nomination receives. Each September, we will tally the votes for each nomination and make the announcement in October.

Since this is the first year for this award, we will get the leafy celebration started with a hands down, obvious winner for 2014 and then from here on out we will ask YOU to nominate YOUR favorites every month!

But first, we need to ask an important question of our fans. Is it possible for ONE exceptional plant to have leaves so amazing OR unremarkable that it could make or break a design?

We think so! If you think about it, using food as an example it makes SO much sense. When a fine chef creates a dish using only three ingredients, then one of those ingredients needs to be a superstar right? If it is pasta with peas and cheese for instance, then the chef may go to the farmer and choose this particular farmer where the peas are SO fresh and SO sweet that the chef may not need to add all kinds of other fancy elements to make an outstanding dish. It is the same with plants where we may go to a particular grower that brings the best of that particular plant to market that is a standout above ALL others.

Or when a decorator is furnishing a room and they need that singular piece of furniture that speaks to the exact esthetic that best meets the designers vision for the room. That is exactly the same idea as when we gardeners find that perfect foliage plant to be the focal point in a garden design. It stands out as an obviously fantastic piece, maybe not singularly unusual or unique, but RIGHT.

Sadly, the same is true for the reverse where a foliage element is just ho-hum and doesn’t add anything to elevate a combination. It’s just there, like an afterthought, a seemingly tasteless or bland bit of boring leaves that were not shown in the highest and best use. Even common, or “pedestrian” plants can be stunning when used creatively!

So from here on out, we want you to keep your eye on the leafy prize. Which plant stands out to you each season as having the potential to be THE ONE? Small or large, bold or quiet, soft or prickly, anything goes as long as it is a truly outstanding performer and readily available to MOST gardeners.

Now, on with the award! We present to you the 2014 winner of the Fine Foliage LEAFY AWARD.
The Japanese Maple!!

2104 Fine Foliage LEAFY AWARDThe sheer volume of marvelous Japanese maple choices is dizzying. There are options for a rainbow of colors, for sun and shade, for texture and structure for focal points and containers. They are available in nearly every corner in the country, though obviously they don’t do well quite everywhere, the VERY warm locations are not an option as these maples love a bit of cool respite.
To learn more about Japanese maples, here is a great article from Organic Gardening magazine that gives you a good outline about these incredibly elegant and hardy trees.

IMG_4646The Japanese maple lends itself so beautifully to elegant artistry in garden design, art and even poetry. Below is a poem about this magnificent tree that we think you will enjoy.

A Single Tree
by Avis McGriff Rasmussen

A vibrant vision
of timeless beauty
stands before me.

A single tree
the Japanese maple
thriving in fertile soil
artistically arrayed
in a brilliant mosaic
of crimson, gold and orange
a glorious sight to behold.

In spectacular harmony
the sculptured trunk
and curvaceous branches
reinforce its ancient appeal
while supporting its
foliage tapestry.

This bold display
of creation bursts forth
for a season—the fall
enticing the onlooker
to contemplate
its delicate cycle of life.

As you pass this way
stand with me
and be amazed by this
intricate work of natural art
designed for our daily pleasure.

Avis Rasmussen (BA, Speech Pathology, ’85; Paralegal Certificate, ’92) is co-owner of a land development company in Southern California and a writer. She is married with a 9-year-old son.

Now, for the best part of the award, we dangle a leafy prize in front of YOU as well to get your ideas flowing; the person whose nomination gets the MOST VOTES each year receives a signed copy of Fine Foliage and the recognition for their brilliant idea! So, get thinking for 2015. There are a tantalizing array of leafy options to choose from. Show us YOUR prized, brilliant choice of foliage nomination each month and show off your mad foliage design skills and ideas!

We look forward to hearing from all of you next month!

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The Finer Points of Interest

Foliage patterns and textures are ever fascinating. If you have never looked at some of the amazing web pages devoted to Fractals found in nature, I highly recommend you fall down the rabbit hole and go look at some, you will be mesmerized. Here is a great link to start your journey.

When you think about it, those are the tip of the leafy iceberg when it comes to falling in love with the amazing patterns, arrangements and configurations that you can discover in the stunning realm of foliage when you really take the time to look.

(Name still TBD)

(Name still TBD)

 

 

 

The subtle and sumptuous succulent above would still be gorgeous even if it never bloomed. The patterning begs you to step in to take a much closer look to appreciate the exquisite quilting of elements that mother nature dreams up.

Today I was enamored with the shapes that were cornered, spiked, arrow like or elongated and finger-like. Sometimes the variegation’s and colors play a role and other times the fascination is purely with how a single color works with the leaf shape.

Impatiens 'Omeiana'

Fractals and spikes20140610-CS_IMG_0316'Trompenberg' Japanese Maple
As you spend some lazy days with a cool drink hanging around in the garden in the dog days of summer, stop and take a long, slow gander at the shapes and coloration of certain plants as they team up in pairs and trios. Are you noticing stripes, polka dots, contrasting veins, a woven pattern, or a framework of colors together that you may not have noticed before?
Agave 'Shiro No Ito'What patterns of foliage textures and shapes draw YOU in for a closer look? Tell us about it and join the conversation with Fine Foliage!

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Spring Slump Solution!

The daffodils are a tangle of decaying foliage, the tulips are long since collapsed and the roses are still tight buds. What is holding your garden design together during this in-between stage?

You can bet that your two foliage divas have got this one down – it’s all about having a framework of trees, shrubs and perennials with great leaves – whether they bloom or not.

Here’s a photo from my garden taken a few days ago.

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In March there was a haze of yellow daffodils at the base of each arbor post – an early spring highlight but those green leaves don’t offer much in this May scene. Instead almost all the color is from layers of foliage.

Here are the key players;

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Forever Goldie arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’)

Stunning evergreen conifer – one of my favorites for year round color

 

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Fireglow Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’)

Retains the deep red foliage well and takes full sun

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Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’)

Tiers of luscious leaves AND spring flowers!

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Double Play Gold spirea (Spiraea j. ‘Double Play Gold’)

We’ve told you about this beauty before.

 

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Golden Ruby barberry (Berberis t. ‘Golden Ruby’)

It hasn’t developed its distinctive gold margin yet – but it will! A neat little dumpling of a barberry. (Barberry is invasive in some states but not in the Seattle area)

IMG_0505Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

Reliable and tough – we both have this on our top ten list for color and performance.

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Golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’)

Our signature tree! I admit to having five in my garden – two in this border alone. (This may sucker in some areas but has never done so in my gardens)

 

So you want flowers too?

IMG_3633 IMG_2953

 

Well there are two blooming exbury azaleas strutting their stuff – but I bet you had to look twice to find them both!

A few extra tips;

Color – sunset tones dominate with just a little grey-blue for contrast

Maintenance – everything has to be deer resistant and drought tolerant (by its second year)

Maturity – this border was planted in 2012. Honestly!

IMG_8854This is only its third year – this photo was taken in March 2012 – use the Forever Goldie arborvitae as a reference point. Miracles do happen – if you pay attention to the FOLIAGE!

What’s  your favorite foliage to combat the spring slump?

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