Tag Archives: annual

Foliage Favorites for Summer Fun

Whether you’re looking for a design boost for your containers or need a little ‘something’ to perk up the summer border, FOLIAGE is the answer. Yes we know those geraniums and fuschias are so tempting – and we’re not suggesting you avoid them, but simply that you consider the leaf as well as the flower before making your selection.

Here are a few of our top ‘go to‘ foliage annuals and perennials that are great to use as fillers in pots or the landscape.



As featured in Country Gardens magazine, spring 2017

Whether you prefer the variety Zanzibar with its bad-hair-day attitude or the more familiar form (Petra) shown here, croton (Codiaeum) will add a serious color punch to any shade combination. In smaller containers it can be used as the focal point – often referred to as the ‘thriller’. In larger designs you may prefer to consider it as an understory plant to something larger such as banana or elephant ears (Colocasia).



Two different coleus are used to frame Dakota anthurium, while Vinca ‘Illumination’ trails from the center

With a gazillion varieties of coleus to choose from you can find one in any size, color and habit you need. The trailing variety used above is Lava Rose. I love how the touch of white on each leaf adds a little sparkle. (For lots more coleus ideas click on the coleus tag in the sidebar. There are some real beauties!)

Quicksilver artemisia


Velvety, silver foliage of Quicksilver artemisia quickly fills in around shrubs.

Deer resistant, drought tolerant and perennial – this vigorous groundcover may be just what you need to fill a bare spot this summer. A new introduction from Proven Winners , I can personally highly recommend it after trialing it in my own garden last year. The cooling silver foliage is outstanding.

Purple Queen


Purple Queen – stunning purple foliage

Previously known as Setcresea, recently re-classified as Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Queen’, one thing taxonomists agree on – it’s gorgeous! A dramatic groundcover in warmer climates or a tough annual in cooler areas – either way you NEED this plant.


Purple Queen is used to echo the rich container color and deep veins in the Blue Hawaii elephant ears (Colocasia).

Place it at the edge of a container where it can mingle and tumble to its hearts content

Beefsteak plant



Beefsteak plant looks like a sun-tolerant coleus

Hot fuchsia pink, burgundy-purple and¬† emerald green – yes it looks like a coleus but you will find beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens ‘Magilla’) much more adaptable to both sun and shade designs.


Love this combination with lantana and sweet potato vine

The only limitation with this annual? Your imagination. What will YOU pair it with? Golden conifers? Hot pink geraniums??

Autumnale fuschsia


When is a fuchsia more than a fuschia? When it has leaves like THESE

While I certainly have my own photos of designs using this variegated fuchsia, none compares with this stunning design by Christina! In case you’re not sure, the Autumnale fuschia isn’t even in bloom in this photo; it is the red/yellow variegated leaf trailing at the front of the pot. WOWZA! Use it to repeat orange-red tones elsewhere such as these coleus leaves and Gartenmeister fuschia blooms.


Different combination – this Autumnale fuchsia is still a winner

The combination above is one I put together for a client a few years ago. Here you can see the fuchsia weaving through multiple pots to great effect.

Bella Grigio lambs ears


Pretty in Pink – as featured in our new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

What’s big, silver and ultra-strokable? These GIANT lambs ears! This combination will appeal to gardeners who want lots of flowers but it’s the inclusion of foliage plants that really makes this design sing. Bella Grigio lambs ears (Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’) are also wonderful additions to the landscape and are both deer and drought tolerant. In many areas they are considered a perennial but they don’t fare well in my cold, wet winter soils so I accept them as a summer annual.

Want more ideas? Well we know of two rather excellent books to get you started…. Also be sure to click on our blog tags such as coleus and container design to find more inspirational posts.


BIG Blue Foliage

While out watering my garden the other evening, I was STRUCK by how handsome this Lawson’s blue cypress is in particular at this time of the year when paired with the summer pink blooms on my ‘Quickfire’ Hydrangeas that snuggle closely to it right at my back gate. This bold blue color has SO much personality!
Lawson's Blue CypressThat’s not to say that I haven’t written about this combo at other times of the year too, such as in fall when the hydrangea foliage has a lovely golden glow against the blue, or in spring when the hydrangea blooms are creamy white and pristine. It’s just that right now- that pink and blue combo is dee-lightfully summery and more feminine than I typically favor. If you saw the BOLD orange container combo directly in front of this scene, you would know that I’m typically not someone who does “dainty”. ūüôā

This got me thinking about other blue foliage that may not necessarily always be large in stature but are sure filled with BIG personality. So off we go exploring a few…..

Honeybush, Melianthus majorHoney Bush or Melianthus major is a tropical with a ton of BIG personality all right! Whether it’s an annual or a reliable perennial where you live, brush by it and you won’t forget its Peanut Butter scent. If it¬†reaches its full-sized potential of 6-8 ft tall and wide or even wider then it’s REALLY happy, and you will be rewarded with deep red flower spikes. The foliage looks as if someone cut it with fancy edged scissors and it looks just as beautiful when droplets of water or dew balance on the leaves like few other plants.

Blue Chalk Fingers, #SucculentsBlue Chalk Fingers or Serpents Fingers Senecio vitalis ‘Serpents‘, talk about a name for a small plant with BIG personality! If you love succulents, whether this one is an annual or a year round evergreen for you, this is one that you need to play with at some point in your gardening life. THAT blue is just so, well….BLUE!!!

Dianthus I just want you to imagine this scene above without that showy ribbon of BLUE Dianthus foliage running through the middle of this display. See? The blue makes the violet shades even MORE violet!

Hosta 'Blue Angel' Not to be outdone on any level, the sheer size and voluptuous nature of this giant hosta ‘Blue Angel’ is a sheer spectacle of blue foliage with BIG personality all right! This photo really does not do justice to show the scale and size of these giant leaves at roughly 12″ across. A heavy bloomer, hummingbird favorite and less favorable to slugs, this easy perennial pairs well with all kind of flowers and shrubs. Wink wink, nudge nudge….look for this one to appear in Gardening with Foliage First due out in 2017!

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Grow Your Own Leaves


What will you grow besides veggies and flowers this year?

The seed catalogs¬†are piling up on the coffee table and my notebook¬†is filling up as I list the varieties of flowers and vegetables I’d like to grow this year. But what about growing some foliage plants for my¬†garden and ¬†containers too? Ornamental edibles, annuals, biennials and perennials are all possible and they will save¬†me money for bigger ticket items such as trees and shrubs.

Here are a few to consider.

Ornamental Edibles


This is the easiest place to start; grow some ornamental edibles¬†to tuck into your landscape and containers this year. Lettuce, kale, chard, beet and herbs are all perfect candidates that will do double duty for taste and good looks. Renee’s Garden has an outstanding selection.


All done and dusted in a single year but they give so much to the garden they are definitely worth growing yourself if you need more than just one or two.



A trio of coleus with Japanese forest grass and black sweet potato vine makes a stunning combo for the shade.

You may not be able to find all your favorite varieties as seed but there are still oodles of these colorful annuals to choose from. If you have extensive shade gardens this could be a really inexpensive way to add a colorful groundcover this year considering a 4″ plant can cost as much as $6 in the nursery! Leftovers are perfect for containers and baskets too. Buy a fun mix such as Wizard Mix¬†and see what colors you get or something dark and dramatic like Black Dragon.

Licorice plant (Helichrysum)


Licorice plant

This drought tolerant, deer resistant groundcover has become a staple in my summer garden where its wide spreading branches weaves between shrubs and perennials, smothering weeds and filling gaps. I haven’t grown this from seed before and it looks as though it needs to be sown 10-12 weeks before setting out so I need to get cracking! Try Silver Mist.

Silver Falls dichondra (Dichondra argentea)


Love to use this as a spiller from hanging baskets and containers, where the strands of heart-shaped metallic leaves catch the light like a cascade of silver pennies. Silver Falls seems to do well in full or part sun and like many silver plants is drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Amaranth (Amaranthus)


A wild amaranth that caught my eye at Epcot a few years ago!

There are several varieties of this annual to look for that are especially noted for their foliage. Not for the faint of heart, Joseph’s Coat¬†screams¬†PARTY! Vivid yellow,red and green splashed leaves add a wonderful blast of late season color to the garden. Molten Fire, as its name suggests has¬†bronze foliage that turns shades of crimson in late summer.¬†Cinco de Mayo tries to outdo them both, boasting foliage in multi-color pinwheels of electric yellow, vivid orange and magenta. Imagine any of these next to a stand of tall grasses such as burgundy tipped Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’) or powder blue Dallas Blues switch grass (Panicum v. ‘Dallas Blues’).

Castor Oil Bean (Ricin communis)

High Spirited Foliage for the 4th

Go BIG or go home? You’ll love this tropical looking¬†beauty for the back of the border and larger containers where it can reach 5-10′ tall depending on the variety and conditions. Carmencita¬†pictured above is a favorite of ours¬†with its rich burgundy leaves and scarlet seed pods but there are others to choose from including New Zealand Purple (purple foliage and seedpods) and Zanzibarensis Mix, an 1870 heirloom, which sports immense green leaves with decorative ribbing and white or violet blooms. Ooh….

NOTE: Seeds are highly poisonous; remove seed pods before seeds drop and wear gloves when handling.

Biennials and Perennials

For those of you looking ahead, consider sowing seeds for foliage plants that will look their best next year Рor the year after that. Again this is such an easy way to save money, especially if you need a large quantity of a particular plant for a themed border or sweeping vignette. These are a couple that I feel are worth the effort either because they are usually so expensive as individual plants or they can be hard to find.

Silver Sage (Salvia argentea)


Photo credit; Annie’s Annuals

Huge, felted silvery leaves that grow in luscious rosettes. A winner for hot spots in well drained soil silver sage is stunning.

Bugbane (Cimicifuga r. atropurpurea)


Bugbane is one of my favorite dark leaved perennials for a partially shaded border. named varieties can be as much as $15 for a gallon plant making this packet of seeds a really good deal! Vanilla fragrance from the tall spires of white flowers is an added bonus.

What are you growing from seed this year? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. Itchy gardening fingers want to know!

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Winning With Silver

What's the buzz in your garden today?

What’s the buzz in your garden today?

It’s hot, too¬†hot for most of my Seattle garden to handle. Fried astilbe, sunburned hosta and crispy ferns are just a few¬†of my casualties while a semi-naked katsura tree also tells the sad story. I garden on 5 acres without an irrigation system, relying on the inherent drought tolerant properties of plants¬†and occasional watering of selected plants by hand. Being on well water may save us on utility¬†bills but there is a high probability¬†that our well will go dry¬†this year so every drop counts.

Feeling frustrated and disheartened I headed out into the garden with my camera, determined to find something that looked good despite drought and record breaking temperatures. A camera helps me narrow my focus and reduces distractions. Sure enough there are a few things to celebrate.

The overall winners were all my plants with silver leaves.

Licorice plant

Licorice plant

That’s not really surprising. Silver leaves reflect light and heat. You may notice that many of them are covered with fine hairs such as the licorice plant above. These are an adaptation to water conservation by reflecting light away from the plant. Hairs on the underside of the leaf raise the humidity of the surrounding air and slow down the movement of the air so that water is carried away more slowly. Cardoon¬†leaves have that feature.


We all love lavender for the fragrant flowers as well as the foliage which can be silver, green or variegated

Have you noticed how many of these silver leaved plants are also aromatic? Lavender, catmint, Russian sage, culinary sage to name just a few. Interestingly these volatile oils increase the air density and reduce evaporation.

To conserve water loss, plants with smaller leaves also do better in a drought since the surface area is significantly reduced.

These are just a few examples from my own garden this year but you will soon see how they exemplify one or more of these survivor traits. By understanding what has done well I hope to make wise choices going forward since meteorologists tell us this pattern may hold for three or four more years.

¬†Silver Falls dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’)


Although just a fun annual for me I was thrilled to see Silver Falls dichondra as a tough, vigorous groundcover when we visited  San Diego earlier this year. I love to grow this trailing over the edges of brightly colored containers or hanging baskets. Like strands of exquisite shimmery beads this will bring a touch of class to the simplest design. For me it does equally well in full sun as it does in part shade.

Silver Brocade wormwood (Artemisia stelleriana¬†‘Silver Brocade’)


I do love the silver foliage of so many wormwood including¬†Valerie Finnis and Silver Mound but have only marginal success overwintering them. My heavy clay soils just don’t drain quickly enough. So after several years of replacing Silver Mound I decided to just¬†buy a few inexpensive 2″ basket stuffers of Silver Brocade. For many this will be a reliable perennial but I’m considering it an annual. However knowing that they would spread really quickly I didn’t mind investing a few dollars for some serious summer sizzle.

I tucked the little plugs in with some white alyssum (either seedlings I’d grown or more 2″ basket stuffers) and have been thrilled with the results. They have only been watered once a week yet have spread at least 2′ in every direction, their felted fern-like foliage adding a bold carpet under its neighbors.

Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)


I’m not generally a fan of growing groundcovers as their presence makes it difficult to add soil amendments such as compost and can even make weeding more awkward. However in the summer I have come to rely on the silver licorice plant to disguise¬†the gaps between young¬†plants, add a silver uplight to darker colors and be a seriously drought-tolerant groundcover from May until late September. I allow a certain amount of free-form scrambling over small shrubs and encourage them to weave between perennials such as black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’). One little 4″ plant can spread 3-4′ so that’s a good return on a couple of dollars.

Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

Mature cardoon foliage (at a local nursery)

Mature cardoon foliage (photo taken at a local nursery)

Drama? Check. Scale? Check. Pollinator caviar? Double check


My intention was just to show you the huge, coarse, deeply dissected silver foliage of this monster perennial but how could I possibly ignore the blooms, especially when there was a pollinator orgy going on in my garden?! Thistle-like flowers are being produced with complete disregard for drought conditions. Like many plants these cardoon are a little shorter this year due to lack of regular water but that’s OK as they still¬†offer such great architecture to the garden border – and pollen for the bees.

Weeping silver-leaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’)


Metallic silver, willow-like foliage is remarkably eye-catching in a mixed border; even more so when on a weeping small tree. It creates a focal point yet highlights other plants from bold conifers to finely textured grasses. It goes well with deep jewel tones and adds a soft touch of romance to pastels.

In its youth the weeping silver-leaf pear can be rather gangly but give it a few years to step beyond adolescence and you will be well rewarded.

White flowers in spring are followed by inedible pear-like fruit but this ornamental small tree or large shrub is all about the foliage. This is one of my favorite plants in the garden.

Catmint (Nepeta species)

Walker's Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

Walker’s Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

I have¬†both Walker’s Low and Little Trudy¬†catmint in this¬†garden and have grown the classic Six Hills Giant previously. I love them all for their fragrant foliage, blue flowers, easy attitude and superior drought tolerance. After blooming I unceremoniously hack them down to a few inches and this is my reward; more flowers and fresh foliage despite no water or fertilizer.

Sea Heart Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Sea Heart’)


I don’t have a lot of shade in my garden but where I do you won’t be surprised to learn that it is fairly dry shade. Siberian bugloss seems undaunted by such conditions. Jack Frost does extremely well but ¬†Sea Heart is even more remarkable not least of all because of the much larger size of its leaves. Rough to the touch this heart shaped foliage has an intricate overlay of silver on green. Forget-me-not blue flowers appear in spring. This is holding its own under a golden locust tree and is thriving.

Quicksilver hebe (Hebe¬†pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’)


Just a few miles from here in Christina’s garden Quicksilver¬†hebe is hardy but in my cold, sticky, heavy clay soils¬†I’m happy to use it as an annual or short term semi-evergreen shrub. The color and texture are easy to blend with bolder, brighter offerings in the landscape and I know this can take both the heat and low water. I’ve been especially glad of it this year although its color leans more towards a pale teal than true silver

Elsewhere in the garden are assorted lavender, Silver Shadow astelia and the new Bella Grigio lambs ears; all thriving in our crazy summer.

As a bonus all the plants listed here have proven deer resistant in my deer-ravaged garden

Take a few moments to look at your own garden and assess what looks good right now despite your particular gardening challenges. Tell us about it in the comments below or post a photo to our Facebook page; we’d love to hear your news.

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Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageSummer is no time to be timid with your landscape design. We only have a short window for this garden magnificence and TEAM Fine Foliage says that you need to GO FOR IT! Whether in container or more large-scale, your garden should be a place that fills you with joy and excitement.
The color bonanza above is a BOLD over-the-top example and obviously not all of us can do this but please, this post BEGS you to imagine your world beyond the typical and everyday plants. Get crazy, think out of the box, try new things!
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageOur post is LOADED this week with tropical feeling inspiration to shake you up a bit and get your design juices flowing with ideas that YOU can try. You can take these ideas and translate them from the idea of color schemes, textural ideas, scale, etc. The point is to study what brings you inspiration to try something NEW!
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Cool colors are your thing? Easy-peasy! This bromeliad sports quite the handsome lavender glow in the pot where a simple variegated ivy snuggles up the base of the plant and acts like an uplight. What could you use in place of this giant collectors plant that might be hardy in your garden?
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Do you yearn for a feminine esthetic? Citrus colors mixed with pale pink in this scene are not only soft and refined, but BOLD! 
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageIf you simply MUST have your geraniums, then why not pair them with euphorbia ‘Fire Sticks’ and Carex ‘Cappuccino’ to mix it up a bit and try something unexpected.

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

The wow factor of these colors together is undeniable. Both subtle AND kind of savage at the same time! Acalypha and dracaena make fine friends in a container that compliments them with so much style!
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Could this dracaena BE any more well named? ‘Colorama’! Paired here in a captivating graphic combination with ‘Saffron-Spike’ Aphelandra they are a designers dream for inspiring new ideas! I know that your brain is just zooming with ideas isn’t it? This is how we come up with new ideas and plant combinations, we take fantasy and apply it to our own small-scale gardens and containers. What would your foliage plant combo be based on THIS photo?

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
HOLY COLOR WHEEL BATMAN!¬†Yes, that is a LOT of color. Clear, true primary colors always work together. But here, the take away is to notice the strong, broad strappy leaves of the bromeliads give a green place for your eye to rest and cool off.¬†So, even though this is based on flowers, it’s a foliage that saves the day!

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
The use of tasty edibles in containers is classy against the off-white stucco, but the DRAMA of the giant lemon colored schefflera in a deep blue pot adds that spark of powerful intensity. Not only that, it beautifully echoes the tile art on the wall too. 

Here is a peek at how I translated a little bit of FIERCE into a container for one of my more adventurous clients this summer.
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Have you got some tough shade but still want to have some intense combinations? Here are the couple of powerful combos that are under the shade of large trees. See? Scale, drama, texture bring this to design fruition with only a few small blooms!
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageGetting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Here is my take on these extraordinary combinations for a shade container for that same courageous client….
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Now go out there and snap some photos of YOUR FIERCE Fine Foliage designs and share them with us on Facebook!


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Simple yet Sophisticated

IMG_2855I planted up this little container for a demonstration during my one of my Spring Container Workshops last week. It’s a lesson in balancing¬†abundance¬†and restraint.

Size Matters

The rustic brown clay pot is just 12″ square so the temptation would be to fill it with lots of 4″ plants. Had I done that, however, the overall composition may have looked too busy. Instead I opted to use three gallon (6″) sized plants to really fill out the space with leafy goodness, adding just one 4″ and one 2″ accent plants.


Foliage Stars

The feature plant is the cream/green variegated Angyo Star Fatshedera, one of the Sunset Western Garden Plant Collection beauties. This will need to be staked as it grows taller but I may just let it tumble and mingle to a degree; we’ll see! The glossy leaves suggest¬†a tropical look but I’ve used it here in a more naturalistic design where it’s resemblance to ivy works well.

Playing off the creamy yellow tones I added the grass-like Everillo Carex to introduce fine strappy texture. The bright golden foliage works well with this informal container.

The third ‘big’ plant was Sweet Tea Heucherella, a favorite for its over-sized copper leaves and distinctive purple veins. Spires of fluffy white flowers are a bonus.

Final Details


It was love at first sight when I saw these 4″ pots of¬†Sparks Will Fly begonias; look at those black leaves! The orange flowers echoed the color of the Heucherella foliage and played off the warm sunset color scheme. Perfect to tuck into the corner¬†of the container.

Purple Heart was tucked in a corner near the golden grass

Purple Heart was tucked in a corner near the golden grass

Also added but not visible in these photos ¬†is a 2″ pot of Purple Heart wandering Jew (Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’ syn. Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’). The iridescent purple leaves picks up the vein color of the Heucherella and adds contrast to the¬†golden grass.

Design Details

By using just five plants (three of them BIG) and by restricting the number of colors (gold, copper-orange and purple-black) this little container lives large. It has a full, lush look thanks to the foliage; no waiting for it to ‘grow in’ before being¬†ready for its close up.

The three main foliage plants are all evergreen so can be kept in the container or transferred to the garden.

This combination will thrive in shade or partial shade all summer with average water.

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Spring Container Inspiration

Walking into a nursery in spring is like meeting old friends. There’s that gorgeous coleus you used last year – and yes the stunning fuchsia with variegated leaves is back! Memories of last years containers play through our mind as we deliberate on this years color scheme and plant combinations.

Do you want to use your old favorites but in new ways? Would you like to¬†incorporate something different but don’t know where to start?¬†That’s where we come in; welcome to spring container inspiration 2015.

Canna with a Twist

IMG_4193Who doesn’t love big tropical Canna with their bold leaves and bright flowers? Do you find yourself always heading for the orange striped Canna Tropicanna to use as a centerpiece then layering in other plants around it?

The freshly planted design above features Tropicanna Gold but those luscious gold striped leaves are playing a supporting role to the Orange Rocket barberry shrub rather than being the star. This works well because the barberry can be left in year round and adds instant height while the Canna is just getting started.

Balancing these two key plants is a Cyclops Aeonium at the front. Its multi-hued rosette marries the colors of the Canna and barberry together while bringing the eye down.

An assortment of  flower and foliage favorites round out the design including Angelina sedum, pheasant tail grass, African daisies and million bells.

Try a new color scheme

IMG_5778This design was driven by the oval purple pot. I’ve always liked purple and orange together but rather than reaching for chartreuse as the third color I opted for silver and white.

Blue Hawaii Colocasia¬†provides the height, its large translucent leaves showcasing purple veins and stems to re-enforce the color of the pot. Purple basil and Purple Queen (Setcresea pallida ‘Purple Queen’)¬†also¬†echo the theme¬†while Sedona coleus adds a wonderful splash of contrasting orange. Silver bush (Convolvulus cneorum) and white trailing geraniums add sparkle.

Spikes with a difference

IMG_4785 - revisedDo you find yourself reaching for the ubiquitous ¬†‘spikes’ for a thriller, red geranium as a filler and white bacopa as a spiller? Dare to be different!

In this shade design while the cordyline adds height it is the perennial Siberian bugloss that takes center stage with its large heart shaped leaves each overlaid with an intricate network of silver veins. Maybe you have one in your garden you can dig up? A lime green heuchera and humble dusty miller round out the foliage framework. For color and fun the chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) is used as a trailer at the front of the pot (look for it with the houseplants) and a rex begonia adds nice color contrast. This is definitely not your grandmothers design!

Sophisticated Succulents

IMG_5772With so many exciting succulents available now we all want to play with them! Try some unexpected companions such as the the tall feathery foliage of perennial Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii) shown here. It will turn orange in fall. Silver icicle plant repeats the color of the tender panda plant while two black sweet potato vines add depth and a contemporary note.

Excited to get planting? If you live in the Seattle area you may be interested in signing up for one of my spring container workshops in May where I’ll have lots of fun plants for us to work with. You can read the details here.

So what are you planning to do differently this year? Leave us a comment or post to our Facebook page because YOU inspire US too!

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Foliage for your Spring Floozies


From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery - Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery – Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

Gardeners are easily seduced. We understand – sometimes that flirty petal just calls to you but if you don’t give it the right foliage partner it will be a fizzled floozy in no time.

Spring bulbs and pansies leap onto our shopping carts at this time of year don’t they? While you’re at the nursery be sure to select some foliage beauties to create the necessary framework to make them shine and fill the beauty gap when the blooms are less than bountiful.

Here are a few of our favorite foliage+floozy options to try.


IMG_8686Who can resist the cute pansy faces? Whiskers, bold colors, frills – these are the flowers of our childhood.

Choose accompanying foliage plants to echo the colors. I have found that the fine strappy blades of grasses¬†offer great contrast to the chubby faces as can be seen above where the golden variegated Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) accents the golden moment.

IMG_0514Or look for something more subtle. Here variegated box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’) repeats the yellow eye in the blue and purple pansy.

In either case there is a visual color connection between the flower and foliage.

JH pansyThis simple combination has ¬†color repetition between the yellow of the pansy and Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) but the most striking theme is the connection of fine pansy ‘whiskers’ and the strongly vertical lines of the common rush; a green grass-like foliage plant ¬†(Juncus).



Big, bold and beautiful Рmarry these extravagant blooms with equally sassy foliage. Princess Irene tulip is planted here with the similarly colored Peach Flambe heuchera while the chartreuse conifer Goldcrest Monterey cypress adds contrast.

IMG_0909Or go for moody drama with rich purple tulips against black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’).¬†Emerald green ferns and Rainbow leucothoe¬†(Leucothoe f. ‘Rainbow’) add lighter notes, the variegated shrub even hinting at burgundy-purple tints.

Floozy Frenzy!

IMG_2006Hellebore, hyacinth, candytuft – yes there’s a lot of floral action going on but it’s all held together with foliage. Silver Queen euonymus¬†establishes the soft color scheme and adds strength to the combination of looser¬†structures. The large purple foliage of Spellbound heuchera adds drama while a simple cotoneaster groundcover trails over the edge of the stone urn. All the foliage plants are evergreen, allowing the flowers to come and go without compromising the design.

Remember flowers are fleeting so enjoy their ephemeral beauty and seduction – but be sure to have great foliage tucked in alongside them for real drama that lasts.


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Hot New Coleus for 2015

Grab your sunglasses, think warm tropical breezes, delicious cocktails with little umbrellas in them and sand between your toes. Think SUMMER.

Ignore the snow, ice, hail, rain and bitingly cold wind and feast your eyes on these new introductions from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., Start dreaming up your summer foliage combinations now.

Coleus Hipsters‚ĄĘ ‘Zooey’

Coleus_Hipsters_Zooey_1bWOW! You did get your sunglasses didn’t you? This is one serious party-coleus. Zooey¬†has a wide spreading habit (9″ h x 23″ w) and¬†spiky yellow leaves that are splashed with crimson. What about growing this as a groundcover around¬†tall green ferns?¬†Shade/part shade

Coleus Wildfire‚ĄĘ ‘Smoky Rose’

Coleus_Wildfire_Smoky_Rose_1bShort and wide this smokin’ hot introduction is going to look stunning tumbling at the edge of a large container. It grows 8″ h x 24″ w so give it some elbow room. Deeply cut leaves really help show off the rich plum and hot pink variegation, edged with just a hint¬†of lime. I can see this with a spiky gold grass such as Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex). Shade or part shade

Coleus Flying Carpet‚ĄĘ ‘Shocker’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Shocker_1bNo more excuses for dark and dreary shade gardens – add a carpet of Shocker and your garden visitors will be….well SHOCKED! The dark red center expands as the leaf grows to give a wonderful layered look. This big mama grows to 24″h x 28″w. Fabulous as a groundcover in shade or part shade or as a solo container plant.

Coleus Terra Nova¬ģ ‘Green Lantern’

Coleus_Green_Lantern_3bThe only lime green trailing coleus on the market, this is one you just have to try this year. Imagine this with a dark leaved Canna and bright orange Bonfire begonias….. This one is sun tolerant too although the best color is in partial shade. 10″ h x 24″ w

Coleus Flying Carpet‚ĄĘ ‘Zinger’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Zinger_1bA traditional color with a twist – literally. Love the curled end of each leaf that is reminiscent of a paisley design. Beautifully sculpted and frilled picotee edge together with a clean lime and deep red color – this is one I’m going to look out for. Zinger grows to 24 x 24 and does best in shade or part shade.

General growing tips

Coleus prefer well drained soil and like to dry out slightly between waterings. They need warmer temperatures than annuals such as geraniums – ideally wait until night temperatures are consistently 55′ or above.

So which ones are on your shopping list for 2015? Leave us a comment below or get in touch on Facebook.

All photos courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., – and no we didn’t get paid for writing about their plants!

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Use Foliage for a Mini-Makeover


Whether you call it the end of summer or the beginning of fall our ¬†gardens and containers are definitely in transition. That’s a nice way of saying that some stuff is dead, some bits are thinking about it but other plants are still fabulous.¬†So what’s a gardener¬†to do?



Well maybe its just procrastination on my part but with this container I decided to do a mini freshen up. The photo above shows the original summer planting. (If you have been enjoying my Craftsy video class you will have seen me planting this up in lesson 3).

After a few chilly nights last week the coleus was past its best and the variegated geranium was less than fabulous so I removed them both.


That still left a lot of great foliage plants  including feathery Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrechtii) at the back  two Midnight Lace sweet potato vines, a silver icicle plant (Helichrysum thianschanicum) and a few succulents including the wonderfully fuzzy silver-grey panda plant.

I found a Heuchera lurking in my ‘holding bed’ – I think it is Root Beer but it has long since lost its tag. The color, leaf shape and size made it a perfect replacement for the coleus.

Party on!

Party on!

The story isn’t over yet though; the Arkansas blue star is just getting started. This is a perennial which is usually planted en masse in the garden rather than used in a container. It has blue spring flowers but is usually grown¬†for the delicate foliage¬†and stunning orange fall color.

Arkansas blue star turns  fiery orange in fall

Arkansas blue star turns fiery orange in fall

Can you imagine how stunning that will be in this container?

Orange, black, dusky burgundy and silver.

Now there’s a color scheme for you!¬†How are your containers doing?

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