Tag Archives: art

Foliage Inspiration from Chanticleer


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.


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.


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


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.


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’.


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


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.


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.


Swoonworthy – Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Tiger Fern’


Exquisite Details

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


Succulents planted in a summer-dry rain chain


Foliage as embellishment and picture frame


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! 


Big Ideas for Designing with Mini Leaves


Whit’s End – a paradise for children of all ages – and a wonderful showcase of design ideas using miniature foliage

I’m just back after a whirlwind tour of Buffalo, New York – boy do those folks know how to do foliage! Hostas must be the #1 selling plant, available in every conceivable shade of green, blue-green, blue, gold and white and ranging in size from monsters to miniatures. I was especially struck by the creative ways homeowners found to showcase the more petite specimens.

The American Hosta Society has set various standards as to what constitutes a mini (and these criteria have changed over the years). You can read about them here. I had a hard time imagining how they could be incorporated in my 5 acre garden (assuming deer and slugs left them alone) but after seeing these ideas I’m feeling inspired.

Edging a border


Mike Shadrack places smaller specimens where they won’t be obstructed from view

By placing these minis at the front of a stone-edged border they invite closer viewing, while having larger hostas at the back of the border gives a fun play on distorting the perspective!

Word Play


Marcia Sully plays with her Mouse series hostas

I’m sure you’ve come across the Mouse Ears mini hosta that started the popular series in 2000. There are now lots of sports from the original blue Mouse Ears including this one (whose tag I forgot to photograph – sorry!)

Love how Marcia has used the cute metal mouse to emphasize the name, but she didn’t stop there…


A game of cats and mice

This grouping of mini hostas, watchful cats and cute little mice is a wonderful display. I could have sat and made up fun stories of these characters for a series of children’s books, couldn’t you?

While many of the mini hostas are displayed in their own container, a few are grouped together.

Creating a Scene


Mixed design using mini hostas with other elements

When combining mini hostas with other plants, it is essential to keep the scale in mind. The container above is an excellent example, with several mini hostas, each offering a unique leaf shape and color, combined with a dwarf conifer in an aged hypertufa trough accented by a cheeky snail. The largest green/white hosta plays the role of a large tree or shrub in this scene.


Just one of several remarkable train set vignettes in this garden known as Whit’s End (A play on the homeowner’s last name)

Once again, hostas are combined with dwarf conifers, this time creating a life-like vignette, as two men pump the handcart endlessly around the train tracks! Such fun.

Ideas to Take Home

Although these ideas all feature mini hostas you could re-interpret them to showcase your favorite miniatures such as:

  • Smaller succulents
  • Mini coleus
  • Dwarf conifers

Share your ideas with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Glass in the Garden – the magpie effect

Christina and I have had the opportunity to visit several inspiring gardens this summer and as always have come away with a long list of ‘must have’ plants!

One design element that especially struck me this year, however,  was the increasing popularity of glass art in the garden and the different ways in which it is being used. Many talented artists now tempt us with their colorful sculptures and we are drawn towards them like magpies. But once we take these  treasures home, where do we put them? Too often they can just be stuck into any odd  gap between plants without any thought to their surroundings and can look as out of place as a bright pink flamingo.

Placing garden art is an art in itself. Here are a few examples from our recent travels which show you how three homeowners have done it in style.

1. Repeat a leaf color

Use foliage colors as inspiration

Use foliage colors as inspiration – design by Fred Rowe and Ed Poquette

When combining foliage the first thing I do is look at the color of the leaf surface, buds and stems. These are my ‘kick off’ points for design. Whatever plant I add next repeats a color found in one of these details.

Apply these same principles when adding glass art to your foliage. The wispy grass-like sedge (Carex sp.)  in the photo above has gorgeous bronze and orange tones which are repeated in the beautiful glass sphere. Placing the two so close together creates a strong visual connection – the starting point for a larger vignette or just a smaller ‘garden moment’ on its own.

2. Repeat a leaf shape

I just love the way this starfish shaped glass piece  mimics the shape of the hardy impatiens leaf.

I just love the way this starfish shaped glass piece mimics the shape of the hardy impatiens leaf.

The shady combination above works in so many ways. First of all the glass seems to be growing in among the other foliage plants since its supporting stake is hidden. Then there is the perfect color echo with the coppery autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). But what really impressed me was the way homeowners JoAnn and Lucien Guthrie echoed the shape of the hardy impatiens leaf (Impatiens omeniana). Even the way the glass is angled slightly is perfect.

3. Treasure hunt – the art of camouflage

Can you find the discreetly placed glass?

Can you find the discreetly placed glass?

When we place art in our homes we usually intend it to be a focal point in that room but don’t feel that the glass pieces you add to your outdoor rooms always have to take center stage. Sometimes subtlety makes a stronger design statement.

Can you see the group of tall aqua glass blades in the center of the photo above? At first glance they appear to be another group of iris don’t they? Just the slight color difference makes us look twice.  By repeating the shape of the adjacent foliage this glass sculpture seems to be part of the forest itself. Rising from behind unfurling deer ferns (Blechnant spicant) is another wise design choice that adds to the camouflage.

4. Create a magical illusion

Black mondo grass like you've never seen it before!

Black mondo grass like you’ve never seen it before!

Now granted I’m taking liberties with the term ‘glass’ here as this art is in fact resin painted with exterior paint, but you have to admit that it looks like a chunk of blue glass! In fact I went to the website of artist Robert Fairfax to figure out what it was.

I had to smile to see these blue ‘flowers’ scattered among a mass planting of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’), Certainly made me do a double take – but that was the point. It was unexpected yet somehow not completely out of place. It looks as though it could be part of the landscape…..

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More Than Just Pie


Why fill up your vegetable garden with rhubarb when you can use it as an ornamental plant in the garden border?

The idea of combining edibles and ornamental plants in the border is not new but we tend to think in terms of frilly lettuce, colorful Swiss chard or jewel like cherry tomatoes. Yet good old fashioned rhubarb provides some seriously dramatic foliage – like a hosta on steroids.

Nothing wimpy about these leaves!

Nothing wimpy about these leaves!

I have a large garden which means that I am often viewing foliage combinations from quite a distance.  No subtle miniatures for me! When I say I need bold foliage I mean BOLD foliage – and rhubarb delivers. Certainly there are fabulous ornamental cultivars  whose color may be rosier and leaves might be sharper, but when you need to fill up a big space on a small budget it’s hard to beat the simple edible variety.

Need more reasons to use it? Here’s a BIG plus – deer and rabbits ignore it which earns it major points in my garden and explains why I don’t need to enclose it within my fortified vegetable garden. (Slugs and unexpected hail storms can do damage but that goes for most leafy plants).

How to use it

Use it to frame a sculpture

A bold sculpture needs something equally dramatic

As a focal point near a seating area or sculpture.


As a trail marker to indicate the start of a pathway

To balance the scale of a large container

To contrast with the finely cut foliage of plants such as astilbe and bugbane (Cimicifuga).

To provide a backdrop for smaller flowers


Let it go to seed to create a stunning rhubarb sculpture!

Or….just make pie.