Tag Archives: Autumn

Fine Foliage and the Glory of Fall

The entry drive at PowellsWood Garden.

While much of the country is beginning to feel the first tell-tale signs of fall, with cooler nights and even a first frost warning or two, in the Pacific Northwest, we frequently get the best of both worlds in late summer. We know how spoiled we are to be able to enjoy both seasons at once until the real fall hammer drops when the rains arrive. As I write this, my door is open this morning, and it will likely be 80 by dinner tonight.

In spite of that, our landscapes are all talking about the slow march to the true fall weather. Our abundant Japanese and native Vine maples are coloring up like crazy with the heat stress of our long drought this summer. Understandably, these trees are tired and ready for rest soon, but we will enjoy them as long as we can!

The conifers of all kinds are gearing up to takes the center stage for winter soon. The stately weeping hemlocks in this photo are protected from the heat of summer under the broad canopy of a giant fir tree as well as the dappled canopy of the maples. They lend such a fine texture, blue-green foliage color, and the perfect scale for the mid-border.

One of my favorite things about the photo above is how the intensely colored spikes of blue fescue contrast with the orange of the vine maple. Blue and orange are always such happy friends on the foliage color wheel. A great point to make a note of if you are planning any changes or additions to your home landscape this fall.

When we zoom into the center of this bed, we can take note of even more amazing details. The hydrangea aspera (‘Plum Passion’) from Monrovia shows more purple color intensity on the foliage in a higher light location. In this dappled light, it is pale, but the pink veining and flowers are no less attractive and interesting at providing marvelous details.

Below the hydrangea, euphorbia a. robbiae (Mrs. Robb’s Bonnet) fills in densely with glossy green rosettes of foliage. This ground cover can strike fear in the heart of gardeners with its aggressive nature, so it’s one to plan and plant carefully. However, the cheerful yellow bloom bracts in late spring are so welcome after long winter. Once it’s done blooming, giving this plant a hard prune to tidy it up for the rest of the year, results in this textural backdrop for falling orange maple leaves.

Whether you are fully ready and committed to dismantling your summer garden now to enjoy fall, or if you are trying to squeeze every last ounce out of the late summer landscape, noting some of the fantastic details that make this “shoulder season” dramatic in its own way are a good way to be “in the moment” with your fine foliage design goals. 

Gardening with Foliage First is another way to see some excellent ideas for fall combination drama. And of course clicking the SUBSCRIBE button on your right brings this blog to your inbox monthly for even more ideas! 

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

It is natural to associate the color orange with the month of October for the obvious reason of course, Halloween!! But, Team Fine Foliage wants to remind you that it is of course the season for “leaf-peeping” and since orange is a hot and trendy color in design, why not start there?
Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The color orange can have such range and variety of tone and dimension that it can cover a lot of territory in the landscape. Not to mention the broad spectrum of personality and emotion you can convey with orange, it’s an incredibly versatile color. From the colors that embody coral sunsets to bbq and beans, you can find a plant or a shade that suits nearly every design idea.
This ‘Grace’ Smokebush (above) is a wonderful option if you like drama. She is a cool-as-a- cucumber teal and green foliage sophisticate who becomes a hot-blooded vixen in fall. You can NOT avert your eyes when ‘Grace’ is present in autumn!
Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! Stewartia is a tree that is enjoying the design popularity contest right now for numerous reasons, its fall vibrancy being one of the top points. Wonderfully warm orange that can be included on the edge of red-toned keeps the eye focused in the distance above where this tree is in perfect harmony with the rusted arbor that creates a backdrop.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Now when that same Stewartia is contrasted with pure white flower clusters of Choisya ternata and those fragrant blooms decided to bloom again because they think its spring- well then, THAT is a late season BONUS for sure!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Want to TRULY up your design street cred for fall color? How about matching your holly berries with the exact shade of Japanese maples you have planted in the distance. Talk about taking the loooooong view! But, you have to admit that it works!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

While you might have appreciated the idea of using Sedum ‘Angelina’ for her chartreuse wow factor in spring as a high contrast ground cover, you might not have realized to extent to which she sports some pretty amazing orange fall and winter color too.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

There are many interesting Heath’s, Heather and Calluna that have some form of orange in their personality throughout the year. Fall and winter feature those types that might begin gold or light green and gain color throughout the growing season from spring to winter. There are some that turn orange and even red. The one above is ‘Flamingo’ or ‘Red Fred’, they are very similar and are most vibrant in late winter and early spring. If you want great orange you may also look for ‘Robert Chapman’, ‘Spring Torch’ or ‘Wickwar Flame’, but there are SO many more. Maybe start a collection!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!
We couldn’t possibly feature ALL that embodies the variety of orange options year round, but naturally when we mention that you might be out on voyeuristic mission of the horticultural kind, you can’t imagine doing it without maples! Here in the Northwest part of the US, Japanese maples are king and queen for color. The range of shapes and colors for standout orange color are often missed the most by gardeners when choosing trees for the landscape as they tend to be more subtle and quiet in spring and summer when most of us are shopping. But, when cooler weather rolls around and the vibrancy of those shades ramps up- they are gone!!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! The ‘Fernleaf’ Japanese maple is one of the most coveted for its exquisite coloration in fall.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The tiny leaves of the ‘Lion’s Mane’ maple creates a completely different effect in the landscape where the tree’s congested structure plays an important role in showing off the warm cinnamon tones on an upright growth habit.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! These larger scale maples effortlessly frame this path with amazingly vibrant color that you may otherwise look past in spring.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The name ‘Coral Bark’ maple kind of says it all for our salute to orange this week. But, you know we HAD to include this little powerhouse of a tree. The coral colored bark and foliage that begins chartreuse and ends up shades of gold, apricot, orange and coral doesn’t need a gold medal to be included among winners.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

This oak is giving Japanese maples a run for their money this season!!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! A bright gold Japanese maple backs up these showy orange/russet colored pots filled with abundant foliage based designs for this front entry making them stand-outs for the cool months.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Whether you love the big trees or the smaller details of berries such as the transitioning hypericum berries above or perennials and containers, there are great options available if you love orange!

Drop us a note and tell us what orange foliage is rocking your landscape right now!

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Container Design with an Autumn Attitude

Can I make a confession here? I’m utterly tired of whiny, bellyaching autumn gardeners. There, I said it,  already I feel better! Why? Because the answer to MANY of the questions I regularly deal with this time of the year are from gardeners who believe that FLOWERS ought to be as abundantly available and at the forefront of seasonal container designs as they are in July.
Heauchera 'Berry Smoothie' with Zinnia 'Profusion Cherry'
Well, they aren’t. And they won’t be in the fall and winter, for the majority of the country, ever. Unless you are all right with the Chrysanthemums and Asters that bloom for such a short period of time. Those are fine for plants that you might switch out, but most of us don’t want that kind of work as it gets colder. The idea is that the flowers are now the seasonal accent for the next few months, not the main course.
Purple Aster with Carex BuchananiiFlower focused people will walk through the nursery and point-
Customer: “Can I use that one?”
Me: “No, that is a tropical, it will be dead in a week or two if left outside when it REALLY gets cold. How about this great plant? It has tons of texture and looks amazing with your container, plus you can re-use it somewhere else next year?”
Customer: “How about those, they are purple!” 
Me: “I wish! Unfortunately, that one is about done blooming right now. What if we come up with a color palette of amazing foliage that is bright and showy? We can even find purple for you!”

Don’t get me wrong, I adore flowers! It’s just that at THIS time of the year, the “shoulder season”, I am a little more realistic about what will last, have some great color and interest as well as be a good value. A pansy or viola will serve as a lovely accent flower and will also bloom for months in the cold, it is just not the centerpiece or focal point that will hold attention.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about!  Fall container combination focused on Foliage FIRST! OR how about THIS one?
A BOLD color combination for a fall and winter container design! See? I’m only asking for a minor revolution in thinking here. 😉 Try plants on that you might never have considered before for fall and winter interest. You might make an AMAZINGLY creative discovery!

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Breaking the Autumn Design Rules

This week’s blog post is about taking chances.

your-comfort-zone
It’s common for folks to ask me questions all day long in the nursery where I work, about plants, planting, and maintenance. However, I think there is a psychological shift that happens as fall and winter get under way. The questions get much more “intense”. People suddenly become much more concerned with the “rules” in designing their containers and landscapes. They begin to feel the impending pressure of the weather changing, motivation is more about hurrying, and getting things buttoned up and finished.

October 2012 Foliage and Bloom 091While we all want to be thinking about the common sense parts of design like not putting water plants with succulents, (ahem….. I’ve never done that, noooooo…..head down shuffling dirt) I think in our hurry to get the task done, we forget about having fun and being adventurous.

Try new plants out- what’s the worst that could happen? You could try a plant, whether it’s just something seasonal or a plant that winters over and you find a spot for it at a friend or neighbors house instead. I love that old saying “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not gardening.” I paraphrased that for designs sake, that saying really says “killing plants”.

October 2011 Foliage and Blooms 162Now, granted that those of us up here in the NW are blessed and are fully aware that we live in basically horticultural Mecca, but for those of you in tougher climates, its no excuse to just fall back on boring old standby plants anymore. Live a little, be bold, there is such a thing as happy accidents- I do it ALL the time! Did I plan for that Kale to go with that Cypress? Heck no! But, it turned out awesome.

Slide1Slide2Slide3Plant shopping is a lot like trying on clothes. You have to lay them out together or try them on! If you are not a visual person why not take up some room at the nursery and lay out a mini version of your planting area or pot. Get those leaves snuggling one another just as they do in the garden! Shuffle them about until you have them arranged just so- now don’t assume you will do this exact same arrangement when you get them home, because you might have some brilliant flash of insight OR conversely forget that you can’t plant there because of the cable box. Be flexible – there are no design police.

September 2012 Dump File 125Layering those rich, voluptuous autumn and winter colors and textures together is my own personal drug of choice. Dreaming and scheming ideas to weave together have kept me awake many a night. But, the one thing I DO plan for, I plan to leave room for creative inspiration to strike and change it up. Why can’t that blueberry be in my fall pot? What if I used this non-traditional color scheme in this crazy purple pot? What about a color scheme for this bed that is completely new and different for me?

November 2012 BHG Container Photos 108November 2012 BHG Container Photos 181November 2012 BHG Container Photos 196November 2012 BHG Container Photos 279.CR2November 2012 BHG Container Photos 314November 2012 BHG Container Photos 320Bottom line – get weird with your foliage. You might just find out you’re a design genius!

What design rules have you broken that turned out to be happy accidents?  

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