Tag Archives: bark

Foliage First Fall Design Inspiration



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


pumpkin-orange and hints of ruby….


with a touch of magenta.

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


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


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


To complete a delightful fall vignette….


….that is also mercifully deer resistant.

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

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

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

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! 


Easy Combinations for Winter


Get ideas from your winter containers – here colorful conifers are paired with blooming winter heather and a humble pansy

The secret to adding winter interest to the garden is to create mini vignettes using just two or three elements. These colorful clusters will draw your eye and hold attention better than dotting individual evergreens around the landscape. By limiting the number of plants in each winter combination it also allows room for your other seasonal favorites such as  deciduous shrubs, herbaceous perennials and ephemeral spring bulbs.

As always, build that foliage framework first then layer in the finishing touch.

Here are some easy ideas for you to copy or use as a springboard for your own combinations.

Ruby and Amethyst Shades


Snow Queen hydrangea photo credit; Monrovia

The eye catching foliage here is a Snow Queen oak leaf hydrangea – the leaves will typically remain on this shrub for much of the winter although the peeling bark of any exposed branches will only add to the textural feast. Paired with Goshiki Japanese holly, and Pink Frost hellebore the suffused pink tones are repeated and highlighted.

A perfect trio for dappled shade although the Japanese holly would be equally at home in full sun.

Using a Colorful Pot


The bare bones foliage are all fairly pedestrian – a Silver King euonymus, blue star juniper and Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo. Add a rustic pot that marries all those colors together and BAM! – suddenly this is transformed into a year round vignette. Use this as a focal point near the front door and it will always say ‘welcome home.’

Sunshine in the Shade


Three evergreens – a columnar yew, Sundance Mexican orange blossom and beesia. With varying leaf shapes and form this trio could be used to establish a bright spot in an otherwise shady corner of the garden. Perhaps add in some golden bleeding heart for pink spring flowers to play next to those of the beesia and you’re set.

Monochromatic Elegance


The key to having this Gentsch White Canadian hemlock look its best is tip pruning in spring. This stimulates the beautiful white new growth that really makes this  conifer a star for the shade. Create that shade with a river birch tree and you will get to enjoy the peeling bark while adding a sweep of Monte Cristo hellebore at the base will introduce those welcome winter flowers

Hummingbird Favorite


My Charity Oregon grape is in full bloom right now and the hummingbirds are fighting over the yellow flowers! If I can ward off the rabbits I’m going to try adding some Everillo carex to the base to repeat the golden color. Unlike Japanese forest grass this is evergreen so the foliage and flowers will appear together. The shiny purple Spellbound heuchera would be great for contrast as well as giving the birds a spring time treat with the abundant flowering spires.

Berry Beauty


Holiday colors here! The clusters of berries on the Parney cotoneaster look festive and echo the colorful red twig dogwood stems. The foliage framework is provided by the deeply veined cotoneaster leaves which have a silvery white underside as well as the bright foliage of Winter Chocolate heather which will go through several color changes during the year. (Check to see if this cotoneaster is invasive in your area before planting)

Caramel Deliciousness


Autumn fern, Teddy Bear rhododendron (with its fuzzy orange indumentum), Creme Brulee heuchera and orange hair sedge – swoon worthy…….sigh

Delicate Details


From the cinnamon colored peeling bark of the paperbark maple that echoes the burnished copper foliage of Robert Chapman heather and stems of the dwarf Ramapo rhododendron to the exquisite shade of blue-green that the rhodie contributes to be joined in spring by purple flowers – this is all about the details.

Got you thinking? Tell us YOUR favorite winter trio – you always inspire us. For more ideas be sure to get our NEW BOOK Gardening with Foliage First. It is available to pre-order on Amazon NOW, shipping in January. There are oodles of new ideas for winter interest in there just for YOU.

Naked and Loving It!

Since we’re all about foliage it may seem rather strange to be featuring bare branches but we want it all! Yes we positively swoon when we come across a tree or shrub that looks as good fully clothed as it does in the nude. So here are a few of our  bare-bottomed favorites

1. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)


I suspect as soon as I mentioned colorful bark you thought about the coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’) as a great example but I want you to consider two very different maples. The first is this paperbark maple, named for its cinnamon colored bark which peels away in fine strips; visible in all seasons but especially striking in winter. The foliage opens a soft green and fall color ranges from gold to salmon. This slow growing maple needs to be in your garden!

2. Lions Mane maple (Acer shishigashira)

lions mane collage

The lions mane maple is grown for its twisted clusters of dissected leaves that have the appearance of a shaggy mane. This is a slow growing tree well suited to container culture when young. The spring and summer foliage is green but in fall the leaves turn yellow, gold or orange (mine seems to be different every year!). Yet the story doesn’t end there – notice the smooth green bark that is revealed when the last leaf has fallen silently to the ground. Beautiful

3.  Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius varieties)

Left and center; 'Coppertina'. Right; 'Diablo'

Left and center; ‘Coppertina’. Right; ‘Diablo’

While the shrub twig dogwoods are an obvious choice for a colorful winter display with bare branches in fiery shades of red, orange and gold there are other options such as the ninebarks. Depending on the variety the foliage may be gold (Dart’s Gold), bronze (Coppertina) or almost black (Diablo) and all have clusters of white flowers followed by decoratives seed heads. They also have coarsely peeling bark on the older branches giving a marked striped effect.

4. River birch (Betula nigra)

IMG_3726_1While I will always love the pristine white bark of the Himalayan white birch (Betula utilis var, jacquemontii) and have three multi-trunked specimens in my own garden, I have to concede that the river birch (Betula nigra) is often the better choice. River birch is resistant to the birch borer and those pesky sapsuckers and other woodpeckers seem to leave this species alone. We planted a cluster of three multi-trunked river birch ( the named variety Heritage) in an area that is  exceptionally wet, often with standing water in winter and they are thriving. With soft green leaves that rustle in the breeze, butter-yellow fall foliage and bark that peels away to reveal the smooth inner trunk that is….well as soft (pink) as a babies bottom – you know you’re going to like it.

Of course we have lots of other favorites and we’ll introduce you to some in our next book (Foliage First, Timber Press, 2016) but we’d love to know what your favorites are. Leave us a comment below or tell us on our Facebook page. Even better – post a photo to share. (Just make sure only the plants are naked please!!)


Enjoy this post?

Then join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)



Creating a Picture Frame with Foliage


There were only two or three poppies when I looked out this morning. Pretty, but hardly noteworthy. Yet when these are viewed within a glorious leafy picture frame the scene suddenly comes into focus.


You see although we wrote FINE FOLIAGE we aren’t anti-flowers. It’s just that most flowers such as these poppies have only a fleeting beauty and contribution to the garden scene is equally short lived. Whereas foliage cannot only hold the garden together, it can enhance the flowers when they do have their moment  in the spotlight.

Bronze fennel is a wonderful addition to the garden but be sure to cut off the flowers or you will have a lifetime supply!

Bronze fennel is a wonderful addition to the garden but be sure to cut off the flowers or you will have a lifetime supply!

These simple Oriental poppies can be viewed from many angles within my garden and so a tapestry of foliage has been used to create a multi-framed scene. Feathery bronze fennel creates a soft haze, while playing off the dark splotches at the base of each flower petal.

The perfect color echo between Double Play spirea and the distant poppies

The perfect color echo between Double Play spirea and the distant poppies

‘Double Play’ spirea has bright rosy new growth (thanks to the deer who keep trimming it) – and these sunset tones are the perfect accompaniment to the bold orange poppies.

The late blooming Crocosmia will not only continue the color story with their orange flowers and seed heads but the foliage will hide the poppy as it goes into summer dormancy

The late blooming Crocosmia will not only continue the color story with its orange flowers and seed heads but the foliage will hide the poppy as it goes into summer dormancy

Then there are the broad vertical blades of Crocosmia (later with orange flowers), the peeling cinnamon colored bark of a paperbark maple (Acer griseum) and in the distance the bright foliage  of my favorite tree – the golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’).

Everything looks good with a golden locust tree!

Everything looks good with a golden locust tree!

Use the foliage in your garden to frame the flowers and the entire scene will be transformed into a memorable ‘garden moment’.

(Oh and the reason there are only a few poppies? The deer ate the rest. Yes I know….. “deer don’t eat poppies“. Right….)

Want even more ideas?

Join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)

Visit our Facebook page too– we’re posting all kinds of beautiful foliage ideas in a zillion different ways there daily!