Tag Archives: Berries

Easy Combinations for Winter

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

Delicate Details

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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.

Berried Beauties of Fall

As we wrote our new book Gardening with Foliage First, Christina and I began to appreciate anew those shrubs which offered something in addition to outstanding foliage, some attribute which took them into multi-season superstar status. Flowers are an obvious bonus but in fall berries are of greater significance.

Here is where the less experienced gardener can be disappointed. If you select deciduous shrubs after the leaves have fallen and only have the color of the berries to entice you, come spring and summer the plant overall may just be another green blob in the garden. Put Foliage First and you won’t be disappointed, however! If the leaf is ‘just’ green, is it an especially pleasing shade of green or wonderfully shiny or heavily textured? Or does it offer another color on the underside such as silver? Or does it turn an outstanding color in fall?

With those criteria in mind  here are my top 4 picks for shrubs that have exceptional foliage  AND plentiful, colorful berries.

Brandywine viburnum

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Brandywine viburnum has colorful berry clusters in shades of blue and pink

If you have space for a large, loosely upright shrub, consider this relatively new variety of viburnum introduced by Proven Winners. Brandywine (Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’)has stunning wine-red foliage in fall that lasts for many weeks and really sets off the bold clusters of pink and blue berries which are produced without an additional pollinator plant.

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Brandywine viburnum – a fabulous shrub for larger spaces

In spring and summer the large elliptical leaves are a deep glossy green which stand out easily against the more typical mid-green, medium-textured, matte foliage of the shrub border.

This deer resistant shrub grows quickly to 6′ tall and wide but can be pruned after flowering to control the size (although you will of course sacrifice the berries that year). Give it plenty of room in the landscape or grow it in a large pot, perhaps to provide seasonal screening.

Does best in full sun or partial sun, with average moisture retentive soil and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9

Cranberry viburnum

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American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) showing early fruit production in summer.

Whether it is the soft green, lobed foliage that turns crimson in fall, the white spring flowers or the glossy fruit that dangle like miniature cherries you have to admit that the cranberry viburnum has a lot to offer. Three similar species are available and often confused, the American cranberry (Viburnum trilobum with its white lace-cap hydrangea type flowers,  classic maple-like leaves and tart but edible berries) , the European cranberry (Viburnum opulus which has unpalatable berries and a less pronounced lobed leaf) and the highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule, favored for cooking but less so for ornamental gardening). This article explains some of the differences.

While the species European and American cranberry can reach up to 15 feet tall, there are several named cultivars that may work for you; firstly the European cranberry (Viburnum opulus) ‘Compactum’, and ‘Xanthocarpum’ which gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Compactum grows a more modest  5-6′ tall and wide while Xanthocarpum is a little larger at 6-8′ but has golden yellow berries which look remarkable against the red fall foliage.

Likewise the dwarf cultivar of the American cranberry (V. trilobum) Bailey’s Compact is much more manageable at 3-6′ tall and wide while Wentworth is taller (10-12′) but known for its heavy fruit set

The European cranberry bush, also commonly called guelder rose is hardy in zones 5-8, needs regular moisture and berries best in full sun. American cranberry bush (V. trilobum) is hardy down to zone 2 and also does well in partial shade.

Pearl Glam beautyberry

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Pearl Glam beautyberry – new for 2017 from Proven Winners

‘Tis the season for beautyberry – but THIS stunner puts all the others to shame when it comes to star power. Gorgeous deep purple foliage makes Pearl Glam a winner from spring through fall, showing off both the white flowers and the metallic purple berries better than any other botanical ‘little black dress’ I’ve ever seen.

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Pearl Glam beautyberry – new for 2017 from Proven Winners: you NEED this!

The shrub itself has a nicely shaped, loosely upright form, especially compared to older varieties which morph into a big green lump. Pearl Glam (Callicarpa x ‘Pearl Glam’) grows 4-5′ tall and wide, is drought tolerant once established, deer resistant and hardy in USDA zones 5-8.

It will be available in better garden centers in 2017 but I can tell you after testing two this year (in a mixed container and my own landscape) I am really excited!!

Parney’s cotoneaster

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Parney’s cotoneaster (C. lacteus); evergreen foliage with a silver reverse

This wide, arching, evergreen shrub has been around for decades but is still a  personal favorite of mine having grown it both in the UK and WA state.

The deeply veined leaves are silver on the reverse giving an overall shimmery appearance when the wind blows. Large clusters of white flowers in late spring are followed by equally impressive red berries that provide a winter feast for birds; robins especially seem to love them.

Parney’s cotoneaster is invasive in some areas (including California) so be sure to check with your extension office before planting. Where safe to use it can be a colorful, informal, evergreen hedge. It is hardy in zones 6-8 but in my experience it may suffer some winter die back in colder areas, especially if the soil remains saturated for long periods of time.

What’s your favorite shrub that has fabulous FOLIAGE and plentiful BERRIES? Leave us a comment here or post a photo to our Facebook page.

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The Art of Layering

IMG_0486Both Christina and I design container gardens as part of our businesses. We love what we do and we do something different every time! I was asked once if I ever got stuck for ideas and to be honest I never have. You see even if I find myself reaching for a few of my favorite plants (again) I know I’ll combine them in new ways. But there’s another design layer to consider; the context.

You see the container design is not an isolated entity but rather is part of a larger scene. Whether on a front porch or set within a vast garden, we have the opportunity to establish a relationship between the container garden and its surroundings.

That really came home to me as I watched noted photographer David Perry at a photo shoot in my garden recently. I had been asked to design ten containers for a national magazine that will be published next summer. To appeal to a wide readership I intentionally used a fun mix of colors, plant palettes and styles. Color schemes ran from sleek black and silver to hot pink, blue and lime – something for everyone.

But for them to be shown at their best, we needed to find suitable backdrops for each of the containers to be photographed. This is where I saw David really work his magic. He knew just how to place each pot to transform it from a humble collection of plants into the focal point of a beautiful painting. It was all about context.

Now of course I can’t show you those designs yet but I can share this one with you that I created afterwards.

Taking my cues from the plants in the container I looked for a backdrop that would echo the key foliage colors; yellow, pink-coral, grey-blue and a hint of burgundy-purple. Yet I needed to be sure that the garden setting wasn’t a distraction.

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My initial idea was to set the container on a pathway with a froth of feathery Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrechtii) behind to really show off the dark stems of the Scallywag holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Scallywag’).  The bright lemon groundcover is the annual Lemon licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) which despite being mid-October is still going strong. The color and texture contrast worked well. Yet I knew it could be better so I took a step back. (Thank you David for reminding me I can move!)

IMG_0482This seemed to work better. The overall scene is more complex but the inclusion of the big mossy boulder on the left provided a great counterpoint to the fluffy foliage and now the container was set within the context of a frame rather than just being in the foreground. But what about the bigger picture? This time I zoomed out and moved slightly to the right

IMG_0486Now we are back to the opening photograph and you can see the context of the container within the garden and the beautiful layering of foliage colors and textures from front to back. The purple smoke bush (Cotinus x ‘Grace’) echoes the purple, blue and pink tones within the shallow pot, while the golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’) shimmering in the distance, the feathery Arkansas blue star and the Lemon licorice plant all play off the the similarly colored foliage  tucked into the container.

Experiment with your container placement at home. Look for great foliage in your garden to provide context for your design. As you enjoy our blog you’ll see this principle at work over and over – now you know the secret.

Plants used

Scallywag holly, Fire Alarm Heuchera, Blue Star juniper, variegated ivy, variegated hebe, Olivia St. Johns wort (berries), Rheingold arborvitae (the small, mounding goldenconifer behind the berries)

Cultural conditions i.e. how not to kill it

This combination will take full sun and is mostly winter hardy. (In milder areas of Seattle the hebe will remain evergreen  although I expect I’m a bit too cold in Duvall). The list. John’s wort will lose its leaves, and eventually its berries too but it will grow back next year. I have spring bulbs tucked underneath which will add color in the meantime. Just be sure the potting soil drains well and that the drainage holes on the pot aren’t blocked (unless you want a water feature).

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