Tag Archives: Black Mondo Grass

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors

If there is one thing Team Fine Foliage knows for sure, it’s that our gray Pacific Northwest climate requires careful planning when it comes to designing beds, borders and landscapes of all sizes for the right balance of plants to anchor the garden year round. As we head into the fall and winter seemingly faster than normal this year, we begin to analyze our past choices and new options with a bit more urgency so that we can have our spring plans ready as well as tweaking old ideas to make room for new ones.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsWhile visiting the positively luscious PowellsWood Garden recently, it was incredible to analyze the use of foliage plants to act as a ballast to hold down the scenes around the garden of fluffy, billowy, blooming perennials and shrubs arranged so carefully to lead you from one space to the next. Lead designer Rick Serazin is incredibly brilliant. He has an eye for details and a use of foliage that keeps us coming back for more!

The hardy banana above boldly grips this scene with its wide tropical leaves for your eye to wander down to the medium textured Mediterranean fan palms on both sides of the Rhamnus ‘Fine Line’ that provides a lacy texture and strong vertical line. Then the ribbon of ‘Orange Rocket’ barberries creates a horizontal band across the middle giving a fantastic orange glow for the intensely white leaves of the (new to the market as of 2014 ) Stachys ‘Bello Grigio’ to stand out against. A carpet of annual bacopa ‘Calypso Jumbo Lavender’ across the bottom of this setting adds the floral element for all of this incredible foliage to stand out against.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsWhen phormium or New Zealand Flax was the HOT new plant, we couldn’t get enough of every new color, shape and size that came out every year. Now after some experimentation, some failures due to climate, soil and critters, we designers might be a bit more discerning about spending our precious dollars on certain new plants. And then THIS happened….Astelia came to market and now we’re hooked once again. 🙂

In the photo above, you can see Astelia nervosa ‘Westland’ holding down this small bed where black mondo grass fills in around it making a frame to show off the interesting color of this particular astelia. This silver bladed grass-like plant has a subtle hint of rusty-red and a little burgundy that gives it some interesting tonal effects. Plus, the way that it stands up tall and erect is very effective and helps to lead the eye up the hedgerow to the stairs that lead you under the vine-covered arbor in the distance.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsThe same Astelia ‘Westland’ mentioned earlier adorns this small dry stream bed in the partial shade with other foliage plants and acts as the main player in this scene while ground covers and other grasses are still maturing.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsObviously our notoriously easy maritime climate is milder and allows us much more flexibility in our plant choices than most locations around the country, but the photo above is a great way to take a design idea and riff on it with your own colder climate plant options.

The design take-away here is that the upright and very blue pine in the center of this shot “anchors” the billowy summer blooming shrubs and perennials around it, keeping them from feeling as if this border is going to almost float-away. Plus, giving us some colorful winter interest to hold our eye later in the year. So what shrubs could you substitute in your climate for plants like the hardy fuchsia shown here?

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsPowellsWood takes great pride in making sure that they have BIG BOLD color for summer and this is just one inspiring example of how they do that so well. But, from a design standpoint, just look at the skillful use of foliage here! At the base of all of that blooming perennial glory sits a blanket of Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’ ground cover where the designer inserted fancy geraniums that feature intense gold foliage. The energy of the gold and black high-contrast combination were spaced beautifully and allowed the flowery border to have some “breathing space” where the eye can rest.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors
The bright gold of ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac draws your eye in like a beacon to this intensely detailed and colorful border. Big leaves from the tropical red banana are a great contrast to the finely cut foliage of the sumac while the extraordinary blue of the ‘Blue Chalk Fingers’ or ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’ (Senecio mandraliscae) leads you to gaze down low at the foliage color opposite the color wheel from yellow or gold that MAKES this setting extraordinary.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage Anchors
Could this incredibly blue succulent be something more hardy for your garden location? ‘Blue Star’ juniper? ‘Blue Rug’ juniper? Blue Oat grass or the smaller blue fescue grass? No matter which idea works bets for you, the design function of the blue foliage works beautifully here against the gold spreading yew in the center and the variegated leaves of the ‘Gilt Edge’ Elaeagnus at the back.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsSo much fabulous foliage in one space! From the ‘Feelin Blue’ deodor cedar in the center the creeping blue juniper on the far left, to the tender summer foliage of the stachys mentioned earlier and the brand new ‘Meerlo’ lavender with dreamy cream variegation and fragrance, there are so many ideas here! The weeping blue conifer is an excellent choice to anchor this bed, while the red/orange tones of the heuchera in the center are the perfect color to echo the annual cigar or firecracker plant (cuphea ignea) and the lavender bacopa and verbena up on the wall.

New Ideas for Interesting Foliage AnchorsThe classical color contrast of gold and purple are so well done in this raised wall garden. The gold spreading yew and blue creeping juniper gives this scene a couple of showy evergreen anchors for the winter months while the swath of columnar ‘Karl Foerster’ grasses are sensational for late summer.
Way to go PowellsWood garden!

Want more ideas?

Well you may want to pre-order our new book Gardening with Foliage First because there is a HUGE section of ideas just for fall and winter including container designs!

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Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Cover Some Ground with Fine FoliageGround covers are a fun and easy way to get a full garden look with great foliage plants. You can try small pots of plants that you might not have considered before with little investment. Or go all out with swaths of one plant en masse. Even container designs offer options for testing out ground covers that might appeal to you.

This week, Team Fine Foliage wants you to take a look at what amazing ground cover can do for your garden with showy foliage for many exposures and types of locations through the entire year. Whether your style leans to naturalistic, formal or eclectic, there are ground cover options that will help you make your garden more low maintenance, colorful and full of texture.

The 'Purple Haze' Acaena MAKES this combination!

The ‘Purple Haze’ Acaena MAKES this combination!

When we design garden or landscape it can be a little like furnishing a room. You need to understand the scale of your garden room, then you can choose the right sized “furnishings”, like your trees, shrubs and larger perennials. Then it’s time to “accessorize” with perennials that bring on the flower show, containers of showy mixtures and maybe some garden art or furniture to add the final touches.

Colorful Heath's and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

Colorful Heath’s and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

But, what about the garden floor? Adding in the ground cover is the touch that truly makes the picture complete, fills in the gaps and odd corners, softens the hard edges and often brings the intangible that completes a design.

Take a stroll through some lovely ground cover options and see if you don’t agree that adding the final element of ground cover makes a BIG difference in the big picture for your designs.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover in a shady nook.

Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Sedum hybrida ‘Immergrunchen’ creates a golden uplight under this ‘Kamagata’ Japanese maple.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Lysimachia 'Persian Carpet' makes a dramatic paring contrasted with silver euphorbia 'Rigida' foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Lysimachia ‘Persian Carpet’ makes a dramatic pairing contrasted with silver euphorbia ‘Rigida’ foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

From spring to winter there is a Fine Foliage ground cover that suits every design style and location. What are your favorite ground covers?

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The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

TEAM Fine Foliage is having a crazy busy spring week right now. We are both speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show this week as well as running our own business’, writing our new book, traveling, making videos, having a kitchen makeover and on and on and on….So I thought it would be entertaining to post a whole bunch of juicy photos that illustrate some of the amazing foliage and bare winter branches that I have seen recently. Some of them are everyday plants used in unique ways and some are “Holy Cow” plant moments where you exclaim, I NEEEEEEEEED that!

Since Valentines Day is this week, you will find some Fine Foliage Valentines at the end of the post too! Enjoy and share this post with YOUR sweetie this week if you can’t be at the show to say “Hi” to both of us!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

The blue toned foliage of this Euphorbia paired with the blue fronds of the yucca make a fine textural contrast. The orange toned euphorbia blooms will be stunning!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Gardeners frequently underestimate the power color in evergreen trees this time of the year. Here Cryptomeria japonica and Gold Cypress make a handsome pair on a sunny late winter morning.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Another spectacular euphorbia! This Euphorbia ‘rigida’ is expertly paired with ‘Lemon Wave’ Phormium and boxwood as seen outside Pomarius nursery in Portland, Oregon.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Mahonia gracilipes in its beautiful late winter red, gracefully arches over Black Mondo grass.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Gold willows are woven artistically and draw the attention away from the concrete slab below. Seen at McMenamin’s Edgefield outside of Portland, Oregon.

The Hottest Looks Foliage February 2015

Bamboo stems are a colorful art piece for the wide variety of colors that look so dramatic against a white wall.

The Hottest Looks Foliage February 2015

‘Ebony Pearl’ Rhododendron is not even in bloom and it’s a fashionista just for the amazing foliage!!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Two conifers showing off complimentary winter colors make a great pair! ‘Rheingold’ arborvitae and ‘Golden Fernspray’ cypress.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Now THIS is some RED just in time for Valentine Day. A Red Twig Dogwood shrub is the one that takes a backseat in this couples duo with native mahonia aquifolium in some outstanding winter color.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Team Fine Foliage affectionately calls him “MR. Wissel” around here (we have no idea why, but it fits) for ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ cypress, a BIG favorite of ours. He definitely takes center stage as the star that he is in this vignette.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Daphniphyllum macropodum as of yet has no common name but whatever you want to call it, I call it spectacular!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Variegated Daphniphyllum….sigh…..want!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Metapanex delavayi is a stunner here as the centerpiece of this bed. Sharing the limelight are Hellebore that echoes that incredible foliage color.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

A Valentine Day buffet of Heuchera foliage colors!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

A 14ft. tall succulent Valentine is the PERFECT idea for your sweetie! Created by Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens.

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April 2012 Foliage and Blooms 572 copy

Focusing in the Dark

No night vision goggles are needed here with these foliage plants. Though you do want see them up close and personal. Dark leaved plants are HOT in garden and landscape design and only getting hotter!

Garden designers, TV Shows, Magazines and Botanic Gardens across the country are all talking about this craze. Now that its been a few years, new dark leaved plants are coming out to try every season from fabulous breeders across the globe. Here’s a juicy showing of a few of our good old stand-by’s and some new favorites at Fine Foliage.

April 2012 Foliage and Blooms 572 copy

‘Gold Heart’ Bleeding Heart is paired with Actea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (Formerly Cimicifuga) and Lamium ‘Ghost’ in this high octane combination. Actea has the added bonus of fragrant white flowers that sway in the breeze so beautifully!

Just imagine the moody possibilities of design with these HIGH contrast colors. With purest and pristine white your design would be THE MOST on trend since black and white is the hottest thing on the fashion catwalk right now! Raaaahr!

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With black, charcoal, ebony, jet, onyx, raven, sable, shadow, slate the options for dark foliage are nearly endless. But, we should also look at the other superstars of deep toned foliage options like burgundy, deep reds, deep purples too.

July 2012 OFA and Franklin Conservatory 177 copy
This rich, dark mocha colored coleus is paired up with a lovely Carex that acts as a highlighter with the dark foliage focus. And THAT is the key thing to note when using darker foliage colors in the garden. Its the old adage about dark colors receding and light colors coming forward. You want to make sure you have some kind of contrasting color that makes those deep tones shine.
Zingiber 'Midnight Ginger'
Photo Courtesy of Hort Couture
This dramatic Zingiber ‘Midnight Ginger’ is quite showy on its own because of that snow white container.
The matte black ruffled foliage of this Coleus from Hort Couture is called 'Black Rambler'Photo courtesy of Hort Couture

Photo courtesy of Hort Couture

The matte black ruffled foliage of this Coleus from Hort Couture is called ‘Black Rambler’
The bright grass green container makes a lovely contrast to this color.

How about dark moody colors with BOLD variegation? You can have that in a design whether its in shade or sun with these plants.

Begonia Hybrid 'Connie Boswell' at Peace Tree Farm.

Begonia Hybrid ‘Connie Boswell’ at Peace Tree Farm.

Magnificent trailing Begonia at Longwood Gardens.

Magnificent trailing Begonia at Longwood Gardens.

More Begonia’s to ogle from Peace Tree Farm….
Copy of July 2011 Peace Tree Farm 087 copy
Copy of July 2011 Peace Tree Farm 250 copy

July 2011 Peace Tree Farm 231 copy

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 Carex 'Toffee Twist'

Carex ‘Toffee Twist’

Grass like this Carex often get lovely deepened color in late fall and winter as this one did and with the unusual ‘Autumn Fern’ frond making its way up in the late season right next to it, that accentuated the drama even more!

June 2012 Foliage and Bloom 059 copy

Taken in the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, this photo featuring the pairing of ‘Black Mondo’ Grass with a weeping Japanese Maple are texturally striking in a soft and touchable way. But, the mix of the licorice and almost chocolate tones together are simply deee-liscious!

When you consider what colors of foliage you want in your garden this season, think about adding some of the bolder, darker more romantic or mysterious foliage in deeper tones this season. Shine a light in those dark places – a BLACK LIGHT that is!

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