Tag Archives: Color

Fine Foliage Fusion

It’s going to be a stunning spring day here in the Pacific Northwest and I’m thinking about shade combinations with pink foliage. All of these plants are on my back porch waiting for their starring role in my client’s landscapes and containers for the summer.

Obviously, there are still more choices to add to this for more contrast, but I wanted to focus on some of the amazing foliage at my fingertips today in this slim color profile. There’s an unending number of coleus and caladium options that I can add in here too, just too many to share today. What other pink foliage can you think of for a shade garden or container?

As I get ready to run out the door to get working, I hope you enjoy a quick little tour of the pink display I’m enjoying right outside my window until they get installed!

Cordyline fruticosa

Variegated Fuchsia Magellanica

Rex Begonia

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’

Hypoestes (Polka Dot plant)

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Pink Angel’

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Frankie’

Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’

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Emergent Fine Foliage for Spring

Whether it’s delicate spring ephemerals, gasp-inducing shrubs, perennials with personality or colorful ways with groundcovers if you keep your eyes open spring is sprouting all around you. I know in some of the colder parts of the country it might not feel that way right now, but Team Fine Foliage can at least entertain and keep your eyes busy while you wait for it!

The blue-green and silver tones of Trillium sessile’s camouflage patterned foliage will never fail to impress with its bold performance the minute it’s up and out of the ground. This plant is set for “all systems SHOW” from mid-March onward in the woodland garden where it can have some protection from the heat of later spring and summer. The flower ranges from mid-to deep red and is fragrant too!

Emergent Fine Foliage for Spring Commonly called the Lily of the Valley bush, Pieris is an amazingly versatile group of shrubs. From large to small, they often have quite showy new spring growth at about the same time as they flower with panicles of white, pink or almost red blooms. They have a sweet aroma that typifies the scent of spring for many people.

The top image shows Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’ with intense rosy pink new growth that stands out against the variegated foliage that it will fade back into come summer. A moderate sized plant, this one will mature at 2-4ft. tall and up to 5 ft. wide. in zones 6-8.

The bottom image shows one of the dwarf cultivars that might be either Pieris ‘Sarabande’ or ‘Cavatine’ which are both nearly identical except that ‘Sarabande’ is about 4x4ft tall and wide at maturity where ‘Cavatine’ is more likely going to be smaller at 2x2ft. tall and wide, but can get a bit larger under optimal circumstances. Either one is a winner with caramel and russet toned new growth in spring and constrasting pure white, fragrant flowers on glossy evergreen foliage year round.
Team Fine Foliage knows full well that not everyone can enjoy the plants in the barberry family the way we do in the Pacific Northwest due to its proclivity to procreate. But, if you live in areas where they are not invasive, you have a wealth of deer and rabbit resistant options to choose from in wonderful new spring growth. The one above is ‘Golden Rocket’ and we love it’s more vertical growth habit versus the rounded mounded types in gold. It produces little to no viable seed, so it’s a safe bet where invasiveness is in question. The stems where these beautiful little golden leaves emerge have a lovely reddish tone to them offering a nice contrast of another warm note on cool spring days. At 3-5 ft. tall and only 2ft. wide, it fits nicely in tight parts of the garden where you need that warm golden light. Contrasted with the blue-green foliage of the daffodils, it makes a beautiful spring scene that no varmints with bother!
The day that a gardener meets an iris named ‘Gerald Darby’ is an unforgettable moment indeed. I know it was for me. That utterly amazing purple new growth in spring hits you in the wallet because you’re often on the hunt for it thereafter! This new growth fades back to the medium green that is standard for iris x robusta, but it also features a respectable burst of purple blooms in June too. So this hardy perennial definitely earns its place even after the spring foliage show!
This unknown member of the Lilium family is boasting the most scrumptious bronze on the growth tips for spring, echoing the rich russet-red toned foliage in the background. It will fade back to a mid green before blooming, but it’s always worth noting when you see this kind of coloring as it might give hints as to the eventual tone and color of the blooms in summer too.
Last but not least on my little tour of fabulous spring foliage emerging right now is this simple little Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’ that’s here to teach us to stop and look down loooooow once in a while and notice the lowly little groundcover screaming to get our attention! The cool spring weather lends it that shock of bright pink glowing on the margins and will fade back a bit in summer to a still lively three-way color combo. Drought tolerant and polite, this little mat-forming succulent blooms from late spring to mid-summer. I love to use this one at the edges of combo pots that might not get watered as religiously as most containers would want and it thrives!

Hopefully, these few tidbits gave you the urge to go out and find spring in your area if you can and if it’s still too cold, hang tight! Team Fine Foliage is posting on FB daily. 🙂

If you need still more inspiration, be sure to click the follow button to play along with us here regularly and then, of course, click here to see our latest book Gardening with Foliage First!

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One Can’t Exist on Fine Foliage Color Alone

PowellsWood Garden, Federal Way, Washington

A spectacular winter scene at PowellsWood garden in Federal Way Washington.

When we wrote the original book Fine Foliage, we knew that addressing all of the other components of strong foliage based design would need extra focus in the follow-up book Gardening with Foliage First. Twigs, berries, bark, thorns, rock, art, color echoes, and so much more were some of the things we touch on in that book in a multitude of ways.

When I was out photographing in the drizzle of a late winter day, this vignette nearly took my breath away as it exemplifies so much of what we were trying to describe. The magnolia that takes center stage here utterly glows with gold lichen and swelling glittery silver flower buds.
We like to re-enforce for all of you foliage fans just how important noticing these types of details can be to design work in your own landscape.

Another classic point we like to emphasize often is how your eye moves through a landscape scene with color. Even on a cold, rainy day, color directs the eye where you want it to focus. The large maple in the background is largely responsible for why this magnolia stands out the way it does. Then your eye naturally sees the showy red-twig dogwood shrub to far left and then circles down to notice the orange new growth on the spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’ below it on the right.

In some of my research on color and design, one technique that I have learned and still employ in my own design work is to think of leading the eye in the pattern of a lower case “e”. If you start your “e” from the magnolia and curve it around to the maple, then over to the dogwood shrub and down to the spiraea, you can see the “e”!

The warm glow these colors provided on a wet gloomy day here in the Great Pacific North-Wet was welcome indeed and I hope you enjoyed it too!

As of today, it’s only 21 days until SPRING!!  Follow along with Team Fine Foliage to see what we have up our sleeves for spring and summer by clicking the subscribe button!

Need more foliage in your hot little hands? Then click here to order our books Fine Foliage and our latest Gardening with Foliage First! 

Easy Care Foliage for Late Winter

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Conifers bring color and form to the winter landscape: Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (foreground) with Wissel’s Saguaro Port Orford cedar (background) are two favorites. Both began life as 1g container plants.

Here in the Seattle area we have transitioned from endless rain  to  frosty mornings followed by chilly but sunny afternoons – perfect for gardening!

I’m still cleaning up the last of the leaves which managed to weld themselves into the twiggy structures of deciduous shrubs and trees, and stomping down endless mole hills (a bizarre dance which our new 14 week old puppy finds very entertaining!)

Being outside yesterday also gave me the opportunity to appreciate anew those shrubs that offer so much value in late winter with their colorful foliage, unique textures, and varying form yet require minimal maintenance.

Here are my personal favorites:

Best Low Maintenance Conifers

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Frosted, silvery-blue dwarf Arizona corkbark fir plays against golden foliage.

The more conifers I grow the more I love them. Smaller specimens make ideal centerpieces in year round containers; a great way to save money when you eventually transplant them into the garden. That’s exactly how I came to have a mature Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’) in my garden. It started as a one gallon container plant in 2010 and is now approximately 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide – a stunning, glowing focal point. Likewise Mr. Wissel as he is affectionately known, or more correctly Wissel’s Saguaro Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsonianna ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’) began as a skinny blue-green conifer in a pot but now is also 8 feet tall or so, although the deer have spoiled the cactus like appearance somewhat after rubbing against him. Regardless, he still adds a statuesque presence to the winter garden – you can see them both in winter designs in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First.

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Quart sized conifers start off in a container garden: Blue Star juniper and Rheingold arborvitae

Other favorites for their easy care attitude are steel-blue Blue Star juniper, Rheingold arborvitae that transitions from chartreuse to mid-green to deep orange, dwarf  Arizona corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa ‘Glauca Compacta’) – a gorgeous silvery blue with a dense, compact shape, and  Sungold thread-branch cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera ‘Sungold’) which creates a mop-like mound of golden yellow foliage that looks fabulous next to broadleaf, dark green evergreens such as  camellias.

All these conifers are low maintenance as they require no pruning for shape, size or color and do not shed needles (the way pines do for example). In my garden they are all deer resistant although I suspect the Rheingold arborvitae has just been lucky so far and Mr. Wissel was pressed into service as a rubbing post as I mentioned earlier.

Best Easy-Care Evergreen Shrubs

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Tucking a small Rainbow drooping fetterbush (at 9 o’clock) into a container design is a fun and inexpensive way to grow your shrub collection. Photographed in fall

For me to consider an evergreen shrub worth growing, pruning should not be a necessary part of its management either for shape, size control or best color, and I also expect it to be disease resistant. Since foliage interest is key to all my designs it should also have great leaf color with bonus points for seasonal color variation and double points if it also blooms.

As if those criteria weren’t tough enough, I also have to ensure deer resistance and drought tolerance once they are established.

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Winter color on Rainbow drooping fetterbush

A top winner for me is Rainbow drooping fetterbush with its chameleon-like color change from summer green/cream to winter deep red. It has a fabulous, arching form and spring flowers too! Start it off small in a container design then transplant it to the garden if you only see small sizes at the nursery. Scarletta is another great variety with deep ruby-red color.

Oregon grape (Mahonia sp.) is a star genus year round in the garden and there are many species and cultivars to choose from including tall, upright growing varieties such as Charity and a low growing, native ground cover. Yellow blooms attract hummingbirds, the blue berries that follow are edible, while the dark green holly-like foliage is welcome for its architectural status in the garden. The foliage of the ground cover form (creeping Oregon grape) even changes to deep purple in winter – wow!

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Twiggy box honeysuckle introduces an intriguing texture behind the red barberries. (Combination photographed at Bellevue Botanical Garden)

Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida cvs.); from the larger Baggesen’s Gold and Red Tips to the shorter and more compact Twiggy I love them all for their finely textured foliage and great color. I personally think the larger forms are best allowed to tumble in an informal mound although they do take well to shearing. For smaller spaces stick to Twiggy and skip the size control issues. In exceptionally cold winters these may lose some leaves but generally come through just fine in my 6b garden.

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Hedgehog holly is a sterile option if you cannot grow English holly – and look at that color!

If you like variegated English holly but it is invasive in your area, you might like the Hedgehog holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ ) same great color but a sterile clone.I think the extra spines on the leaves make it truly fascinating.

Milder gardens may also enjoy distyllium (e.g. Cinnamon Girl) and Goshiki Japanese false holly. I grow both although the tips sometimes suffer frost damage, although the shrubs eventually grow through that.

More resources and ideas

There are so many great plants out there yet I know it can be challenging to select plants that aren’t going to be a maintenance nightmare. Good news – I’ve created a short, inexpensive online course to help you called

Secrets to Selecting Low Maintenance Plants!

Sorry – open registration has now CLOSED.

Secrets to Selecting Low Maintenance Plants

This course is currently only being offered to new subscribers of my newsletter. You are welcome to sign up here (and receive a free gift!)

 

And of course we always have lots of ideas for you on our Facebook page!

Disclaimer: this page contains affiliate links

Dynamic Fall Texture with Zebra Grass

Whether you choose the full-sized Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) that grows 5-8ft. tall or the dwarf form that stays much shorter and more compact, Zebra grass is a wonderful addition to the fall landscape. The horizontal bands of cream on green are striking under gray skies, adding tons of character.

As the autumn temperatures cool, this clump-forming grass begins to turn soft gold. And if it’s allowed to stay without pruning through winter, you will be rewarded with handsome beige color as well as crown protection in cold climates.

Using contrasting and complimentary grasses to balance this one is a nice design choice where this grass is SO striking that you don’t generally need masses of them to stand out. The copper/pink flowering tips hold up well for fall arrangements too!

Here’s a link for more information on Zebra Grass. 

For more foliage based design ideas check THIS out! And be sure to sign up to receive more leafy goodness in your email by clicking the button to sign up for more posts from Team Fine Foliage! 

 

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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! 

Team Fine Foliage- ZOOM! Designers on the Run!

This is the part of the post where you should be inserting the tune from Paul McCartney and Wings “Band on the Run”  in honor of two designers who are literally crisscrossing the country, and multiple continents too!

The last time we checked in with you we were in process of developing our amazing shots taken at the test trial gardens home of Proven Winners, so we HAD to post this one as soon as we saw it because it is such a wonderful example of what we mean by “Gardening with Foliage First”.

The background layer features bold and sumptuous gold foliage from a new favorite of mine for sure ‘Glow Girl’ Birchleaf Spirea. I am SO impressed with this plant! Here you can plainly see how nicely the glow shows off the soft lavender blooms of Buddleja Alternifolia and it’s silvery foliage. Gold and purple are always friendly pairings in the landscape!

This little tidbit of tendril goodness is about all we have time for at the moment until one of us lands and can wax more poetically on design and foliage. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed! Off we zoom again- Cheers until later!  May your foliage be wondrous and your book buying heavy!

The Foliage Backstory

Savvy Solution – as featured in Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

We’re delighted to hear that you have been enjoying our new book Gardening with Foliage First – thank you for all your encouraging messages telling us how  inspiring the combinations have been!

Behind every published combination there were typically several dozen images taken from unique perspectives or framed in different ways. You see even when we knew we had found an exciting vignette, it often took a few attempts to  discover the best way to present it to you. With that in mind, we thought you might enjoy this ‘behind the scenes’ peek at the evolution of  Savvy Solution  discovered in Mary Palmer’s  garden in Snohomish, WA.

Initial inspiration

Walking down one of several intriguing pathways, this scene is what initially caught my eye:

Stopped in my tracks by this Foliage First combo

I was struck by the color echo between the variegated Color Guard yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’), golden juniper and acid-yellow blooms of the spurge (Euphorbia), all contrasting with the dark red barberry and framing a triumphant explosion of blue sea holly (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’). Yet this angle seemed a little too busy, the horizontal roof line was distracting, the bare tree-trunks were rather too dominant, plus I was tantalized by glimpses of a large, silver leaf hiding behind the spurge, so I continued a little farther down the path.

Hidden Treasures

Soft and spiky – a great textural treat just waiting to be discovered

Now I could see what I’d been missing and fell in love with the steroidal, silvery foliage of yellow mullein (Verbasum epixanthinum). What fun to see the sea holly valiantly poking through those velvety leaves!

However this was just one part of a much wider scene that now opened up.

Too much of a good thing?

This is where this member of Team Fine Foliage had to be resuscitated with a recuperative glass of wine – WOW! Where to begin? From this perspective I could still appreciate the relationship between the yucca, spurge, sea holly, barberry and mullein but now there was a tall dark-leaved daphne (Daphne houtteana) and a golden incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens Berrima Gold), joining in the fun. Success? Not quite – I could live with the glimpse of the home’s roofline – but not the landscapers red truck visible through the stems. There also seemed to be too many vertical lines confusing the story in the upper left quadrant

The final cut

So a slight angle change and a final re-framing was called for, to focus the story on the key plants – and Savvy Solution was born.

As we tell you in our book “If you want drama without the dramatics, this may be your answer. Thriving in poor, dry soil and a sun-drenched site, this trio will reward you with color, fragrance, foliage and flowers. The juxtaposition of soft and spiky textures with the alluring color scheme of silver, blue and yellow creates a memorable combination. All three plants are deer resistant and drought tolerant, making them a wise choice for many landscapes.

To get information on how this design will evolve over time as well as full plant profiles just turn to pages 24-25. Then enjoy the other 126 combinations we found for you!

Did you know?

The Royal Horticultural Society recommended Gardening with Foliage First in their latest RHS Garden magazine (May issue) ? They also included it in their spring books promotion throughout their shops and mail-order service! A huge honor and one that the British half of Team Fine Foliage is especially appreciative of 🙂

Meanwhile it continues to rock the Amazon charts on this side of the Pond – have you got YOUR copy yet?

 

 

 

Luscious Layers with Foliage First

We have earned the right to whine a bit about our weather here in the Seattle area lately with record-setting rains the likes of which have not been seen since records were kept in this area. The gardens are all in quite a state of shock and disorientation, so when I went to look back at this date last year, it was quite amazing to fathom the variance!
Hostas and Saxifrage are Luscious Layers with Foliage FirstI found this shot in last years file for this same week in 2016 photographed in an amazing garden called PowellsWood. This garden is very close to my heart as they spoil me SO much as a designer and a photographer. But, also because it’s an exquisite gem of a garden.

Just look at those layers of hosta fern, grass and ‘Variegata’ saxifrage in full blooming glory for spring! So what’s the design recipe here? Add one white variegated hosta, one solid blue hosta, and marbled golden saxifrage WITH the graceful show of spring flowers. Following those saxifrage blooms will be the hosta flowers and now you have a recipe that Team Fine Foliage and Foliage First would say is a BIG winner for demonstrating how to have luscious layers in the shade garden this year. The ferns and grass are bonus elements!

With some luck and possibly a drought we may be slightly less damp in July than we are today. But, I still have to shave the moss on my legs this week! 😉

Is it time for you to tackle that less-than-stellar shade garden? You’ll get lots more ideas for plant combinations that put Foliage First in our two books.

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Gray Skies + HOT Foliage = Landscape Design Psych-Out

Damp Desert, Succulents in the Rain

Rainy day at the Huntington Botanical Garden

The Pacific Northwest would typically see 3.5 inches of rain in March, we are currently looking down the barrel of the umbrella gun at 7.5 inches by Friday when we are finally expected to see only our 8th day of dry weather since October. Not cool Mother Nature, not cool indeed!

I have officially dubbed the “Emerald City” now part of the Great Pacific “North-Wet” now. You may scoff and say “But, it’s Seattle, it’s always rainy there!” To a degree, you’d be right, but in reality, we are part of a larger drought zone for most of the year, it’s just that the gray skies for long periods tend to overshadow the spectacularly sunny days that we REALLY hide from outsiders. Well, I guess except the 80,000 who have been moving here every year.

So, what is a gardener who is sitting in front of one of those special “sun” lights to do to keep from going horticulturally “postal” to do? You have to make sun where there isn’t any with HOT foliage designs. Use those hot colors to warm up a space and psych yourself out at least for early spring.

Hellebore, Epimedium, Spring Foliage
Get at least one warm toned color to accompany whatever else might be going on in a design and voila, instant warmth! I see SO many bleak, monotone landscapes that are all brown and gray in my travels, I just don’t buy into the idea that there aren’t options to brighten things up and add a splash of sun.

I truly realize that we are FULLY spoiled for options here in the Great Pacific “North-Wet” but even in colder climates across the country, there are ways with Fine Foliage! It doesn’t have to be huge, fancy, rare or even unique, but there are options besides living with the gloom.

Gold Pine at the Rotary Botanic Garden

Pinus strobus ‘Hillside Winter Gold’ (white pine) at the Rotary Botanic Garden.

Chief Joseph PineJust yesterday I was adding some Sedum ‘Angelina’ still flushed with her winter orange to a client’s garden and was amazed at what a happy, bright note it added to the whole bed I was designing. A HUGE difference, though I was planting in rain gear while standing in mud. 🙂
Sedum 'Angelina' As we leave the warm, dry fireside of winter and venture out into the spring landscape, we need to look for ways we can create energy and excitement until the full force of spring hits. The winter-blooming camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ below is paired with the shrub dogwood ‘Mid-Winter Fire’ to a great warming effect here.

Cornus 'Mid-Winter Fire', Camellia Sasanqua 'Yuletide'
I’m a sucker for the new growth on Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’ in the landscape with just about anything. The variegated foliage and blooms are always interesting, but that HOT coral new growth is dee-vine!

Pieris 'Flaming Silver'
Calluna vulgaris, springThis Calluna vulgaris offers up a jolt of excitement with those flaming red new growth tips in spring!

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' Even soaking wet, the Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ offers up a bit of warm toned foliage goodness right now!

I’ll be prepping for shorts and tank tops planting season soon when I will also post about adding “Cool Color” to hot spots in the landscape too. But, right now I have to go shave the moss on my legs.

Moss Garden
What will YOU do to bring warmth to your garden for spring?

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