Tag Archives: conifer

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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Simple, Straightforward and Serene Foliage

Sweet, Simple and Serene FoliageAs Team Fine Foliage recovers from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show week, the official launch to the local gardening public of Gardening with Foliage First and as of today Karen Chapman is officially a “Nana”, we’re truly in recovery. So this post about “simplicity” seemed SO appropriate right now. 🙂

This shot above from the show last week was taken from the garden designed by Nature Perfect Landscape and Design, it was a crowd favorite for sure! But, for our purposes today, I’m only showing you this small portion of it even though there was MUCH more to it.

So why DOES this work so beautifully? It was SIMPLE! Groundcover plants were strategically used in this geometric patio design along with polished river rock and pavers. Small ‘Gold Moss’ stonecrop positively glows in this setting and having the black mondo grass as a contrast along with one of the many shades of Club Moss lining the wood pile/boulder seating space make it almost a magical detail that drew many many raves.

Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageThis small section from a garden design at the show also provided a great lesson in simplicity. Using golden sweet flag grass in multiples as a groundcover in this space looked sophisticated and would stay low around the spheres and dwarf rhododendrons. Designed by Jefferson Sustainable Landscape Management and Avid Landscape Design, the other elements in this display were fantastic as well!
Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageLast but certainly NOT least is “Mid-Mod-Mad….It’s Cocktail Hour in the Garden” another of my very favorite award-winning designs at the show from creator Father Nature Landscapes and designer Sue Goetz. Though I’m not showing you all of the display here, to further our point on simplicity, this one is a very good showing!

Proving the point that you don’t need 800 different types of plant material to have an excellent design. Sue chose to use lots and lots of Orange Sedge to surround and fill this space and bring your eye to the fire bowl, seating area and water feature in the background. Water loving umbrella grass sits in the water giving a nice vertical look on the colorful wall.

There you have a quick look at simple and serene ideas for using foliage repetition with a small palette of plants. Hope you enjoyed a few photos from the show, I’m sure you will see MANY more in future posts.

Cheers to catching our breath!

If you liked this post and want to see more ideas in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First that’s burning up the charts 🙂 Click here! 

Fine Foliage Dusted with Snow

My front sidewalk lined with alternating dwarf barberry and euonymus and powdered sugar like snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had our first little snow event in the Seattle area this morning, so I just wanted to share a few shots of the lovely foliage. Well, the foliage close enough to while still in my jammies. 🙂

Nandina 'Gulf Stream' peeking up through the snow and showing her jaunty red in the white landscape this morning.

Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’ peeking up through the snow and showing her jaunty red in the white landscape this morning.

The tips on this little half-high blueberry in the pots that mark my front entry walk are beautiful in every month of the year. AND you get fruit!

The tips on this little half-high blueberry in the pots that mark my front entry walk are beautiful in every month of the year. AND you get fruit!

The foliage of sedum 'Angelina' go from gold to lime in winter. I LOVE how it looks in the lavender pot against the coral bells truly purple foliage ('Forever Purple').

The foliage of sedum ‘Angelina’ go from gold to lime in winter. I LOVE how it looks in the lavender pot against the coral bells grape- purple foliage (‘Forever Purple’).

Euonymous 'Silver King' holds up like a champ in all kinds of weather and the gold shows up so well too!

Euonymus ‘Silver King’ holds up like a champ in all kinds of weather and the gold shows up so well too!

Fine Foliage Dusted with Snow

Certain textures like this hebe are quite exaggerated with the snowy backdrop.

THIS is why I planted a variegated holly!

THIS is why I planted a variegated holly!

This 'Threadleaf' nandina looked SO pretty in the melting snow.

This ‘Threadleaf’ nandina looked SO lovely in the melting snow.

The stems where once intensely colored blue berries on this viburnum 'Davidii' reveal a rosy pink in the snow.

The stems where once intensely colored blue berries on this viburnum ‘Davidii’ reveal a rosy pink in the snow.

One of my favorite plants, Euphorbia 'Silver Swan' looks great in the snow too. I love that blue!

One of my favorite plants, Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ looks great in the snow too. I love that blue!

Speaking of BLUE! This chamaecyperis is one of the bluest blues year round and looks great against the hydrangeas for most of the year, even with the dried flowers.

Speaking of BLUE! This chamaecyperis is one of the bluest blues year round and looks great against the hydrangeas for most of the year, even with the dried flowers.

The snow capped seed heads in black and brown of the Ninebark look neat weeping over under the weight of snow.

The snow capped seed heads in black and brown of the Ninebark look neat weeping over under the weight of snow.

Mexican Orange is not feeling like summer right now, but the golden glow of this evergreen foliage still brings us a bit of sun.

This Mexican Orange is not feeling like summer right now, but the golden glow of this evergreen foliage still brings us a bit of sun.

Since our new book "Gardening with Foliage First" is due out very soon, we feature berries, bark and all of the wonderful things that partner WITH great foliage. These bright red wintergreen berries are a wonderful example for winter.

Since our new book “Gardening with Foliage First” is due out very soon, we feature berries, bark and all of the beautiful things that partner WITH great foliage. These bright red wintergreen berries are an excellent example for winter.

 

Ready for winter now? This is a good time to be inside and taking stock of your winter landscape to see how everything looks in the colder months and where you can tweak or add some more interest to your garden of foliage.

If you’re still doing some holiday shopping, consider (click the link) pre-ordering “Gardening with Foliage First” for the gardeners on your list and they will get it just after the New Year to begin planning their landscape for 2017!

Happy Holidays, CHEERS!

 

 

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.

Five Reasons Why We’re in Love with Fall Foliage

Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThere are all of the text book, expected reasons to love fall foliage of course. But, we like to keep you on your toes with ideas and combinations that might stretch your design muscles. Even friendly partners of fall foliage counts!

Five Reason Why We We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 1:  The awe-inspiring world of conifers for fall. No matter where you live there are incredible options to feature conifers in the landscape year round. From diminutive to giant, there is an incredible conifer option to fill every situation. Whether a Lemon Cypress or the Italian Cypress as above, exclamation points are helpful when making design points.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageGold is something that we often talk about in this blog. When it comes to conifers, gold can be a stylish and showy option in a cold climate for fall. It stands out beautifully against anything you show it against. Many gardeners don’t realize that there are even conifers that change color in the fall and winter. Cryptomeria is one of our favorites that turns a lovely burnished red in autumn.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage Number 2: Now add grasses to your conifers and fall landscapes and you get even more design inspiration options! This Little Bluestem grass is the MOST divine color in fall against the blue of the Weeping blue Atlas Cedar.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThese golden arborvitae are another way to show off the extraordinary color of the Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) grass in autumn.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage We also love the tall blond amazingness that is Karl Foerster grass that brings such a strict verticality to the lateral structure of this pine.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage The fluffy puffiness of this stipa is an interesting echo of shapes against the weeping Japanese maple in the background.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 3: When late season perennials show off great seed heads that are SO perfect against fall foliage, it’s an easy win-win. Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia) are a natural choice for a prolific and easy flowering perennial.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageAstilbe seed heads are one of Team Fine Foliage favorites, shown here against the incredible coral toned bark of the ‘Pacific Fire’ Vine Maple.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 4: Evergreen plants that change color! WHAAATTTTT? Yes indeed there are many hardy, evergreen plants that DO change color in fall and winter and the Calluna vulgaris above is  just one of those options. These fall into the group of plants many of you might know as heath’s and heathers. They come in a rainbow of colors and many change dramatically in fall and winter.
Five reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThe heaths and heathers that change color SO well in fall and winter are also late season bloomers. One more reason to love them!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageOrange and blue are an unexpected fall and winter combo to be sure!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageSedum ‘Angelina’ is a top performer, possibly even a little “too easy” at times, but for all of her potential flaws she has some excellent qualities too. We adore her burnished apricot tones in fall and winter and rely on them after she is done with her audacious chartreuse performance in spring and summer.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 5: Try the not-so-obvious choices for fall and winter interest! This soft leaf yucca lends a tropical feeling and a green-blue color that pairs so well with the traditional fall colors.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage Speaking of blue! This Donkey-tail Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) is an amazing blue textural interest. Mixed here with Sedum ‘Angelina’ before she shows off her russet tones in the cold weather to come, we can still get a taste of that soon to be color when we focus on the INCREDIBLE peeling bark of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in this combo.
Five Reasosn Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageWant to have some function to your fall fashion? Well then grapes might be an excellent way for you to get your fall color and eat it too! These happen to be an ornamental form of the typical edible vine, but you can still eat these grapes though they are smaller.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageLayer, layer layer! Whether evergreen, grassy, seeded or for the sheer personality of it all, get out there and fall in love with some new ideas for autumn!

Want to know about what Team Fine Foliage thinks about designing with foliage though all four seasons? Then you came to the right place! Click here for more info on our upcoming book coming out in early 2017 from Timber Press titled “Gardening with Foliage First”. 

If you aren’t already enjoying our weekly wit and design wisdom then you NEED to click that button over there >>>>>>>>> to get Fine Foliage delivered to your email easy-peasy like! 🙂

New Introductions – New Favorites

I am always excited to see what new plants growers are offering, especially if they have fabulous foliage. Bonus points for deer resistance! Reading about them is only half the story, however. Actually growing them in my own landscape and/or containers is the true test as to whether I recommend them to you or use them in future designs for clients. Here they have to deal with deer, rabbits, lack of irrigation, squishing into pots or neglect. The latter is never intentional but I must admit I do sometimes put smaller test plants into ‘corners’ and promptly forget about them. It’s a wonderful surprise to discover them a few months later and see the plants thriving!

These are a few of the shrubs and perennials I have been testing in my own garden this summer.

Summer Ruffle Hibiscus

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Hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

There are a few variegated hibiscus on the market now; Sugar Tip is a beauty that I have written about before, but at 5-6′ tall and wide it is a fair size. Summer Ruffle is a new introduction  and one of the First Editions collection that got my attention for its petite stature at just 3-4′ tall and wide. That makes it a prime candidate for container design as well as smaller gardens.

The foliage is a soft blue-green with wide creamy-white margins. It is a beautiful shrub even without blooms.

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hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

The ruffled semi-double flowers open lavender and fade to blue – very pretty.

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Lots of blooms on this young shrub

Place this near blue-green conifers, green and white variegated grasses and deep purple foliage such as barberry, weigela or Loropetalum for a delightful combination that puts foliage first but celebrates the summer blooms

Purple Preference Euphorbia

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Euphorbia ‘Purple Preference’

On a recent trip to Portland I called in at Xera  (of course) and scooped up three of these Purple Preference euphorbias. I fell in love with the smoky purple new growth over the dusky green older leaves – oh my. This is an evergreen perennial so it promises year round beauty.

Purple Preference a fairly new introduction from England (well that explains it – we spoke the same language…) and is said to grow to 2′ tall and wide. In terms of self seeding the growers state it as being well behaved. I haven’t had it long enough to give feedback on that but I can tell you that both in a mixed container and in the landscape it looks stunning. Try it in front of peegee hydrangeas (e.g. Hydrangea p. ‘Quickfire’) for a delicate color echo as the flowers fade from white to rose, or mingled with  silver foliage such as this next perennial.

Quicksilver artemisia

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Quicksilver artemisia

At first glance this new introduction from Proven Winners seems to be identical to Silver Brocade with its felted silvery-white leaves and groundcover habit. It is certainly more vigorous; mine are at least 4′ in diameter and I find myself wishing I had  allowed them more space! Where they appear to be superior to Silver Brocade is that this new Quicksilver does not flower. So no little yellow flowers to clip off in order to keep the plant looking its best. That makes it lower maintenance – always a good thing.

Drought tolerant and deer resistant, I use this as a weed suppressing groundcover in my sunny borders.

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Delosperma x Jewel of the Desert ‘Opal’ with Quicksilver artemisia

Try it with the Purple Preference euphorbia mentioned above, perhaps adding the new ice plant Delosperma x Jewel of the Desert for some bold flower power.

Cool Splash Diervilla (Bush honeysuckle)

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Cool Splash foliage in full sun

This is one TOUGH little shrub! But let’s back up…..have you grown the native bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)?

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Northern bush honeysuckle grown in full sun

Here’s a photo taken in a full sun, never watered, exposed to elements type of border in my own garden. Gorgeous, right? Look at the coppery new growth and imagine the fragrance from those lemon blooms.

So here’s what I like about its relative, the new introduction from First Editions; Cool Splash diervilla (Diervilla sessilifolia ‘Cool Splash’) can take full sun or a lot of shade. This next photo shows the shrub that has been totally neglected since planting it under a towering Douglas fir tree three months ago. It has never been watered unless it rained and gets only 1-2 hour of direct sun, being in open shade for most of the day.

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Cool Splash grown in dry shade

What you’ll notice is that the variegation isn’t as remarkable as the first image and it isn’t blooming – yet. However it is very much alive and doing fine, despite my less than stellar nurturing! Having said that, the growers recommend this shrub for full sun but I think I have proved a point that it isn’t a primadonna. The shrub in my sunny border rarely gets watered either and is squished between several exuberant perennials.

This deciduous shrub grows up to 4.5′ tall and wide and its crisp variegated leaves will brighten both shade and sunny combos. Try it next to early blooming shrubs that can look lack luster by August such as lilac or forsythia. Or partner it with the variegatedCanadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Glentsch White’) shown below;

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Gentsch White Canadian hemlock

and perhaps a delicate rose such as the David Austin rose ‘Wildeve’ for a romantic vignette;

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Wildeve rose

Pearl Glam beautyberry

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White flower buds on Pearl Glam beautyberry

Beautyberry (Callicarpa) is known for its metallic purple berries in fall. The problem – until now – has been waiting that long for the shrub to be of interest. Problem solved with the new variety Pearl Glam from Proven Winners.

Although the emerging foliage is green it quickly turns dark; a perfect foil for the white flowers shown here. I can’t wait to see how it looks with the purple berries!

This variety is said to grow 4-5′ tall and wide, making it a great candidate for a container or the landscape.

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Pearl Glam beautyberry

Try it with chartreuse foliage for high contrast or silver for a more contemporary look.

I have one in a mixed container (first image) and one in the landscape (above). The latter has never been watered since it was planted but is thriving. It is also on the ‘wildlife freeway’ through my garden but seems to be untouched. A very exciting new shrub for sure.

Lots more to share with you in the near future so be sure to stay tuned!

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Garden Tour Gems

I had the opportunity to attend the Woodinville Garden Club annual garden tour this past weekend. This is always a highlight of the garden tour season for me and over the years I have made many new friends and discovered several outstanding gardens that we have been able to share with you through the pages of Fine Foliage as well as our upcoming new book Gardening with Foliage First.

These are just a few of the artistic, foliage-focused  combinations that had me reaching for my camera.

All about the foliage

Starting in true Fine Foliage style, the first group are a selection that rely fully on leafy goodness for their good looks. Since the homeowners and volunteers were extremely busy I was unable to get some plant names but will add them as I can.

Japanese maples are always a favorite – I thought this was a lovely way to highlight the delicate layers.

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Love the way the deep rosy leaf of the Japanese maple (Shaina??) picks up on the vein detail of the Heuchera leaf (Solar Power?) and stems of the dwarf Rhododendron. Design by Victoria Gilleland.

Hardy impatiens is a stellar groundcover for the shade. Loved how it was allowed to mingle with this golden false cypress (Chamaecyparis)

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The yellow central vein of a hardy impatiens assumes greater importance when adjacent to a golden conifer. Design by Victoria Gilleland

One of my favorite conifers is the Rheingold arborvitae so this trio captured my imagination.

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A silver leaved daisy bush, a bronze sedge and Rheingold arborvitae all thrive in full sun. Design by Joe Abken

And then there were plant combinations that were as unique as they were colorful…. Fabulous layers of foliage including a variegated cherry laurel (I think this is Prunus laurocerasus ‘Marble White’) and a new purple leaved hydrangea called Plum Passion had us all swooning. Mmmm.

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LOVE this hydrangea!!! Design by Victoria Gilleland

Of course no garden tour is complete without getting on my hands and knees to photograph hidden treasures such as this container.

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Loved the light shining through the Trusty Rusty coleus and onto the Sparks May Fly begonia. Design by Joe Abken

Talking of coleus, I must find out the name of this variety with the twisted leaves and toothed edges.

IMG_8125Loved how designer and homeowner Joe Abken had paired it with a hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) – which had me on my knees again so I could show you the burgundy veins underneath the leaf…..

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Design by Joe Abken

Adding layers

Our new book will show you how to layer additional elements onto  a foliage framework . Flowers, buds, bark, art – all are possible! This selection of images shows you how it’s done.

This scene, again by Joe Abken shows how the cinnamon colored buds of a leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum)  play off the bronze foliage of a nearby Japanese maple.

When combined the visual strength of both is augmented;

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Design by Joe Abken

Likewise the soft blue-grey tones of a spruce and snowberry (Symphoricarpos) make for a monochromatic backdrop to show off the delicate pink flowers, that in turn echo the color of the stems.

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Design by Joe Abken

And then there are flowers that have equally eye catching foliage so you can’t possibly go wrong! See what happens when you combine Golden Lanterns Himalayan honeysuckle and Fuchsia speciosa .

Add Little Heath andromeda (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) and you get MAGIC

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Which is your favorite?

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City Living: Contemporary Design Ideas

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The Northwest Flower and Garden Show attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year and the 2016 extravaganza was no exception. With twenty large show gardens, a bustling marketplace, a floral competition, over one hundred seminars and a kids treasure hunt, gardeners of all ages and levels of experience  are  inspired to transform their own space no matter how large or small into something truly special.

On a glass encased bridge with view of the Seattle skyline were ten City Living exhibits that I especially appreciated for the take-away ideas that they offered. Intended to represent a  high rise apartment balcony, the designers were challenged with transforming each 6′ x 12′ space into an outdoor living space using materials that could be transported through a homes interior.

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The display created by Jason Jorgensen of Third Spring Landscape Design stood out for its contemporary aesthetic, marrying interesting geometric shapes with a restrained but youthful color palette and fabulous foliage. Here’s how to get the look.

Create a Picture Frame

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Jason built a simple but sturdy pergola to visually frame the space while also creating a ‘ceiling’ from which to hang planters and string inexpensive lights. Treated with a semi-translucent grey stain the overall effect is soft and warm. Fresh sawn dark brown cedar, the default PNW construction lumber would have been too harsh a color for this setting. This stain adds a sense of instant age yet the lack of embellishments such as finials on the posts or tails on the cross beams ensures that style remains contemporary rather than rustic. The scene has been set.

Furniture Selection

Jason approached Room and Board for use of this attractive Crescent sofa upholstered in a warm mid-grey canvas. The choice of a white frame keeps the  look fresh and avoids appearing overtly masculine, something which pared down design can often do. White was also chosen for the Gehry bench, pressed into service as a coffee table and Kubik stool which serves as a side table, both unusual, oblique shapes. As such the bench becomes quite the focal and talking point. Don’t be afraid of introducing one solid looking piece of furniture like this even into such a small space. It is functional (as a table or extra seating) as well as sculptural art. Selecting furniture that can be used in multiple ways is also important when space is limited. Flexibility and adaptability are key.

Container Selection

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Keeping with the contemporary theme, the six, sleek, cylindrical containers  vary in height and color (grey and white) but notice how the two groups flanking the sofa are placed asymmetrically for interest. When selecting containers for a contemporary setting avoid fussy shapes, too many colors or additional decoration. Solid colors in a matte finish work well.

Behind the sofa, two custom planters interlock, allowing the designer to introduce more plant material but also bringing a bold splash of turquoise into the scene, a color which is repeated in the hanging hover planters suspended from the pergola. All these pots are from Pot Incorporated.

Plant Palette

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Cool foliage and interesting textures are two hallmarks of contemporary garden design and this small space has great examples. With a total of eight floor containers and three hanging planters it would be easy to introduce lots of different plants and colors. Instead Jason has kept to a monochromatic scheme of green and white with just a hint of  gold (love this use of the conifer Golden Spreader fir (Abies n. ‘Golden Spreader’)) and deep burgundy for contrast. The cylindrical containers on either side of the space are planted as mirror images of one another.

Foliage plants such as variegated Spider’s Web Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’), fatshedera (Fatshedera lizei ‘Aureo Maculata’) and Ascot Rainbow spurge (Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’) mingle with grass-like Silver Shadow astelia (Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’) while darker cordyline (Cordyline australis ‘Renegade’), evergreen mountain pepper (Drimys lanceolata) and the green bark of a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shidava Gold’) add height.

The evergreen succulent Angelina stone crop spills over the edges of several containers while blue and white spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, grape hyacinth, dwarf iris and snowdrops add seasonal color. Two additional small Indonesian pots, found at a local import store were set on the floor and just planted with a few bulbs. These can easily be set aside or replanted as needed and are small enough to set on a table for a new look.

Finishing Touches

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A few throw pillows in navy and white and a navy ottoman add an elegant touch while cobalt blue votives in a geometric metal frame become wall art as well as accent lighting.

The theme of this years show was America the Beautiful, so Jason has given a final nod to patriotic colors by adding a red cafetiere – and watering can.

Small this space may be but it is stunning in its stylish simplicity- LOVE IT!

Which show displays have inspired you? Do let us know by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Fine Foliage for Clay Soils

Anyone who has ever broken a pick axe or had to use a digging bar to plant even the smallest plant knows the torture of gardening in clay soils. Whether your clay is a sculptors sort of muck or more like rock and sometimes even both, spending your gardening hours chipping, scraping and banging your way to your dream landscape in clay takes patience and fortitude.

Fortunately, there are secret weapons that can turn you hours of sweaty labor into less of a dreadful return on investment. First weapon of choice is using the right tool for working in clay so that you aren’t working harder than is really necessary. I won’t go through the myriad of available tools, but I’ll just mention my favorite here, and it is indeed a “digging bar”. This is what mine looks like, but there are a number of types and my neighbors borrow it constantly. 🙂

The second weapon is ironically, improving your soil. The old adage “Never put a five dollar plant in a ten cent hole.” By adding compost, and other high quality soil amendments to your clay soil, you help the beneficial organisms in your soil to literally grow MORE good soil. If you continue to do this over time, you will end up with the deepest and dreamiest soil. Here is the name of one of my very favorite soil amendments by Kellogg Garden Products- Soil Building Conditioner, made specifically for helping to break up and add nutrient density to heavy clay soils.

Fine Foliage for Clay Soils
The other, and MUCH more important tool in your arsenal for saving money, time and labor when landscaping in clay soil is, wait for it….., “RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE”! Choosing the best possible plant options to thrive in your soil type from the very beginning makes for lazy gardening in the best possible way!

So to that end, Team Fine Foliage presents you with just a handful of extra yummy foliage based options to consider for your landscape if you suffer with clay soil like we do!

Switchgrass or Panicum v. 'Shenandoah' or 'North Wind' are some handsome medium sized grass for the middle of the border.

Switchgrass or Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘North Wind’ are handsome choices for medium-sized grasses in the middle of a border.

Pennisetum 'Hameln' or 'Burgundy Bunny' are long time favorites of ours!

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ or ‘Burgundy Bunny’ are long time favorites of ours!

'Little Blue Stem' is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

‘Little Blue Stem’ is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus saneness left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Miscanthus sinensis left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for it's spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for its spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Hellebores are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options!

Helleborus are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options! This is one of the lesser known types, the Bearsfoot Hellebore.

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore 'Silver Lace'

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore ‘Silver Lace’

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is 'Samobor' featuring distinctive black markings.

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is ‘Samobor’ featuring distinctive black markings.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It's a champ! This one is 'Neon' with its exh uberant pink flowers!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It’s a champ! This one is ‘Neon’ with its exuberant pink flowers!

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap root that they put out that helps them survive.

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap-root that they put out that helps them survive.

Soft Leaved Yucca

Soft Leaved Yucca

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spirea! This is 'Magic Carpet'.

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spiraea! This is ‘Magic Carpet’.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called 'My Monet', a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called ‘My Monet’, a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

The notoriously long lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

The notoriously long-lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

So now you have a SMALL taste for what you can choose for everything from perennials to ground covers and shrubs to trees, we expect to hear about all of the Fine Foliage that YOU discover at your local garden center to try in your clay soil. Toil no more!

Here are two great resources for a MUCH more expanded list; 1) Royal Horticulture Society, Plants for Clay Soils 2) The Missouri Botanical Garden’s list and additional tips. 

Want even more ideas to feed your Fine Foliage addiction?
Come over to our Facebook page and meet us there!

Calendar Girls – Foliage Style

Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

Well that got your attention didn’t it?! What we’re really going to show off here are our top foliage plants by season. You may notice that gardening calendars often showcase flowers which are at their peak during a particular month. Well the beauty of a garden that is designed around foliage is that we are truly talking extended seasonal interest with many months of glory, not just a quick ruffle of petals in June.

Winter; Gold and Blue Conifers

Towering fir and cedars may create the backdrop for this winter scene but the weeping form of a Feelin' Blue deodar cedar really sets the scene as it harmonizes with the cabin door yet adds contrast to the orange pot.

Towering fir and cedars may create the backdrop for this winter scene but the weeping form of a Feelin’ Blue deodar cedar really focuses our attention as it harmonizes with the cabin door while adding contrast to the orange pot.

Yes I also like the rich green Thunderhead pines and silver tipped  Hortsmann’s Korean fir but the blues and golds give me the most pleasure in winter. Whether seen against a brooding grey sky or dusted with snow they always add bold color and interest to the landscape. Their visual weight acts as a perfect backdrop to bare branches, winter flowers and bright berries.

We will have some gorgeous combinations featuring conifers in our new book  (it is SO hard not to give you a sneak peek….) but here are a few favorites that I’ve photographed recently

Golden Spreader fir

Golden Spreader fir – garden of Mary Palmer, Snohomish WA

I really must add this stocky little Golden Spreader fir to my shopping list. I’ve seen it in all four seasons and it never fails to impress me.

Chief Joseph pine

Chief Joseph pine – garden of Mary Palmer, Snohomish WA

Chief Joseph can be bright to the point of gaudy in winter but rather ho-hum the rest of the year. Try placing it in a pot and moving it center stage for its moment of glory.

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae; don’t crowd it in summer and the foliage will be much brighter (I learned the hard way…)                                                                                                                                 

Blue Star juniper - a favorite in all seasons

Blue Star juniper – a favorite in all seasons

This low growing Blue Star juniper is a true work horse in the garden. Fabulous ground cover but not too big.

Feelin' Blue deodar cedar - possibly my all time favorite blue conifer.

Feelin’ Blue deodar cedar – possibly my all time favorite blue conifer.

I purchased this Feelin’ Blue specimen as a short standard. Give it room to show off its form.

Other favorites? Blue Shag pine (PInus strobus ‘Blue Shag’) with its silvery blue fluffy needles, Louie pine (Pinus strobus ‘Louie’) that resembles a golden teddy bear and Sekkan-sugi Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-sugi) if you have plenty of space although I think this looks its best in spring with the bright, fresh color on growing tips.

Conifers can be pricey so buy them small and enjoy in a pot until they reach landscape size.

Spring; Double Play All Gold spirea 

A sweep of spirea near the cabin marries the orange pot and blue cedar perfectly

A sweep of Double Play All Gold spirea near the cabin marries the orange pot and weeping cedar perfectly (the cabin door looks so much better now it is painted a soft teal blue!! ) Notice the repetition of spirea further down the border.

This was hard to narrow down! Many Japanese maples and barberries have striking colors in spring, often maturing to more muted tones. However the foliage I most look forward to in my own garden are undoubtedly the spirea, especially the variety Double Play All Gold which I  often use in my designs having tested it over several years.

Seen with blue star juniper and doublefile viburnum

Seen with blue star juniper and doublefile viburnum

Gold foliage is enhanced by rosy-orange new growth that lights up the garden for months!

Set off against a Thunderhead pine

Set off against a deep green such as this Thunderhead pine

And this is just the spring show! Summer flowers and fall color keeps the interest going. Most years I have found this to be drought tolerant in my garden. However the summer of 2015 was exceptionally hot and dry so these shrubs did look rather the worse for wear by mid August. Deep watering every two weeks should help me overcome that.

Summer; Orange Rocket barberry

Exploding from a pot - great contrast with the surrounding golds and greens

Exploding from a pot – great contrast with the surrounding golds and greens

While there are certainly summer annuals whose foliage I look forward to (e.g. coleus, croton and caladium) I wanted to select a plant that was hardy in my garden. The aforementioned conifers and spirea still make me smile and I enjoy my five golden locust trees. But choosing just one plant or genus for its summer foliage? That’s tough! I’m going to settle on Orange Rocket barberry  (Berberis t. ‘Orange Rocket). No matter where I put it, the burgundy foliage seem to create the perfect contrast with summer flowers, wispy grasses, sturdy conifers and more. The color may be far more vibrant in spring and fall but it is during the summer that I most appreciate the contrast it gives against the dominant green foliage palette.

A simple trio with Blue Shag pine and weeping silverleaf pear

A simple trio with Blue Shag pine and weeping silverleaf pear

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Imagine the above scene without the orange pot and bold barberry. Pretty but not as visually exciting. Relying on flowers for this sort of contrast would only be a short term solution.

Fall; Arkansas blue star 

I look forward to this display all year

I look forward to this display all year

Japanese maples or grasses would perhaps be more obvious choices for this season and certainly I have hundreds of photos of both. Yet it is the broad swathe of the perennial Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii) that has me grabbing for my camera daily as it changes from green to gold and finally orange. I was ridiculously excited when friends and family sent me photos of this scene while I was in England this past autumn, especially as I was then able to share the unfolding beauty with my Mum as she lay in her hospital bed.

Dark foliage such as this Grace smoke bush make great planting partners

Dark foliage such as this Grace smoke bush makes a great planting partner

The soft feathery foliage emerges in spring, so I interplant with daffodils to make the most of the space. Pale blue flowers in early summer are a bonus but not as important to me as the foliage texture which contrasts well with big boulders or broad leaved plants. It is the star of the border in fall, however. Be patient as it takes three years to become established but after that it is drought tolerant, deer resistant and fabulous!

 

Late season glory; mingling with silver licorice plant. Photo by Katie Pond

Late season glory; mingling with silver licorice plant and backed by Grace smoke bush. Photo by Katie Pond

Incidentally most of these photos are from my own garden which has to be deer and rabbit resistant as well as drought tolerant and low maintenance. 

So what are your favorite foliage plants for each season? Do tell us – either a comment here or on our Facebook page. We love it when you tempt us out into the nurseries again!

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