Tag Archives: Container design

Deer Resistant Spring Bloomers – with GREAT foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

Every gardener loves to celebrate SPRING with early blooming perennials. After months of rainy, grey Seattle skies I’m first in line at the nurseries for anything with color. Be warned, however, that your desperation for early spring flowers may result in late spring frustration – simply because you have forgotten to keep the FOLIAGE in mind. What will this perennial contribute to the design once the flowers are done?

Not to worry, Team Fine Foliage has you covered with  some of our favorite spring blooming perennials that also have stunning leaves to make sure that today’s impulse buy will continue to bring you pleasure tomorrow.

1. Gold Heart bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Goldheart’)

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Gold Heart in front of Mountain Fire andromeda

How can you not love the glowing, fern-like golden foliage of Gold Heart? The pink heart shaped flowers are a bonus! Combine this with a foliage plant that echoes the pink stems and flowers such as a pink toned heuchera or an andromeda, whose new growth is often pink or red (shown above). Alternatively work with the gold detail by siting this next to a spotted leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’).

In my experience this variety is not as vigorous as the regular bleeding heart but it is a delightful addition to the spring landscape or containers nonetheless. Just plant a couple more if you are looking for a massed effect.

Don’t care for the pink flowers? Then look for white-blooming White Gold from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.  Try this paired with a green and white variegated Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’) or variegated acanthus (Acanthus ‘Whitewater’)  to highlight the white flowers.

Bleeding heart is also reliably deer resistant in my garden and either the rabbits haven’t found it or they don’t care for it.

2. Double Stuff Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum ‘Double Stuff’)

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Tall arching stems of richly variegated leaves are a delightful addition to any shade garden. Add an abundance of white, bell-shaped flowers dangling from each burgundy stem in spring and the delight is doubled; Double Stuff is well named. Translucent yellow fall color makes sure that you enjoy this perennial through to the very last day of fall.

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Terra Nova Nurseries Inc display garden

For companion planting take your inspiration from the breeders own display garden shown above: a dark purple heuchera to echo the stem color and golden forest grass for contrast.

Mercifully it is ignored by deer and rabbits too.

3. Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) varieties

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Jack Frost Siberian bugloss

While Jack Frost may be the most popular variety with its large heart-shaped leaves displaying a network of silver tracery over green, it is not the only one. Hadspen Cream is more sensitive to sun but is loved for it broad creamy leaf margins and is one of several white-variegated forms. Spotted Langtrees has been available for many years and offers a more subtle effect.

All Siberian bugloss have a remarkable display of blue forget-me-not type flowers in spring and in my native England are often called ‘perennial forget-me not’. My daughter used to love picking these and English primroses for tiny floral displays on the kitchen table.

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Sea Heart Siberian bugloss in a late summer container display

While Siberian bugloss make stunning landscape plants Team Fine Foliage loves to use them in containers. They mix with tropical caladiums and bromeliads just as well as ferns and heuchera. From contemporary to cottage – you can’t go wrong!

Bonus points for deer and rabbit resistance.

4. Berry Exciting corydalis (Corydalis ‘Berry Exciting’)

Delicate, fern-like foliage in brilliant gold, each leaf brushed with crimson- who needs flowers? You do? Well, for you we can add grape-colored  flowers held a few inches above this delightful shade loving groundcover. Tuck this under weeping Japanese maples, interspersed with black mondo grass or Maroon Beauty saxifrage (as seen above). Also a great addition to containers.

This may go dormant in summer heat but with adequate moisture and shade will continue to shine until fall.

Deer resistant, although rabbits may try to nibble emerging shoots. A spritz with Liquid Fence helps mine get large enough to be ignored by the inquisitive bunnies.

5. Lungwort (Pulmonaria varieties)

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Believed to be Mrs. Moon (P. saccharata)

Do you have favorite flowers from your childhood? This is one of mine. In England  one of the common names for Pulmonaria is ‘Soldiers and Sailors’, a nod to the blue and pink flowers that appear at the same time on this perennial. Some varieties have now been bred for pure pink, cobalt blue or white flowers , but I love the old fashioned ones such as Mrs. Moon that opens pink and fades to blue. The cut flower stems make exquisite posies  and the foliage is virtually evergreen.

Although gardening books will recommend this for rich, moist soil in partial shade I have successfully grown this in full sun with only occasional supplemental water.

Combine with other spring blooming perennials such as hellebores and primroses in the woodland garden, or mass at the base of white barked birch trees where the dappled light will offer protection and the tree bark will enhance the silver spotted leaves.

I have found these benefit from trimming back the foliage as well as flowering stems when blooms are done. This seems to prevent powdery mildew developing on the leaves in summer, and the new clumps resemble healthy, spotted hosta as seen in this next image.

Want more reasons to buy it? It is both deer and rabbit resistant, and hummingbirds love it! Also very easy to divide to get new plants in fall or spring. You NEED this….

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Spotted lungwort at the bottom left of this image, making an important contribution to this dappled shade border in Portland. (Design by 4 Seasons Gardens LLC)

Combination Ideas

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Our new book Gardening with Foliage First has more inspiring combination ideas for all five of these key plants! Have you got YOUR copy yet?

You’ll even find most of them in foliage-only combinations in our first, award-winning book Fine Foliage.

And there’s more….

Hellebores -some of the newer introductions have variegated or speckled foliage as well as amazing flowers. So many to choose from….

Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ – new and fabulous!

Mukdenia ‘Crimson Fans’ – gorgeous for the shade garden

Bergenia ‘Lunar Glow’ – lemon and lime colored leaves with pink blooms. Worth hunting for.

What’s YOUR favorite spring blooming perennial  – with GREAT FOLIAGE?

Tell us in a comment below or post a photo to our Facebook page.

 

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Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings

Team Fine Foliage is ever forward thinking, and today we’re considering all of the ways we can use coleus this spring. Seize the day and start your dreaming now so that you can hit the ground running when it’s time to shop.

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusWith a coleus (Solenostemon scutellaroides) for every design need imaginable, it’s hard to fathom a spot where this fantastic group of plants doesn’t make any combination better. What’s not love? When the color range, leaf shape and multitude of growth habits available are SO vast, it can make your head spin. I know I have landed on a few that have turned out to be my own “go-to” selections, but each year I try to break out and try new ones.

There are coleus selections available for BOTH morning and afternoon sun AND shade, so don’t assume that you might have too much or too little of either situation because the breeders are working overtime to bring new ones to market that are tougher than ever. But, to be safe, be sure to make an assessment of the time of day and how many hours of sun your spot will get to make sure you get the right plant for the right place.

**Plant tags are notoriously difficult in regard to sun/shade needs when it comes to coleus. Be sure to ask your local Independent Garden Center salesperson which are best for YOUR needs if you aren’t quite sure. Telling them apart can get a bit tricky and some plants can easily thrive in BOTH exposures, which is another reason why we love them so!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusThe incredible glowing burnt orange of this one called ‘Campfire’ by Ball Horticulture is a large scaled one that features this incredible purple shadow that is very subtle but really shows when you put anything purple next to it. A new favorite one for sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusOne fo the interesting things about coleus is that there are so many that are seemingly the same yet are different and so it’s a challenge to know for certain if you have the same one as last year without seeing the tag for yourself. I have often seen to that look identical at different garden centers, and they will have different names, so bear with me if you see one that I name as X, but that you know as Y. It happens ALL the time!

The one above is one that I happen to know as ‘Wedding Train’, fabulously colorful trailing option for showy, colorful foliage when a potato vine would be overwhelming in a container design. It can take more sun than you might imagine too!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusBlack potato vine makes a really neat groundcover at the front of this bed with hot pink Angelonia sandwiched in between another coleus from Ball Horticulture called ‘French Quarter’.  A significant thing to note here, if this coleus stands up to the same heat as Angelonia which wants to roast in the HOT summer sun, then you know this coleus is a toughy!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusNeed a desktop sized coleus? A terrarium sized coleus? A mini-gardening sized coleus? I found it! Hort Couture has created this incredible line of new coleus called Under the Sea ‘Sea Monkey’ and they come in a few colors. This one is ‘Sea Monkey Apricot’ and I ADORE it!

http://www.hortcoutureplants.com/product-detail/coleus-under-the-sea®-sea-monkey-rustHort Couture also created this one that I love called Under the Sea ‘Bonefish’As you can see, I let this one go to flower, and there are two philosophical camps regarding this idea, here’s my two cents on the topic; let them bloom if you enjoy it OR don’t let them bloom if you don’t. Some gardeners seem to think there is a real right or wrong on this and I think it totally depends on the plant, the combination and the time of year. I tend to let all of them bloom by the time September/October rolls around, why the heck not? However, I DO keep all of my coleus pinched for tidy growth especially the larger upright ones until then. But, you should do whatever floats your leafy boat!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsPersonally, these ones with the striking veins like ‘Fishnet Stockings’ seriously rev my foliage design engines!!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis one also from Ball Horticulture called ‘Vino’ was new to me this last year. But I tell ya, this dark, moody devil was one of the most hardcore TOUGH plants in my entire garden last summer! It held up in pretty extreme heat like a champ!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThe rich black of ‘Vino’ creates such an excellent tonal effect with the other plants in this container design, it quickly became a favorite for me. 

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Team Fine Foliage is positively green with jealousy over parts of the country where caladium thrive, it is a much tougher proposition up here in the Great Northwet. But, to combine them with coleus……that’s just salt in the wound of our jealous leafy hearts. 🙂 YOWZA!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsFrom the files of the weird and wonderful, the giant leaves of Solanum quitoense has wonderfully sensuous leaves until those big scary thorns grow in. Paired here with the silver lace of Senecio leuchostachys, Coleus (possibly) ‘Black Beauty’ is a dramatic combination to be sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis last shot strikes at the heart of all that Team Fine Foliage stands for, BODACIOUS foliage at its very best! Sexy sexy bromeliad combined with other foliage to create this dreamy scene, all topped off with ‘Sedona’ coleus to mark the sunrise/sunset tones of this wonderful composition shot at the Chanticleer Garden a few years back. This one never gets old!

So there you have it- a teeny tiny overview of some incredible ways to get your coleus craving fix. Drop us a note and tell us about YOUR plans for coleus this year. Need more ideas? Click here to peek at our newest book Gardening with Foliage First. And if you already ordered, we would be honored if you wrote a review too.

Cheers to the coming spring! 

Transitions

What’s the first thing you do when you return home from a trip? Most gardeners will immediately head outside to see what has changed even before they unpack and I’m no exception.

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Tiger Eyes sumac anchors the container in the foreground while connecting the eye to the distant golden locust trees, katsura and swathe of black eyed Susan. Small accents of silver and blue cool the seasonal palette. Fall has begun.

It’s amazing what a difference 10 days makes. While Georgia was hot and somewhat humid with tropical end-of-summer storms, Seattle is now experiencing cooler night temperatures and the start of the glorious fall foliage display.

This is the first fall season that I have been able to enjoy our new patio and adjacent planting beds and I have been delighted with the effect. The color palette of these smaller beds echoes that of the distant border, creating a transition to the larger landscape while the container strategically placed in the foreground establishes a focal point to be viewed from the kitchen window and the patio. Plants in the smaller bed are scaled down in size and quantity but the focus is still very much on putting foliage first before layering in some floral accents.

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From this vantage point the cluster of river birch joins in the foliage party while the woodland beyond provides a green backdrop to show off the fiery sumac. This scene will continue to evolve as autumn transitions to winter; an ever changing kaleidoscope of color.

Simple tricks often work best.

(If you’d like to learn more about the design strategies of this space and see before & after images click here).

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Easy Window Box Display

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Why make things complicated?

This window box is one of the few  spots that deer seem to ignore. Maybe they consider it isn’t worth the effort to bushwhack through the abelia, step over the fountain or navigate the narrow path? Whatever the reason I’m happy to have the opportunity to use colorful foliage that would get eaten elsewhere.

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Receiving only three hours of indirect light in the afternoon, this window box sits beneath the front window of my garden cabin, looking onto a 4 foot  deep porch. It isn’t truly dark on the porch but between the eaves and the surrounding plants it is most definitely only suitable for shade loving plants.

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It would be easy to design an over the top display with lots of different plants and colors but this window box is merely one part of a much larger vignette so I prefer to keep things simple. I add enough color to pull the eye back onto the porch but have the planting become just one more element within the broader picture of sunset shades. Even in September, as the perennial Zagreb tickseed (Coreopsis v. ‘Zagreb’) are pushing out their last few flowers this foliage focused window box packs a colorful punch.

The foliage framework

Lava Rose coleus

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This Lava Rose trailing coleus is similar in habit to Burgundy Wedding Train but  the addition of hot pink and creamy white really help this to be seen in the shade.

The “I know I’ll find the tag somewhere” coleus

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I remember putting the tag somewhere safe….. Regardless of its name, it was included in the window box because it had a tidy mounding habit and the colors were perfect.That gold really popped against the cedar siding

Illumination periwinkle

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Illumination has a distinct yellow variegation (Wojo’s Gem is more cream). Perfect to trail over the edge

The Finishing Touch

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Many tropical house plants are suitable for a summer vacation on a shady porch; Dakota Anthurium is one of them. When frost threatens I’ll bring this indoors and see if I can keep it alive (I’m not very successful when it comes to indoor plants unless they thrive on benign neglect).

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Easy Peasy – Foliage First! Now I do believe there is an exciting new book with that title…..

Want more ideas?

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Time to Visit your Favorite Nurseries!

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There’s a change in the air. Morning mists, chillier evenings and the unforgettable candy apple fragrance of the Katsura trees as the leaves turn golden all serve to remind us that the seasons are transitioning from summer to fall.

If you’re not quite ready to switch our your containers yet but would welcome some inspiration, head to your favorite nursery for ideas. While in Shoreline, WA today I called in at Sky Nursery and loved these two  options; one for sun and one for shade.

Both are based on a strong foliage framework of evergreen shrubs and perennials which means they are going to look fabulous for MONTHS.

Sun Savvy

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To be honest, in Seattle there is little difference between sun and shade during fall and winter; it comes down to varying shades of grey! However to keep the ‘permanent’ plants in the same pot and location year round you do need to plan accordingly.

My favorite conifer; Mr. Wissel as I affectionately call him (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ or Wissel’s Saguaro false cypress) sets the blue-green tone and adds height. Notice how the Fire Alarm Heuchera repeats the warm color of the container and the Japanese blood grass marries the two with its burgundy tipped green blades.

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Nurseries often tuck plant tags into the back of the pot which can be helpful if you aren’t familiar with some. (The tag was missing for the blood grass).

Shady Style

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I loved the riot of textures in this pot as well as the fact that every plant is evergreen.Again it is the subtle attention to detail that sets this professionally designed pot apart; the dark red stems of the mountain pepper echoes the color of the Heuchera and also plays off the speckled pot. (Both pots are from AW Pottery).

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Another take home idea; notice how a Heuchera features in both the sun and shade design? Some varieties are more sun tolerant than others so do your research but this is a great solution for porches that have one side receiving more sun than the other. Look for one key plant that can be used in both and mimic the color scheme using light appropriate plants in each.

Today Seattle is having its last hurrah if we are to believe the forecasters; currently sunny and 82′. Tomorrow I may need my fleece. But I’m ready for fall planting now. Are you?

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!

Don’t forget to join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)

Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage

BRAZELBERRIES pink icing - medallion pot horiz LAB c2014 (5)

Thousands of Olympians head to Rio de Janeiro with only one thing on their minds; GOLD. The quest to be best is what they’ve strived for their entire career. They have trained and perfected their sport just the same as we strive to perfect out gardens each year.

As we root on our favorite athletes your landscape is also in competition to show off its best assets too! Now is the time to create a space worthy of a gold medal. Just like Olympians, it can take some hard work to continually achieve gold, but the plants Team Fine Foliage will show you today are already winners without the all of the sweat.

To go for gold, contenders must embody certain characteristics. A low-maintenance plant with multiple-seasons of beauty that is suited for the space and climate and is pest and disease resistant will be leaps and bounds ahead. Plus, champions must provide added benefits to people and the planet. But when our winners have Fine Foliage, that is a DOUBLE win!

In the photo above you have our first Gold Medalist for Edibles: BrazelBerries® Pink Icing™ blueberryWith breathtaking spring and fall foliage, Pink Icing is sure to win any competition. Spring brings a lovely new foliage color that has varying shades of pink mixed with blue and deeper greens. In winter, Pink Icing’s foliage takes on a stunning iridescent turquoise blue foliage hue, which looks striking when planted en masse.

BRAZELBERRIES 'Sunshine Blue', Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage Speaking of four seasons of interest, these are the delicate blooms on one incredible blueberry from last spring. Can you believe they are blooming AGAIN right now?

BRAZELBERRIES 'Sunshine Blue' , Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage Just take a gander at how handsome that incredible edible Olympian is in the summer landscape with its beautiful perennial team mates!

BRAZELBERRIES 'Sunshine Blue' , Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage When you have a GOLD MEDALIST that has great foliage as this blueberry does, you can use it in the landscape partnering with other shrubs that make it shine! Above is gorgeous blueberry foliage with Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’.

Speaking of plants that will have more than one season of interest; August happens to be a great time to get your fall greens started too. Why not choose edibles that can strut like supermodel Gisele Bunchen in the opening ceremony?

Culinary Couture, Hort Couture, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage

Culinary couture, Hort Couture, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage

When you can have fresh and tasty greens from your garden that look as beautiful as this ‘Edibliss’ Italian Black kale from Hort Couture’s new line called “Culinary Couture”, maybe you win a silver or a gold medal but your healthy strut says “You look maaaahvelous dahling!”

Red Leaf Lettuce, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage
Team Fine Foliage wants you to think about making your choices for edibles as pretty as they are yummy. After all we eat with our eyes first right?!

Red Swiss Chard, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage High energy foliage colors in the late summer and fall landscape give you that extra something to cross the finish line and make gardening a lot more fun!

Cabbage, Gold Medal Edibles with Fine Foliage To bad Gisele wasn’t holding this cabbage as she walked across the stadium, it would have MADE her outfit! 🙂 This extraordinary blue is a big winner for foliage color in this edibles olympic race.

If you just get out there and plant something that looks as great as it tastes, then you and your landscape are GOLD medal winners just for trying!

What Olympians are you featuring in your landscape that have winning foliage this summer?

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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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Gardening with Foliage First: Sneak Peek #1!

After months of writing, photographing, proof reading and waiting….we are closer to getting our new book Gardening with FOLIAGE FIRST out into the gardening world! The talented team at Timber Press has now released our COVER which we are excited to share with you.

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What’s it all about?

Enjoy this excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Sensational Scenes, Expansive Ideas, and Original Thinking

What do you get when you let two designers loose in a nursery? A car filled to overflowing with a wild assortment of trees, shrubs, perennials, and more. It is a given that you will not be able to see out of the rear window, and you should expect to have plants on the seats, on the floor, and in cup holders. It is only when plants are precariously balanced on the dashboard that we think we may have enough.

But these are not just any plants. The majority will be an outrageous selection of foliage plants with enormous tropical leaves jostling feathery grasses; stripes, spots, and splashes alongside bold solid colors from vibrant orange to deepest purple. Tucked in here and there will be some flowering plants. Experience has taught us that these truly perform, either with a reliably long bloom time or interesting leaves as well as flowers.

As designers, speakers, and coauthors, we have gained a reputation for being entertaining as well as inspiring and for sharing our expertise in a way that is easy to understand. We encourage and challenge each other, which brings out the best in both of us. This, in turn, provides readers with a much broader range of ideas than either one of us could accomplish alone. Together we have fun while we walk you through our design process, which puts foliage first, then adds a final flourish to take the scene from predictable to exceptional.

The Floral Seduction

When you go to the grocery store, you probably have a plan (or at least a recipe) in mind. But how often do you take a shopping list to the nursery? Without forethought, you are headed for disaster—it is too easy to get seduced by all the colorful flowers so prominently displayed. On impulse, you grab one of this and one of that, and when you get home that collection of pretty blooms never quite translates into a glossy magazine image. It is just a wild kaleidoscope with no cohesive sense of design—or, worse, the blooms fade, and you spent a lot of money on a short-term burst of glory. What went wrong?

You may have chosen plants that are individually beautiful, but did you consider whether they look good together? Is there a visual connection between them? Or perhaps you succumbed to the display of blooming annuals and perennials, the enticing photographs promising an abundance of flowers in summer. But how many months do you need to wait for the plants to reach that stage—and how long will they bloom? If you focus on the flowers without considering the foliage, you may end up with a disappointing mélange of midsize green leaves for much of the year, not a unified, well-designed look. It is far more effective, and attractive, to start with foliage.

Taking the Next Step

After building a foliage framework, we show you how to layer in flowers or other artistic elements to add the finishing touch. We take the mystery out of the design process and explain what makes a combination successful. If you follow our ideas or use them as a springboard for your own creations, you will feel like we are your personal design coaches.

In this book, we demonstrate how quickly and easily you can assemble plants that reflect your personal style and suit the largest border or smallest container. We teach you how to make strategic plant choices, clarify why certain plants are great investments for year-round interest, and explain how every element will help you achieve a cohesive look.

Inspiration for All Seasons, Situations, and Settings

Our ideas go beyond the typical summer growing season. The book is divided into two main sections—Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter—both of which feature design schemes for sun and shade situations. You will be able to create a true four-season garden that will work for your style and design challenges. Are you still trying to outwit the deer? We feel your pain, and have included Beauty Without the Beast just for you. Looking for something to add winter interest to your cold-climate garden? We were inspired by Serendipity and we think you will be, too. Do you prefer a hot, spicy color palette? Sassitude is sizzling hot. Need ideas for a fall container? Pumpkin Spice Latte is just one of the flavors on the menu.

We scoured gardens from British Columbia to Arizona to Florida to Washington State to find designs to delight, inspire, and embolden you to try new ideas, new plants, and new ways of looking at plant combinations. There are ideas for small patio containers to large sweeping borders, and everything in between. Each combination includes an explanation of how it works. Many of our favorite plants have multiple periods of significance, and this section discusses how each component evolves during the year and offers ideas on how to extend the season of interest even further.

New gardeners will quickly gain confidence as they learn how to select plants that work together, as well as how to identify the details that create a strong foliage picture frame for the flowers on which they may have initially focused. Intermediate gardeners will learn how to transform their gardens from a jumble of collectors’ plants to a carefully composed design, while those with many years of dirt under their fingernails will be inspired by a fresh twist on old favorites—plus exciting new introductions that will spark the imagination and help you craft unique creations.

Want to see more?

We’ll be sharing a few sample pages with you in the upcoming weeks with juicy never-been-seen-before images. For now we’ll just reveal a little more of the stunning combination created by talented plantswoman Mary M. Palmer selected for our cover shot. We’ve called it….

Treasure Hunt

Gardening with Foliage First, Timber Press 2017, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz

Design by Mary M. Palmer, Snohomish, WA

WHY THIS WORKS; There are some plants that you just have to have – and this treasure trove will have you writing up a new shopping list. Glossy black leaves of a unique daphne join a new sea holly that sports spiky golden foliage, which in turn makes the bright silvery blue of a prostrate noble fir seemingly shimmer. Surrounding these collector’s gems are more familiar shrubs and perennials but in this company they are all transformed into precious jewels.

PINNACLE OF PERFECTION; As summer transitions to fall the barberry will turn crimson and the rhododendron may contribute some red flowers to the scene. Although the daphne will lose foliage in a harsh winter and the sea holly will become dormant, the conifer and rhododendron will provide winter color, to be joined in spring by flowers on both the daphne and Ostbo’s Elizabeth rhododendron. Pruning of the conifer and rhododendron may be necessary to maintain this balance of riches.

In our book Gardening with Foliage First we have provided plant portraits and full details of all these horticultural treasures. Here’s a simple plant list to pacify your plant-lust cravings for now

FOLIAGE FRAMEWORK

Ostbo’s Elizabeth rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Ostbo’s Elizabeth’)  Hardy in zones 6-8

Prostrate blue noble fir (Abies procera ‘Glauca Prostrata’) . Zones 4-8

Black daphne (Daphne x houtteana)  Zones 6-9

Bagatelle barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Bagatelle’) . Zones 5-8

FINISHING TOUCH

Neptune’s Gold sea holly (Eryngium x zabelli ‘Neptune’s Gold’) Zones 5-9

Want to pre-order?

It just so happens we can help you there. Even without sample pages or editorial reviews it is showing as the #1 New Release in the Ornamental Gardening category on Amazon as I’m writing this! We understand it will be available late January 2017.

Pre-order with special pricing here

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Crepe Myrtles – with a Twist!

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Family vacations invariably meant camping, hiking and gardens….2008 Mendocino Botanical Gardens, CA

On our family adventure to sunny California many years ago I was fascinated by the large blooming trees that seemed to line every major street. Huge blossoms in sumptious shades of pink and white gave cities a carnival atmosphere and the attractive peeling bark only enhanced that effect. I had no idea what they were so stopped at a nursery to ask – they were of course crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia). Pretty funny for those of you who live in areas where these trees are popular to the point of being ubiquitous, but rather exotic and therefore exciting for an English lady living now in the Pacific Northwest.

It turns out that some varieties are even hardy in warmer areas of Seattle e.g. the white flowering Natchez, but not where I garden. (Here’s an excellent article on crepe myrtles in the PNW if you’d like the botanical background on breeding etc)

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that in fact there are some forms of crepe myrtle that even I can grow, being  hardy to USDA zone 6 and they have outstanding foliage! Now you’ve got my attention.

Here are three from the First Editions line that Bailey’s Nurseries in Oregon are growing and are widely distributed.

Ruffled Red Magic

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This beauty is the largest of my trio, growing as an upright, dense shrub to 12′ tall and  8′ wide. Right now the deep olive green foliage is dressed up with the glowing new crimson growth. Place this where you can enjoy the sunlight streaming through to appreciate this spring spectacle.

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Photo courtesy Bailey’s Nurseries

As spring moves to summer the foliage of Ruffled Red Magic will be dark green – the perfect backdrop to showcase the ruffled red carnation-like flowers. Christmas in July perhaps?? If these are deadheaded there is a promise of repeat blooms later in the season.

Fall foliage color is orange-red; definitely something to look forward to!

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This would work well as a backdrop in a mixed border, as a three season screen or an informal deciduous hedge.

Planting companions could include Kaleidoscope abelia whose green and yellow variegated leaves would add sparkle while the dark red stems would echo the growth and flower color of the crepe myrtle.

Moonlight Magic

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If you prefer your crepe myrtle to be more tree-like Moonlight Magic should be on your shopping list. This would make a perfect patio tree as it reaches 8-12′ high but only 4-6′ wide.

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Photo courtesy Bailey’s Nurseries

The rich deep purple foliage is very striking and I can hardly wait to see the effect when it blooms with abundant clusters of white flowers in late summer.

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What would you partner this with? In a container I might anticipate the white flowers so introduce green and white variegated Emerald Gaiety wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) as a simple color echo around the edges together with hot pink million bells (Calibrachoa) and trailing silver falls (Dichondra argentea)

Midnight Magic

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Like the purple foliage but want something a bit sexier? Midnight Magic has deep pink flowers set against rich purple foliage – reminds me of dark chocolate gelato with a hint of raspberry and a drizzle of framboise…..

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Photo courtesy Bailey’s Nurseries

This has a more rounded shape growing 4-6′ tall and wide so could be used in a large container or the landscape.

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All these shrubs are deer resistant, show good leaf spot and disease resistance and are hardy in zones 6-9. That means even I can grow them!

So there  is yet another excuse to go shopping – and perhaps try something new. Look for the purple First Editions branded pots at your local nurseries.

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