Tag Archives: Container Plants

Foliage Favorites for Summer Fun

Whether you’re looking for a design boost for your containers or need a little ‘something’ to perk up the summer border, FOLIAGE is the answer. Yes we know those geraniums and fuschias are so tempting – and we’re not suggesting you avoid them, but simply that you consider the leaf as well as the flower before making your selection.

Here are a few of our top ‘go to‘ foliage annuals and perennials that are great to use as fillers in pots or the landscape.

Croton

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As featured in Country Gardens magazine, spring 2017

Whether you prefer the variety Zanzibar with its bad-hair-day attitude or the more familiar form (Petra) shown here, croton (Codiaeum) will add a serious color punch to any shade combination. In smaller containers it can be used as the focal point – often referred to as the ‘thriller’. In larger designs you may prefer to consider it as an understory plant to something larger such as banana or elephant ears (Colocasia).

Coleus

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Two different coleus are used to frame Dakota anthurium, while Vinca ‘Illumination’ trails from the center

With a gazillion varieties of coleus to choose from you can find one in any size, color and habit you need. The trailing variety used above is Lava Rose. I love how the touch of white on each leaf adds a little sparkle. (For lots more coleus ideas click on the coleus tag in the sidebar. There are some real beauties!)

Quicksilver artemisia

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Velvety, silver foliage of Quicksilver artemisia quickly fills in around shrubs.

Deer resistant, drought tolerant and perennial – this vigorous groundcover may be just what you need to fill a bare spot this summer. A new introduction from Proven Winners , I can personally highly recommend it after trialing it in my own garden last year. The cooling silver foliage is outstanding.

Purple Queen

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Purple Queen – stunning purple foliage

Previously known as Setcresea, recently re-classified as Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Queen’, one thing taxonomists agree on – it’s gorgeous! A dramatic groundcover in warmer climates or a tough annual in cooler areas – either way you NEED this plant.

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Purple Queen is used to echo the rich container color and deep veins in the Blue Hawaii elephant ears (Colocasia).

Place it at the edge of a container where it can mingle and tumble to its hearts content

Beefsteak plant

 

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Beefsteak plant looks like a sun-tolerant coleus

Hot fuchsia pink, burgundy-purple and  emerald green – yes it looks like a coleus but you will find beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens ‘Magilla’) much more adaptable to both sun and shade designs.

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Love this combination with lantana and sweet potato vine

The only limitation with this annual? Your imagination. What will YOU pair it with? Golden conifers? Hot pink geraniums??

Autumnale fuschsia

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When is a fuchsia more than a fuschia? When it has leaves like THESE

While I certainly have my own photos of designs using this variegated fuchsia, none compares with this stunning design by Christina! In case you’re not sure, the Autumnale fuschia isn’t even in bloom in this photo; it is the red/yellow variegated leaf trailing at the front of the pot. WOWZA! Use it to repeat orange-red tones elsewhere such as these coleus leaves and Gartenmeister fuschia blooms.

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Different combination – this Autumnale fuchsia is still a winner

The combination above is one I put together for a client a few years ago. Here you can see the fuchsia weaving through multiple pots to great effect.

Bella Grigio lambs ears

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Pretty in Pink – as featured in our new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

What’s big, silver and ultra-strokable? These GIANT lambs ears! This combination will appeal to gardeners who want lots of flowers but it’s the inclusion of foliage plants that really makes this design sing. Bella Grigio lambs ears (Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’) are also wonderful additions to the landscape and are both deer and drought tolerant. In many areas they are considered a perennial but they don’t fare well in my cold, wet winter soils so I accept them as a summer annual.

Want more ideas? Well we know of two rather excellent books to get you started…. Also be sure to click on our blog tags such as coleus and container design to find more inspirational posts.

 

Fall Container Inspiration

Ready to switch your petunias for pumpkins? Here are four ideas you can whip up in no time.

Caramel Flavors

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It all begins with the pot, in this case a frost resistant glazed container in rich caramel tones with just a hint of copper. The pheasant tail grass at the back of the design repeats these shades perfectly and creates height while adding a wonderfully airy texture.

The bold mahogany colored foliage of Blondie heuchera separates this grass from the similar texture of golden Everillo carex, an evergreen grass-like plant that drapes down the front of the container. (I love the dense clusters of ginger-cream flowers on this heuchera too).

Also included are evergreen, multi-hued Ascot Rainbow euphorbia and Twiggy box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’).

Soft Touch

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No signs of orange here, yet this design will see you through pumpkin season and into spring with style. It also shows how you can  easily ‘cheat’ a little. None of these plants were tall enough to be the key element so I simply cut some curly willow stems from the garden and stuck the branches into the pot. When the willow leaves shrivel, run your fingers slowly down the stems to remove them, leaving the contorted bare branches to add sculptural interest and height to the design.

Likewise that interesting green leafy plant in the foreground is Nova Flame mukgenia. It will have glorious fall color and pink blooms in spring – but as a herbaceous perennial it will die back during winter and leave a visual blank spot in the pot as will the tufted hair grass. No problem; add small white pumpkins, pine cones, decorative pebbles or other seasonal accents, removing these in spring to allow for the new growth.

Other plants include shiny purple Spellbound heuchera, pink/white/green variegated Rainbow drooping fetterbush, deep pink Svenja bud bloomer heather and Northern Lights tufted hair grass.

Portable Feast

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Bright Lights Swiss chard is a popular vegetable for cooks and gardeners alike and it’s no wonder with such vibrant colors.  I selected one with hot-pink stems and burgundy foliage and used it to anchor a rustic pot glazed in deep earth tones.

To brighten things up a trailing  Yellowstone Falls heucherella cascades down the side of the pot. Each yellow leaf has a deep burgundy venation, helping to connect it to the colors of both the pot and chard.

Other plants include Obsession heavenly bamboo (a sport of the popular Gulf Stream that exhibits deep burgundy year round), autumn fern and the beautiful marbled foliage of Winter Moonbeam hellebore

Putting on the Glitz

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For those who want sparkles and frills. First the pot; shades of turquoise, accented with deep purple and given a finish reminiscent of encrusted barnacles sprinkled with silver glitter. Wow!

Tying into the silvery-blue colors I added the shimmery Silver Falls dichondra, a blue star juniper, Silver Swan euphorbia and a gorgeous Silver Veil hellebore, one of the Gold Collection hellebores that is so new I can’t find a link for you! (I will contact the grower and ask about that….) Height was added with the new Hot Rod switch grass, those warmer colors being echoed by Crimson Fans mukdenia. Softening the contrast is a Lemon Lime heavenly bamboo which unlike most varieties does not turn red.

To look its best through winter when the dichondra freezes and the mukdenia becomes dormant, I would replace the trailer with  golden creeping Jenny and add some silver balls to disguise the sleeping perennial. Voila – ready for the next Holiday!

 

All pots from AW Pottery.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Is your zeal for gardening hampered by the heat of summer sizzling your foliage?  We’re not even at the “Dog Days” of summer yet when “real” heat can set in and yet you may already be tired of hauling the watering can and hose around to pamper certain plants.
This week, let’s take a look at foliage that won’t shrivel when the thermometer gets a fever.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Pinterest has taken the popularity of succulents and all of the vast array of plants that behave like succulents to a whole new level of intrigue. There are as many types of succulents to fall in love with as there are ways to design with them.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Chanticleer
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Agave, Aloe, Sedum, Sempervivum, the collection possibilities are endless when you start looking for ways to have a sophisticated and water saving garden. Shopping for textures that go together, or setting your garden art about to accentuate your plants is much more fun that fussing with that hose anyway!

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

The drought tolerant landscape can be contemporary and architectural but, it can also be a soft and casual garden as well. The sky’s the limit when designing to save water and beat the heat.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
You may have to put tender things in containers in your climate and have a plan for keeping them warm in winter, but for many collectors, it’s worth it.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
If you are going to keep little containers of low maintenance foliage around, why not use them as focal points on the patio table rather than flowers that only bloom a short amount of time and need ALL of that H20?

Colorful drought tolerant plants that you can pair with succulents are a never-ending source of design inspiration.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageWither-Proof Hot weather Foliage
Blue Elymus grass can take the high temperatures with ease, so can the ‘Black Pearl’ Pepper and they look great with the ‘Blue Chalk Fingers’ succulent.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageSages and Salvia’s are a drought tolerant dream. Paired here with Limonium in a matching purple hue, you have color from the voluminous blooms and a water saving pairing.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Parahebe (like the one above) and Hebe are tough and heat loving small shrubs.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Euphorbia like ‘Glacier Blue’ with ‘Quicksilver’ Hebe and ‘Tri-Color’ Sage makes a lovely combination for tough and drought tolerant plants. The Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ is a bonus foliage that will need a wee little more water.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Silver foliage is almost certainly a great choice is you are looking for ways to save water in the garden. Artemisia is a family of plants with LOTS of choices and styles to choose from. But, there is a plethora of silver foliage to choose from for tough and dry conditions.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageG
lowing silver Astelia is a sophisticated option for a drought tolerant grass.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageZauchneria is not only great fun to say, but it blooms with bright orange flowers that hummingbirds begin turf wars over.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageBlue conifers of all types can be quite drought tolerant once established in the garden.

The bottom line is that there are FAR FAR too many drought tolerant and water saving options available to you these days to not try at least a few new ones every year. Your foliage palette will thank you and so will your water bill!

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Vibrant Color, Bold Design

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

Want vibrant colors in cool shady locations? If you’re focusing on the flowers first, it can be hard to come by. But I would defy anyone to try to tell me that it’s not possible to create BOLD and colorful combinations when you begin with foliage in lower light conditions. Though you need to fully understand the particular quality of light or lack of light you have in your situation, you CAN find options for foliage combinations in the shade in both containers and landscapes.

Morning shade has an entirely different light quality than afternoon shade. Dappled light all day is going to be a totally different challenge as would full deep shade. So, watch what your light does at different times of the day, as well as how many hours you have total and that will go a long way to helping you understand what your options are for plant choices. One tip: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. You would be shocked at how many people don’t think about where the light on their property actually comes from. 🙂

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
(In this combination: Coleus ‘Sedona’, Heuchera ‘Spellbound’, ‘Gartenmeister’ Fuchsia, Oxalis ‘Iron Cross’, Golden Feverfew, Fuchsia ‘Autumnale’, ‘Purple Heart’ Setcresea, Blue Anagalis, Blue ‘Techno Heat’ Lobelia, Violet New Guinea Impatien.)
The combination above sits in a cool location on the north side of the house where it gets bright morning light for a few hours, then a little bit of bright light for a bit right before sundown. It has a cool side that features the mainstay foliage and then a warm side that features the flowers. This container was newly planted not long ago and is just now powering up for the summer color show.

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
Vibrant Color, Bold Design

This portion of the container combination is in bright but very indirect light on the west side of the house where it is blocked by large hedges and trees from the warmth of the afternoon. This triad of foliage is exciting in its level of detail and texture as it stands on the side of other more fine textured foliage. (Rex begonia, Persian Shield, Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’).

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

This container rests on a mostly shaded, covered patio, although it’s not terribly bright it is very warm and dry. The warmth allows for a little bit of play with certain plants that typically want more sun, so we’re capitalizing on that in less light. Pictured here: Cordyline fruticosa, ‘Black Heart’ Potato Vine, Coleus, Persian Shield, Rex begonia, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
This foliage based shade combination has few flowers, but boasts some BOLD elements in a dappled light location. High contrast colors and textures, not to mention unusual plant selections make for a fun and architectural container design. This one is also newly planted and will “fluff out” quite a bit as summer progresses. Pictured here: Cordyline fruticosa, African Mask Alocasia, Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’, bright pink Bromeliad, Pink ‘Non-Stop’ Begonia, Golden Pothos.

As you have now witnessed, you CAN have amazing, mouth-watering color and texture from foliage in shade. If you can dream it, you can do it! Think out of the box, try shopping in the houseplant section, ground covers, etc. and for heaven’s sake, get to know your shade conditions first!! Now get out there and do some designing!

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Container Design with an Autumn Attitude

Can I make a confession here? I’m utterly tired of whiny, bellyaching autumn gardeners. There, I said it,  already I feel better! Why? Because the answer to MANY of the questions I regularly deal with this time of the year are from gardeners who believe that FLOWERS ought to be as abundantly available and at the forefront of seasonal container designs as they are in July.
Heauchera 'Berry Smoothie' with Zinnia 'Profusion Cherry'
Well, they aren’t. And they won’t be in the fall and winter, for the majority of the country, ever. Unless you are all right with the Chrysanthemums and Asters that bloom for such a short period of time. Those are fine for plants that you might switch out, but most of us don’t want that kind of work as it gets colder. The idea is that the flowers are now the seasonal accent for the next few months, not the main course.
Purple Aster with Carex BuchananiiFlower focused people will walk through the nursery and point-
Customer: “Can I use that one?”
Me: “No, that is a tropical, it will be dead in a week or two if left outside when it REALLY gets cold. How about this great plant? It has tons of texture and looks amazing with your container, plus you can re-use it somewhere else next year?”
Customer: “How about those, they are purple!” 
Me: “I wish! Unfortunately, that one is about done blooming right now. What if we come up with a color palette of amazing foliage that is bright and showy? We can even find purple for you!”

Don’t get me wrong, I adore flowers! It’s just that at THIS time of the year, the “shoulder season”, I am a little more realistic about what will last, have some great color and interest as well as be a good value. A pansy or viola will serve as a lovely accent flower and will also bloom for months in the cold, it is just not the centerpiece or focal point that will hold attention.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about!  Fall container combination focused on Foliage FIRST! OR how about THIS one?
A BOLD color combination for a fall and winter container design! See? I’m only asking for a minor revolution in thinking here. 😉 Try plants on that you might never have considered before for fall and winter interest. You might make an AMAZINGLY creative discovery!

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“Points of Distinction”- a video from Fine Foliage

Watch for an exciting contest coming soon from FINE FOLIAGE!

Enjoy this post?

Then join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)