Tag Archives: deciduous

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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One Special Tree – Four Stunning Seasons

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We all want instant gratification in our gardens; plant today – lush tomorrow. At some point most of us have learned the hard way that plants just don’t work to our schedule and we have to wait for the plants to fill in and mature before they really fulfill our vision.

Occasionally I come across something that exceeds my expectations and such is the case with the deciduous tree Ruby Vase Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica ‘Ruby Vase’).

Purchased and planted in 2012, I was attracted by the slender silhouette (as compared to the typical Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), that spreads up to 30′ wide) as well as the promise of fall color and winter flowers. I did not expect to be grabbing my camera every few weeks during spring and summer to capture the remarkable kaleidoscopic display of foliage colors, however.

Through the Seasons

Early Spring

Opening a bright, fresh green the leaves are often edged with purple or burgundy

Summer

Incredible variation with each passing week and seemingly from one year to the next! Click on the images, or hover over them, to see the month/year each one was taken

Fall

All I can say is thank goodness for digital photography or this tree would cost me a fortune in film! Again different weather patterns from one year to the next seems to affect the coloration. Since today’s (August 15th 2016) foliage is already rich purple I wonder if it will turn orange at all?

Winter

I may have purchased this tree for the foliage but the silhouette, bark and winter flowers add to its ornamental value. I believe that as the tree gets older the bark will start to peel and reveal interesting colors.

Design ideas

In my own garden I have it combined with tall burgundy tipped grasses and black eyed Susan for a meadow-inspired look. Large mossy boulders and a rusted arbor complete the scene that overlooks an open grassy area and rough meadow beyond.

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Seen from the front the framing is slightly different with a snag playing into the vignette together with golden spirea and many other foliage colors and textures.

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For a completely different look you might prefer to add silver; perhaps giant lambs ears (Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’), or a wormwood (Artemisia).

Vital statistics

Mature size: 28’h x 12- 16’w

Shape: upright, vase shape

Full sun – part shade (best color in full sen)

Average, moisture retentive soil

Average-low water (I do not have irrigation and rarely give this supplemental water)

USDA 4-9

Ready to go shopping?

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August 2016

Ask for this at your local nurseries! I have not found it available to purchase online but it is becoming more widely grown and therefore accessible to landscapers and garden centers.

Want more ideas?

Well you may want to pre-order our new book Gardening with Foliage First because we have featured this tree in two different seasons and great combination ideas just for you!

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)

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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Do Your Poppies POP?

Visit any nursery at this time of year and the chances are you’ll come across poppies in full bloom. In my own garden the annual varieties and perennial Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica) are still tight buds but the oriental poppies (Papaver orientalis) have been showing off their gaudy colors for a few days now.

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Large and luscious  – the oriental poppy loves full sun and dry or well-drained soil

Their ephemeral beauty can be lost, however, without great foliage to show them off. I’ve shared one such vignette with you before; Creating a Picture Frame with Foliage but rather liked this  combination I spotted in my garden yesterday that we could call…

Fire and Ice

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A fleeting Garden Moment – without the foliage these poppies would just be flowers.

The vibrant orange  oriental poppy (an unknown variety that was a gift from a friend) gains depth from the rich hues of Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’) behind it while Skylands spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) glows to one side.

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Backed by Orange Rocket barberry the poppies become serious Drama Queens

Tempering this heat, the cooling silver and blue-green foliage of a weeping willowleaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) and Blue Shag pine (Pinus strobus ‘Blue Shag’) create a soothing backdrop.

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The reflective silver leaves of the weeping pear

A large, wide boulder adds a sense of solidity to the scene, balancing the vertical lines of the poppy stems.

What other foliage plants would transform  these everyday orange poppies into something special?

Fire

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Double Play Gold spirea opens orange before transitioning to gold tipped with red.

Many spirea have foliage in shades of gold with orange-red new growth at this time of year e.g. Magic Carpet, Goldflame, Double Play Gold.

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Coppertina ninebark glows in the sunshine

Coppertina, Center Glow and Amber Jubilee ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious) all boast warm colors of amber through mahogany in spring.

Ice

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The new growth on Old Fashioned smoke bush

I love the Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’) with its soft blue-green leaves. The new growth and stems are usually rosy pink that only adds to the charm

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Silver Brocade wormwood  could be used as a groundcover under the orange poppies.

There are many silver leaved shrubs and perennials that could substitute for the weeping pear from the old fashioned daisy bush (Brachyglottis greyi) and silverbush (Convolvulus cneorum) to wormwood (Artemisia) varieties e.g. Silver Mound   and dusty miller (Senecio cineraria).

How have you paired your poppies with foliage to really make them POP? Leave us a comment below or post a photo to our Facebook page. We’d love to see and hear your ideas!

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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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End of the Year Fine Foliage HOT List

As we wrap up 2015, lets take a speedy peek at what is looking fantastic in foliage and twig for the rest of winter. If cabin fever is starting to hit you, dreaming and planning for how you can add these amazing winter details to your landscape and containers is a good idea!

Contorted Filbert takes center stage in this large container for winter interest in the front garden landscape.

Contorted Filbert takes center stage in this large container for winter interest in the front garden landscape.

Hellebore foliage is ALWAYS the height of fashion!

Hellebore foliage is ALWAYS the height of fashion!

Need a classy, hardy tree for your landscape to replace troublesome disease mongers who don't perform well? The Paperbark Maple has it ALL!

Need a classy, hardy tree for your landscape to replace troublesome disease mongers who don’t perform well? The Paperbark maple has it ALL!

This young Paperbark maple shows off the famous reddish peeling bark.

This young Paperbark maple shows off the famous reddish peeling bark.

Grasses may be frozen where you are, but even cold grasses are beautiful when the low winter light shines through.

Grasses may be frozen where you are, but even cold grasses are beautiful when the low winter light shines through. Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ is a wonderful one for it’s “Bunny Tails” that wave their fuzzy little tops in winter wind.

Are you collecting amazing dwarf conifers yet? Team Fine Foliage hopes so! When you add a fabulous grass like Carex 'Everest' you just doubled down on your landscape investment by adding a light and airy variegated plant too.

Are you collecting amazing dwarf conifers yet? Team Fine Foliage hopes so! When you add a fabulous grass like Carex ‘Everest’ you just doubled down on your landscape investment by adding a light and airy variegated plant too.

I am FULLY obsessed with this winter combo pot near my front entry; A half-high blueberry and 'Midget' ivy in full on winter color finery!

I am FULLY obsessed with this winter combo pot near my front entry; A half-high blueberry and ‘Midget’ ivy in full on winter color finery!

Who says winter containers have to be bland and boring?! Amp up the color with light foliage like Heuchera 'Lime Rickey', one of our favorite shrubs, Pieris 'Little Heath', a handsome white tipped Hemlock shrub named 'Gentsch White' and just a peekaboo of white variegated Acorus grass.

Who says winter containers have to be bland and boring?! Amp up the design energy with light foliage like Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’, one of our favorite shrubs, Pieris ‘Little Heath’, a handsome white tipped Hemlock shrub named ‘Gentsch White’ and just a peekaboo of white variegated Acorus grass.

Last but NOT least is the UBER drama that this amazing foliage brings to a mild climate landscape or container! This is 'Camouflage' Variegated Japanese Aralia up against the amazing color of azaleas showing off their red winter foliage. What a combo!!

Last but NOT least is the UBER drama that this amazing foliage brings to a mild climate landscape or container! This is ‘Camouflage’ Variegated Japanese Aralia up against the amazing color of azaleas showing off their red winter foliage. What a combo!!

Team Fine Foliage wishes you a happy, healthy and super LEAFY 2016!!!

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Winning With Silver

What's the buzz in your garden today?

What’s the buzz in your garden today?

It’s hot, too hot for most of my Seattle garden to handle. Fried astilbe, sunburned hosta and crispy ferns are just a few of my casualties while a semi-naked katsura tree also tells the sad story. I garden on 5 acres without an irrigation system, relying on the inherent drought tolerant properties of plants and occasional watering of selected plants by hand. Being on well water may save us on utility bills but there is a high probability that our well will go dry this year so every drop counts.

Feeling frustrated and disheartened I headed out into the garden with my camera, determined to find something that looked good despite drought and record breaking temperatures. A camera helps me narrow my focus and reduces distractions. Sure enough there are a few things to celebrate.

The overall winners were all my plants with silver leaves.

Licorice plant

Licorice plant

That’s not really surprising. Silver leaves reflect light and heat. You may notice that many of them are covered with fine hairs such as the licorice plant above. These are an adaptation to water conservation by reflecting light away from the plant. Hairs on the underside of the leaf raise the humidity of the surrounding air and slow down the movement of the air so that water is carried away more slowly. Cardoon leaves have that feature.

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We all love lavender for the fragrant flowers as well as the foliage which can be silver, green or variegated

Have you noticed how many of these silver leaved plants are also aromatic? Lavender, catmint, Russian sage, culinary sage to name just a few. Interestingly these volatile oils increase the air density and reduce evaporation.

To conserve water loss, plants with smaller leaves also do better in a drought since the surface area is significantly reduced.

These are just a few examples from my own garden this year but you will soon see how they exemplify one or more of these survivor traits. By understanding what has done well I hope to make wise choices going forward since meteorologists tell us this pattern may hold for three or four more years.

 Silver Falls dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’)

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Although just a fun annual for me I was thrilled to see Silver Falls dichondra as a tough, vigorous groundcover when we visited  San Diego earlier this year. I love to grow this trailing over the edges of brightly colored containers or hanging baskets. Like strands of exquisite shimmery beads this will bring a touch of class to the simplest design. For me it does equally well in full sun as it does in part shade.

Silver Brocade wormwood (Artemisia stelleriana ‘Silver Brocade’)

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I do love the silver foliage of so many wormwood including Valerie Finnis and Silver Mound but have only marginal success overwintering them. My heavy clay soils just don’t drain quickly enough. So after several years of replacing Silver Mound I decided to just buy a few inexpensive 2″ basket stuffers of Silver Brocade. For many this will be a reliable perennial but I’m considering it an annual. However knowing that they would spread really quickly I didn’t mind investing a few dollars for some serious summer sizzle.

I tucked the little plugs in with some white alyssum (either seedlings I’d grown or more 2″ basket stuffers) and have been thrilled with the results. They have only been watered once a week yet have spread at least 2′ in every direction, their felted fern-like foliage adding a bold carpet under its neighbors.

Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)

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I’m not generally a fan of growing groundcovers as their presence makes it difficult to add soil amendments such as compost and can even make weeding more awkward. However in the summer I have come to rely on the silver licorice plant to disguise the gaps between young plants, add a silver uplight to darker colors and be a seriously drought-tolerant groundcover from May until late September. I allow a certain amount of free-form scrambling over small shrubs and encourage them to weave between perennials such as black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’). One little 4″ plant can spread 3-4′ so that’s a good return on a couple of dollars.

Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

Mature cardoon foliage (at a local nursery)

Mature cardoon foliage (photo taken at a local nursery)

Drama? Check. Scale? Check. Pollinator caviar? Double check

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My intention was just to show you the huge, coarse, deeply dissected silver foliage of this monster perennial but how could I possibly ignore the blooms, especially when there was a pollinator orgy going on in my garden?! Thistle-like flowers are being produced with complete disregard for drought conditions. Like many plants these cardoon are a little shorter this year due to lack of regular water but that’s OK as they still offer such great architecture to the garden border – and pollen for the bees.

Weeping silver-leaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’)

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Metallic silver, willow-like foliage is remarkably eye-catching in a mixed border; even more so when on a weeping small tree. It creates a focal point yet highlights other plants from bold conifers to finely textured grasses. It goes well with deep jewel tones and adds a soft touch of romance to pastels.

In its youth the weeping silver-leaf pear can be rather gangly but give it a few years to step beyond adolescence and you will be well rewarded.

White flowers in spring are followed by inedible pear-like fruit but this ornamental small tree or large shrub is all about the foliage. This is one of my favorite plants in the garden.

Catmint (Nepeta species)

Walker's Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

Walker’s Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

I have both Walker’s Low and Little Trudy catmint in this garden and have grown the classic Six Hills Giant previously. I love them all for their fragrant foliage, blue flowers, easy attitude and superior drought tolerance. After blooming I unceremoniously hack them down to a few inches and this is my reward; more flowers and fresh foliage despite no water or fertilizer.

Sea Heart Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Sea Heart’)

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I don’t have a lot of shade in my garden but where I do you won’t be surprised to learn that it is fairly dry shade. Siberian bugloss seems undaunted by such conditions. Jack Frost does extremely well but  Sea Heart is even more remarkable not least of all because of the much larger size of its leaves. Rough to the touch this heart shaped foliage has an intricate overlay of silver on green. Forget-me-not blue flowers appear in spring. This is holding its own under a golden locust tree and is thriving.

Quicksilver hebe (Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’)

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Just a few miles from here in Christina’s garden Quicksilver hebe is hardy but in my cold, sticky, heavy clay soils I’m happy to use it as an annual or short term semi-evergreen shrub. The color and texture are easy to blend with bolder, brighter offerings in the landscape and I know this can take both the heat and low water. I’ve been especially glad of it this year although its color leans more towards a pale teal than true silver

Elsewhere in the garden are assorted lavender, Silver Shadow astelia and the new Bella Grigio lambs ears; all thriving in our crazy summer.

As a bonus all the plants listed here have proven deer resistant in my deer-ravaged garden

Take a few moments to look at your own garden and assess what looks good right now despite your particular gardening challenges. Tell us about it in the comments below or post a photo to our Facebook page; we’d love to hear your news.

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Fido-Proof Foliage

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Bo (left) and Mia. Photo credit Gethyn Clothier

I have two golden retrievers with varying degrees of intelligence. Bo is big, blonde and goofy. Mia is smaller and more devious. For the most part our garden and the dogs live in harmony. The vegetable garden is fenced to keep the deer out and also serves to keep canine noses within reach of just a few strawberries and only the lowest apples.

Bo knows that  this path is off limits. Knowing and remembering, however, are two different skills

Bo knows that this path is off limits. Knowing and remembering, however, are two different skills

They know they have to keep out of certain areas that aren’t fenced but have a distinct change in tactile surface e.g. grass is OK but the wood chips path that winds through the bigger borders is off limits.

OOPS - we'd only had Bo a few days at this point so forgiveable

OOPS – we’d only had Bo a few days at this point so forgivable. Photo credit; Gethyn Clothier

The problem arises when they see deer. Or Rabbits. Or a squirrel. Or heaven help us the neighbor because at that point 85 pounds of blonde fur is likely to fly through shrubs and perennials, tail wagging with abandon.

Sound familiar? How can the garden survive such joie de vivre? I find dense planting helps (no clear pathway between them) but certain plants are tougher than others.

I look for flexible branches that will give way rather than snap, tough foliage that won’t shred under paws and multi-stemmed shrubs so that if one or two canes get damaged it’s not the end of the world.

Here are some of my favorite tromp-able foliage plants that look good enough for me and survive happy dogs.

Abelia

Kaleidoscope abelia has colorful variegated foliage

Kaleidoscope abelia has colorful variegated foliage

These evergreen or semi-evergreen shrubs work hard in the garden. Drought tolerant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant they also have fragrant flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. Kaleidoscope is one of several variegated forms. Plant this next to a purple shrub such as a smoke bush or weigela and you’ve got the makings of a top notch vignette.

David’s viburnum

Davids viburnum with river birch

Davids viburnum with river birch

This tough evergreen shrub has a bad reputation for being boring thanks to its ubiquitous use along roadsides, in shopping malls and just about anywhere else you need a low maintenance, fuss-free plant. Hang on a minute though; since when was that a bad thing? These wide spreading shrubs survive deer, rabbits, drought and DOGS. Spring flowers, fall berries and easy going; you may need to put your pride aside and look at David’s viburnum again.

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)

Fall Foliage on Little Henry

Fall Foliage on Little Henry

I favor the compact variety Little Henry as it fits easily into modest sized gardens but this is a foliage workhorse even at full size (Henry’s Garnet). Fragrant spring flowers and stunning fall color that often persists through winter are two great attributes but this deciduous shrub also thrives in wet soil and grows by suckering. For dog owners that’s a plus as it means there are lots of soft pliable stems so some will remain unscathed after the dog-chases-rabbit rampage is over.

Blue star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

Many low growing conifers survive the odd tennis ball but the short branches and needles  together with its irregular growth habit help the Blue Star juniper easily disguise some minor trampling. Larger pine boughs would definitely be missed by comparison.

Flanked by a viburnum and spirea the blue star juniper survives bouncing tennis balls and paws

Flanked by a viburnum and spirea the blue star juniper survives bouncing tennis balls and paws

Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida)

Lemon Beauty has an attractive lemon and lime variegation

Lemon Beauty has an attractive lemon and lime variegation

If you have a shrub that you can prune anyhow, anytime and it still looks OK then chances are good that it will be fine with dogs too. Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) is a sprawling semi-evergreen/evergreen shrub with several attractive varieties sporting interesting foliage colors. Lemon Beauty is one of my favorites. I allow it to grow into a wide arching shrub to disguise irrigation pipes in one area of the garden but prune it more closely for shape in another.

Plants to avoid – at least initially

Dogs love to eat grass – especially the expensive ones like Japanese forest grass and mondo so wait a while on adding those if you’re training a puppy. Taller grasses can also quickly be ravaged by boisterous dogs.

Western sword ferns may not be the most delicate - but that is why they survive dog play

Western sword ferns may not be the most delicate – but that is why they survive dog play

Soft, delicate ferns are likely to get torn to shreds (e.g. western maidenhair fern) but the tougher more leathery varieties will cope better e.g. western sword fern

Anything whose beauty is associated with perfect symmetry! That suggests leaving globe shaped conifers behind in favor of ones with a little more personality.

Paws for thought

I haven’t mentioned plants with thorns such as Oregon grape (Mahonia), holly or barberries. These will hurt dogs and none of us wants to do that. When your dogs are trained by all means include these great shrubs if they are suitable for your area, but perhaps set them into the border a little way. Even well behaved dogs have accidents when leaping for a tennis ball!

Share your ideas

We’d love to hear what plants you have used that have survived being torn up by paws or knocked flat by tails (or rolled onto …)

Why do I feel as though the dogs will have the last laugh??

Why do I feel as though the dogs will have the last laugh??

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The Ones That Got Away

Early morning in the beautiful garden of designer Vi Kono includes being serenaded by doves

Early morning in the beautiful garden of designer Vi Kono includes being serenaded by doves

Christina and I are working hard to bring you the best of the best for our new book Foliage First (working title only), due out fall 2016 with Timber Press. The less than romantic aspects of that means staggering out of bed at unearthly hours for photo shoots then working late at night editing, critiquing and selecting only those images that we feel really tell a story. We want you to see at a glance what a fabulous foliage framework can do for a piece of art or a special flower for instance.

In the selection process we have to set aside many combinations that are gorgeous but that perhaps include a shrub that we have already featured several times. Or sometimes there are just one too many slug holes! Occasionally our photography was good – but not excellent – and we are striving for excellence.

In this post I thought I’d share of few of those images that showed great creativity on the part of the homeowner but didn’t make the cut for the book. Be inspired! Don’t consider them ‘outtakes’ but rather the ones that (almost) got away.

1. Architectural detail

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

I love the curved lines of this metal sculpture. Nestled among the stiff succulent branches of donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) and backed by a variegated juniper this is a delightful ‘garden moment’. Have you got a rock retaining wall that could use a little accessorizing?

2. New Plant!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

Have you seen Neptune’s Gold seaholly (Eryngium) in person yet? It looks like the one above (which is Sapphire Blue) but those bracts are actually GOLD. Totally amazing. You’ll have to wait for our book to see the combination included with the new perennial. It is STUNNING!

Meanwhile enjoy this duo; a wonderful soft color echo between Sapphire Blue sea holly with the teal and gold juniper behind it.

3. Look THIS way!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

if only this clematis flower would have been turned slightly – or I could have found a better angle. Still I know you will still appreciate the ingenuity for allowing this to grow through the columnar purple barberry Helmond’s Pillar. Why didn’t I think of that?

4. Floral extravaganza

Design by Karen Steeb

Design by Karen Steeb

This delightful combination would be perfect – for a different book! The gold variegated foliage of the Emerald and Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald and Gold’) sets off the white Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’) ) beautifully which in turn allows the orange poppy to shine. Can’t honestly say this is a ‘foliage first‘ combo, but you have to admit that the foliage is definitely a key part in its success.

5. Fishing hole

Design by Ruth Hough

Design by Ruth Hough

A charming vignette that tells a story of the one that got away. From the artfully placed gnarled tree root to the carefully selected boulder that holds water like a pool, this scene has got the perfect Pacific Northwest vibe, using native sword ferns as well as conifers and grasses to set the scene. We had to concede that the story it didn’t tell was foliage first – and that’s OK. We love it anyway and know you will too.

Can you do something like this? I’m on the lookout for a metal fish!

Do YOU have a garden we can photograph?

IMG_4551

We still need a few more great photographs for the book. We need them to show a foliage framework then how art, flowers or berries have been strategically layered in. If this sounds like your garden and you’re within driving distance of Seattle please get in touch! Email Karen to start the conversation. And please don’t worry about weeds or a lawn that hasn’t been edged. The camera is master of illusion.

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A Must-Have Tree for Spring Foliage

Weeping Larch in Spring

If you have a large sweeping landscape with acreage and views that extend far past what you can see from the house or if you have a San Francisco style property like mine with more of a courtyard style landscape, the Weeping Larch (Larix decidua ‘Pendula’) is a tree that will add drama no matter the season.

You may not be familiar with deciduous conifers like the family of Larch, but this is the one you might want to invest some time to look into it for your garden. It would likely become one of your favorites. It sure has become one of mine!

This family of trees and shrubs have needles, cones and when they lose their needles in autumn, the color is incredible. There are 12-15 different species to choose from, but today we’re just looking at the weeping version.

Thumbnail of Weeping Larch in Spring

Super-soft green needles spiral around branches and look like flowers when emerging in spring.

Late summer for the Weeping Larch

Peeking over the side gate in late summer at the Weeping Larch, just before it begins changing color.

Fall color on Weeping Larch

In fall, needles turn gold, orange & brown before dropping. The small cones are very decorative, sitting erectly atop branches for winter interest. And this tree gets HUGE bonus points for being deer resistant too!!

Now that you are all hopped up on juicy photos of a gorgeous little tree that you NEED for your landscape, go forth and shop. Ask you local Independent Garden Center if they have this wonderful tree for you.

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