Tag Archives: deer

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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One Leaf – Oodles of Options

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Sometimes you need something different to liven up the shade tapestry of ferns, hostas and hellebores. Painter’s Palette knotweed (Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’) might be just the answer. This isn’t the highly invasive knotweed that threatens to engulf both ornamental and native plantings, but a better-behaved relative. Having said that, it is still quite vigorous and spreads by underground rhizomes as well as seed, especially in moist soil. I have found that in drier conditions it spreads very little, so choose your site wisely and consult your local Extension office if in doubt.

Why we like it

Mottled green and cream foliage is splashed irregularly with raspberry shades, and most leaves have a burgundy chevron. Painter’s Palette forms a mound of foliage, and an abundance of wiry stems of unusual red flowers rises above in midsummer. As an herbaceous perennial, it will die down in winter, which allows ephemeral spring-blooming bulbs to be tucked in underneath.

While suffering mild slug damage it is mostly ignored by deer and rabbits and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. It copes with clay soil and thrives in moist conditions but never gets watered in my woodland gardens and does just fine so appears to be reasonably drought tolerant providing the soil holds adequate moisture.

Recommended for partial sun it will take more sun if kept well watered,

How to use it

Of course the question is, what other plants can we combine with it to really show it off? Well there are plenty of options to choose from. Seeking out other foliage plants that echo the creamy tone is a good way to start then highlight the rose chevron detail with an accent flower or leaf.

In the example below the green and cream are repeated by two other adjacent plants while the raspberry chevron is picked up by a planting of magenta phlox in the distance

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Clearly defined form helps distinguish these three variegated plants together with a carpet of solid green . Design by Daniel Mount, Seattle WA

Seattle designer Daniel Mount has got a remarkable eye for color and detail,  weaving plants together into  luxuriant tapestries that seduce the unwary visitor. How can you resist running your fingers through the cascading waterfall of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) or testing the springiness of the perfectly clipped variegated boxwood? This artistic combination is discussed in more detail here and we have several more of Daniel’s designs to share with you in our upcoming book Gardening with FOLIAGE FIRST (Timber Press, January 2017).

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland, OR

Thomas Vetter is another Pacific Northwest gardener with  an uncanny ability to shoehorn an abundance of plants into a relatively small space yet do so in a  strategic way to create layers of contrasting and complementary foliage with floral and other artistic accents added as precisely placed punctuation points.

Painter’s Palette knotweed brightens up a corner of his front garden, illuminating a purple smoke bush while adding a stage upon which the pineapple lily (Eucomis ) can truly show off her shapely form and flowers. See how those burgundy stems draw the eye to the chevron detail on the knotweed? The faded allium seedheads add a delightful  softness to the composition, juxtaposed with the bronze succulent foliage of the pineapple lily and mimicking its star shaped flowers.

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland OR

Nearby  this knotweed variety is given a new twist by introducing the red bell-shaped blooms of a flowering maple (Abutilon) and flirty Hot Lips sage (Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’) both of which serve to really pull out its rosy foliage markings. Balancing the wispiness of the Hot Lips sage, a variegated agave adds bold texture and form while Fire Power heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica ‘Fire Power’) transitions the color palette into more golden hues.

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland, OR

When viewed from a different angle, one can better appreciate the clever use of contrasting leaf texture while repeating the key colors in this vignette.

What would YOU pair this with? Do leave a comment here or post a photo to our Facebook page! And stand by for a truly STUNNING combination using Painter’s Palette knotweed in our new book, designed by Daniel Mount. It’s one of my personal favorites.

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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.

first-editions

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My New BFF

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Blade of Sun snowberry

What’s sparkles in the shade, is deer resistant, drought tolerant, smothers weeds, propagates easily but isn’t invasive, has hot pink berries in fall and helps control soil erosion?

Let me introduce you to my new BFF (Best Foliage Friend)  Blade of Sun snowberry (Symphoricarpos chenaultii ‘Blade of Sun’). You NEED this plant….

Why I Love It

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It has a low growing, spreading habit and where the branches touch the ground new roots develop. You can sever this rooted branch from the mother plant to get more plants – it’s a really easy technique called layering except that this snowberry does all the work for you.

If it gets too wide simply snip away with the pruners. No special technique or timing needed for success. Since the main plant will easily grow to 2′ wide – more as it layers – it make sense to set it back from the edge of the border even though it is low growing.

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The froth of golden foliage is easily trimmed to keep the path clear but tumbles down the stream bank, rooting even into the muddy soil of the stream itself! This plant is now almost 5′ wide from side to side and was planted three years ago.

The bright golden yellow foliage is semi-evergreen and holds its color well throughout the year although by mid-summer mine tends to be more chartreuse. It has proven to be drought tolerant in my woodland garden where it is planted in dappled shade and clay soil with no irrigation. A younger plant in more sun may need extra water and in the full sun of hotter climates it may scorch.

I have never noticed the pink flowers and the berry production is not extensive – consider them a bonus because this shrub is really all about the leaves.

Design Ideas

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This seasonal stream can fill to the top in winter but that never fazes the blue flowering bugleweed or snowberry

I planted a Blade of Sun snowberry on my moderately steep stream bank to hold the soil in place. It’s layering habit meant that this was so successful that last year I took several cuttings and planted them farther downstream to continue the splash of gold: I’m delighted with the look!

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Catlin’s Giant bugleweed creates its own river of blue along the streambank in spring

Try inter-planting this with one of the larger bugleweed‘s e.g. Catlin’s Giant whose purple-black  leaves offer striking contrast while the azure-blue flowering spikes easily penetrate the lax branches of the shrub. Classic blue and yellow – perfect recipe for spring.

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Red Carpet barberry, Blade of Sun snowberry and Catlin’s Giant bugleweed, mingling and thriving together.

Red Carpet barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Red Carpet’) also has a prostrate habit and I have used several on the sunnier sections of the stream bank. I love their association with the golden yellow snowberry leaves. If barberries are invasive where you live consider substituting with a dwarf loropetalum e.g. Purple Pixie or dwarf weigela e.g. Midnight Wine.

It may look like  a box of crayons but this red-blue-yellow combo is grown up enough for enthusiastic gardeners of all ages.

In another part of the garden I have mixed Blade of Sun snowberry with several hosta and two rusted metal spheres which pick up on the tawny-pink stems of the shrub.

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The bronze new growth of Rodgersia podophylla ‘Rotlaub’ offers bold contrast to the other streamside plantings

In fact this small golden leaf would work with everything from dissected fern and astilbe leaves to bold Rodgersia. Or just imagine how this splash of yellow would wake up the tired rhododendron border in summer and fall !

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A different perspective; fun to repeat the gold color with Carex ‘Bowle’s Golden’ and oxslip blooms (Primula veris). Acer palmatum ‘Orangeola in the background.

What would YOU plant it with? Do leave a comment below or on Facebook – or tell me when I see you at the nurseries! Happy gardening.

Available from Forest Farms

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When You Need FIERCE Foliage

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Do you need to get TOUGH? Warm climate gardeners can use this vicious Euphorbia x ambohipotsiensis to keep curious animals out of their garden; I need a solution for Seattle.

I’m working on re-designing a clients suburban front garden with a primary heartfelt plea to “please stop the neighbors  dogs  using this as a bathroom”.

I totally understand their frustration. They love dogs  although they don’t currently have any pups of their own. However you wouldn’t know that from the amount of time they spend cleaning up after everybody else’s dogs!  I remember watching one lady casually standing by, her little dog on its leash, watching and waiting as the dog did its business in my own front garden many years ago.  I rushed out to confront her, incensed that she thought this was perfectly acceptable behavior! (She never did that again).

While I can’t train the dog owners, one thing I can do for these homeowners is make the garden less desirable and harder to access for canines while still maintaining an aesthetically pleasing outlook that works with the neighborhood. Local regulations prevent me from adding a fence so I will mound up the soil creating a berm and add a number of chunky boulders. Between these I will plant some thorny, low growing barberries. This is where dogs have better judgement than some owners as they will quickly recognize this as a ‘no go’ zone. It’s just no fun  to sniff around in between prickly bushes!

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Concorde barberry retains its luscious deep grape color all season

Barberries are not invasive in our area so I am using the burgundy Concorde (Berberis thunbergii ‘Concorde’) that will grow into tidy 3′ mounds as well as the low growing dwarf coral hedge barberry (Berberis x stenophylla ‘Corallina Compacta’) which has evergreen dark green leaves and vivid orange flowers.

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Aloe are interspersed with less prickly companions on this rocky hillside at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens

In warmer climates you may consider agave, aloe and other super-spiny succulents and cacti. Remember to deter dogs, something low growing and/or wide spreading is the most effective.

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Now THIS could work – but sadly not where I live. Huntingdon Botanical Garden, CA

Other options might include groundcover type roses e.g. the Flower Carpet series.

Deterring Larger Intruders

Whether two footed or four, there are times when one might need to deter larger visitors from trampling your garden – or gaining access to a window. This is when we need super-sized, thorny shrubs.

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Pretty marbled colors of Rose Glow barberry

My first call is still for barberries which I use to send deer on a detour around the outer perimeter of our large island border. Rose Glow (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’) is inexpensive, easy to find and the burgundy foliage splashed with cream and pink works well as a backdrop for most plants. With each deciduous shrub forming a 4′ x 4′ fountain a hedge of these creates a formidable barrier.

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Gorgeous spring flowers on an evergreen barberry; UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens

The larger evergreen barberries typically have orange flowers which look stunning against the glossy dark green leaves. Darwin barberry (Berberis darwinii) and William Penn (Berberis x gladwynensis ‘William Penn’) are two popular varieties but there are many others.

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Love the pincushion of extra spines on this hedgehog holly

Hollies are also a great option; specifically those that are sterile. I have just purchased a nice big hedgehog holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ ). Love the bright variegation and extra cream-colored spikes on some of those leaves!

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Goshiki Japanese holly is a great choice for barrier planting

Japanese holly (Osmanthus h. ‘Goshiki’) has similar spiny leaves to true hollies without the concern for invasive tendencies . For some reason mine have not done well over the past few winters, even though last year was quite mild. They have lost almost all their leaves so I am slowly replacing them with other shrubs. Still a great choice for many gardeners, however, and they can easily be sheared to keep to a smaller size.

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Charity Oregon grape is a favorite of mine – and hummingbirds

There are many varieties of Oregon grape (Mahonia species) that you could turn to. The taller varieties such as Winter Sun, Arthur Menzies and Charity will all work well as deterrents in areas that get afternoon shade and the yellow flowers attract hummingbirds and bees.

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Those stiff spines on the stems and leaves are SHARP!

Gunnera might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of thorny plants but the stems on these giants are definitely wicked. If you have moist soil and lots of space this could be an option, making a great visual statement from spring-fall. Sadly it won’t help much in winter as this is a perennial and will be dormant during that time.

Going All Out

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Part of Loree Bohl’s garden in Portland, OR

One notable gardener has created the infamous Danger Garden. Loree Bohl has turned her Portland lot into a remarkable showcase for all things fierce. You can re-read the article we wrote on her unique garden here.

We know you all have great ideas so do share! What plants do you use for fierce foliage – and what are you trying to deter? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

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Fine Foliage for Clay Soils

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soft Leaved Yucca

Soft Leaved Yucca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

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

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

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

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

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Grow Your Own Leaves

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What will you grow besides veggies and flowers this year?

The seed catalogs are piling up on the coffee table and my notebook is filling up as I list the varieties of flowers and vegetables I’d like to grow this year. But what about growing some foliage plants for my garden and  containers too? Ornamental edibles, annuals, biennials and perennials are all possible and they will save me money for bigger ticket items such as trees and shrubs.

Here are a few to consider.

Ornamental Edibles

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This is the easiest place to start; grow some ornamental edibles to tuck into your landscape and containers this year. Lettuce, kale, chard, beet and herbs are all perfect candidates that will do double duty for taste and good looks. Renee’s Garden has an outstanding selection.

Annuals

All done and dusted in a single year but they give so much to the garden they are definitely worth growing yourself if you need more than just one or two.

Coleus

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A trio of coleus with Japanese forest grass and black sweet potato vine makes a stunning combo for the shade.

You may not be able to find all your favorite varieties as seed but there are still oodles of these colorful annuals to choose from. If you have extensive shade gardens this could be a really inexpensive way to add a colorful groundcover this year considering a 4″ plant can cost as much as $6 in the nursery! Leftovers are perfect for containers and baskets too. Buy a fun mix such as Wizard Mix and see what colors you get or something dark and dramatic like Black Dragon.

Licorice plant (Helichrysum)

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Licorice plant

This drought tolerant, deer resistant groundcover has become a staple in my summer garden where its wide spreading branches weaves between shrubs and perennials, smothering weeds and filling gaps. I haven’t grown this from seed before and it looks as though it needs to be sown 10-12 weeks before setting out so I need to get cracking! Try Silver Mist.

Silver Falls dichondra (Dichondra argentea)

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Love to use this as a spiller from hanging baskets and containers, where the strands of heart-shaped metallic leaves catch the light like a cascade of silver pennies. Silver Falls seems to do well in full or part sun and like many silver plants is drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Amaranth (Amaranthus)

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A wild amaranth that caught my eye at Epcot a few years ago!

There are several varieties of this annual to look for that are especially noted for their foliage. Not for the faint of heart, Joseph’s Coat screams PARTY! Vivid yellow,red and green splashed leaves add a wonderful blast of late season color to the garden. Molten Fire, as its name suggests has bronze foliage that turns shades of crimson in late summer. Cinco de Mayo tries to outdo them both, boasting foliage in multi-color pinwheels of electric yellow, vivid orange and magenta. Imagine any of these next to a stand of tall grasses such as burgundy tipped Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’) or powder blue Dallas Blues switch grass (Panicum v. ‘Dallas Blues’).

Castor Oil Bean (Ricin communis)

High Spirited Foliage for the 4th

Go BIG or go home? You’ll love this tropical looking beauty for the back of the border and larger containers where it can reach 5-10′ tall depending on the variety and conditions. Carmencita pictured above is a favorite of ours with its rich burgundy leaves and scarlet seed pods but there are others to choose from including New Zealand Purple (purple foliage and seedpods) and Zanzibarensis Mix, an 1870 heirloom, which sports immense green leaves with decorative ribbing and white or violet blooms. Ooh….

NOTE: Seeds are highly poisonous; remove seed pods before seeds drop and wear gloves when handling.

Biennials and Perennials

For those of you looking ahead, consider sowing seeds for foliage plants that will look their best next year – or the year after that. Again this is such an easy way to save money, especially if you need a large quantity of a particular plant for a themed border or sweeping vignette. These are a couple that I feel are worth the effort either because they are usually so expensive as individual plants or they can be hard to find.

Silver Sage (Salvia argentea)

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Photo credit; Annie’s Annuals

Huge, felted silvery leaves that grow in luscious rosettes. A winner for hot spots in well drained soil silver sage is stunning.

Bugbane (Cimicifuga r. atropurpurea)

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Bugbane is one of my favorite dark leaved perennials for a partially shaded border. named varieties can be as much as $15 for a gallon plant making this packet of seeds a really good deal! Vanilla fragrance from the tall spires of white flowers is an added bonus.

What are you growing from seed this year? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. Itchy gardening fingers want to know!

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Great Shrubs for Busy Gardeners

 

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A tranquil spot to sit and enjoy the garden. Hough residence, Woodinville, WA

Let’s be honest; few of us want to spend all our free time working in the garden no matter how much we enjoy being outside. I’m never asked to design a ‘high maintenance garden’, nor asked for recommendations of plants that need endless pampering or pruning. Most homeowners request a low maintenance, easy care and drought tolerant palette that looks good year round; a tall order but not impossible.

My starting point is to focus on building a framework of shrubs that have outstanding foliage, are suited to the soil, water and light conditions and need minimal trimming, feeding or fussing. I will typically use a ratio of 2:1 evergreen:deciduous to get a balance of seasonal interest, color and texture and I will often seek out dwarf cultivars of traditional favorites such as Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) as they are less likely to outgrow their allotted space in smaller gardens.

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A colorful combination of evergreen conifers and deciduous shrubs in my own garden that provides stunning foliage, seasonal flowers . These are all low maintenance, drought tolerant AND deer resistant !

 

Traits to look for

  • Fabulous foliage
  • Disease resistance
  • Little or no pruning needed
  • Doesn’t outgrow its allotted space
  • Suited to your light, water and soil conditions

I recently shared with you some of my favorite ‘go to’ conifers so this post will focus on broadleaf shrubs.

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica varieties)

Unlike the better known canes of true bamboo, this evergreen shrub is well behaved and is of no interest to your pet panda.

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Gulf Stream  heavenly bamboo frames a rustic pot to create a simple focal point. Tan residence, Seattle, WA

With outstanding foliage in shades of green, red, coral, orange, lime and/or gold, white summer flowers and clusters of red winter berries plus the ability to grow in full sun or partial shade this immediately meets my criteria for seasonal interest and bold color.

However, not all named varieties are equally beautiful or easy care in my experience. The  species (i.e. not a named variety but just listed as Nandina domestica)  tends to be leggy, with unattractive bare knees and spindly top growth that needs pruning in an attempt to create a fuller, bushier shrub. Far better to choose a named variety such as Gulf Stream whose reliable 3′ x 3′ cushion-type shape never exposes its ankles let alone knees. Moon Bay is also excellent in this regard if slightly larger.

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Firepower heavenly bamboo in its winter color, used in a container

If you prefer a slightly bolder leaf consider FirePower which still has more of a ground hugging habit. Where a more upright form is needed I have found Moyer’s Red to be one of the best and use it in container designs for height, layering lower plants in front. For the more color adventurous among you check out the exciting varieties of Nandina in the Sunset Western Garden Collection including Lemon Lime which is perfect for those who prefer not to have red foliage.

No pruning necessary, drought tolerant once established and easy care.

Little Henry Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’)

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Fall foliage on Little Henry

This unassuming deciduous shrub deserves a place in your garden in partial shade or full sun. Far from being fussy, Virginia sweetspire will thrive in sticky wet clay yet is drought tolerant once established, needs no pruning and is typically ignored by deer (although they may do a quick taste test).

Little Henry grows just 2-3′ tall and wide, spreading by suckering but not to the point of being invasive. In spring the mound of bright green foliage is transformed by the abundant racemes of pendulous white flowers. These are lightly fragrant and attract bees and butterflies.

The fall color is a fiery red and the leaves may stay on the shrub for much of the winter if the weather is mild.

I have used this as a low hedge  flanking a path, as an alternative to hydrangeas for foundation planting where deer are a problem or in my own garden on seasonal stream banks to help stabilize the slope.  Here they thrive in the terrible clay soil that is alternately seasonally saturated or dry as a bone.

Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)

Super busy and thrifty? Then you’ll like these!

Wintercreeper offers a colorful, evergreen option for full sun or partial shade. Give it an occasional chop to keep it low or allow it to scramble and meander informally for additional height. Wintercreeper can usually be found both in a gallon (6″) and 4″ pot and is one of the cheapest shrubs you’ll find, often costing as little as $3 for the 4″ size.

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Emerald ‘n’ Gold adds an attractive evergreen border to a profusion of summer flowering perennials. Design by Karen Steeb, Woodinville, WA

The two most popular varieties are the gold/green ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ and the green/white variegated ‘Emerald Gaiety’. Both take on a rosy hue in cold weather.

Emerald ‘n’ Gold shown above is a cheap substitute for Kaleidoscope abelia and is more reliably evergreen in my garden.

Try the green and white variegated Emerald Gaiety to edge a border of your favorite PG hydrangeas such as Quick Fire or Firelight. The large white panicles of these hydrangeas take on a rosy blush as the season progresses making this a really stunning and easy combination for the garden or large container.

Tough, cheap, healthy and easy to find in the nurseries.

Fine Line buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’)

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The tall feathery foliage on the far right is a Fine Line buckthorn; great contrast with bolder, spikier forms. Design by Loree Bohl, Portland, OR.

A feathery, vertical accent that is easy care and deer resistant. Buckthorn is incredibly versatile and will take full sun or part shade, wet soil or dry.

In autumn the rich green leaves of Fine Line turn golden yellow, falling to reveal the spotted stems that continue to add winter interest to the garden or container.

This non-invasive deciduous shrub can be used as an exclamation point in the border, as a hedge or for seasonal screening as it will grow to 5′ tall but just 2-3′ wide. If an errant branch flops just chop it off; no fancy pruning needed.

Northern Bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)

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I discovered this quite by accident when the bronze foliage caught may eye as I scanned the nursery displays one spring.  On closer inspection I realized that I had had one of these bushes in my garden all along but didn’t know what it was! The northern bush honeysuckle is native to most of the NE United States and Canada but appears to be a relative newcomer to western gardens. The best foliage color is in full sun but this will also take part shade (where my original shrub was lurking).

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With fragrant yellow flowers that attract birds, butterflies and birds, amazing red fall color and an ability to thrive in poor soil this deserves a closer look. With its rather lax habit and 3′ x 3′ size I feel it works best in woodland gardens or as a filler for larger borders.

A few more to consider

Spirea certainly make the cut as easy care. You can read more about this group here. Likewise I personally love barberries for their many colors and supreme deer resistance. However they are invasive in some states so not suitable for everyone. I’ve shown you a few of my favorites before. (Just do a search for barberries if you’d like to re-read a few posts).

Then there are shrubs that I love but can’t consider them suitable for the really busy gardener as they do require some upkeep. However, ‘work’ means different things to different people so if you don’t mind chopping down a shrub in spring or cutting out some dead bits then you may well feel these merit the time and effort. I certainly do in my own garden!

Smoke bushes; they need coppicing in spring to look their best

Ninebarks; they need thinning to keep in bounds although the dwarf variety Little Devil may be better in that regard

Weigela; stunning foliage and flowers but typically have some dieback after winter which has to be cut out. Or maybe it is just me?!

Abelia; I have  a hedge of the tall glossy abelia as well as several shorter Kaleidoscope shrubs but all have winter dieback to some degree that needs to be pruned out in spring

What is your favorite shrub for the busy gardener?

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. We’d love to know!

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Calendar Girls – Foliage Style

Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

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

Winter; Gold and Blue Conifers

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

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

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

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

Golden Spreader fir

Golden Spreader fir – garden of Mary Palmer, Snohomish WA

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

Chief Joseph pine

Chief Joseph pine – garden of Mary Palmer, Snohomish WA

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

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae

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

Blue Star juniper - a favorite in all seasons

Blue Star juniper – a favorite in all seasons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring; Double Play All Gold spirea 

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

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

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

Seen with blue star juniper and doublefile viburnum

Seen with blue star juniper and doublefile viburnum

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

Set off against a Thunderhead pine

Set off against a deep green such as this Thunderhead pine

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

Summer; Orange Rocket barberry

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

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

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

A simple trio with Blue Shag pine and weeping silverleaf pear

A simple trio with Blue Shag pine and weeping silverleaf pear

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

Fall; Arkansas blue star 

I look forward to this display all year

I look forward to this display all year

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Iris for Foliage Lovers

Planted just one year ago these iris are thriving and growing into large, healthy clumps

Planted just one year ago these iris are thriving and growing into large, healthy clumps

Early fall is a great time to re-evaluate your spring-blooming perennials. Yes you read that right! Christina and I expect double duty from those early season flowers with exceptional foliage that still adds color, structure and interest at least through until the end of fall. That is especially important in small gardens where there is nowhere to hide and every mediocre leaf is right there in front of you.

A traditional favorite for the spring garden is the iris, grown primarily for cut flowers. There are many species  to choose from from the large bearded varieties available in a rainbow of colors to tightly packed clumps of cobalt blue Japanese iris and dwarf forms suitable for the rockery but my go-to is the variegated sweet iris. There are two forms available with either a creamy-white (Iris pallida ‘Alba-variegata’) or a soft yellow variegation (Iris pallida Aureo-variegata’) – and they look stunning right now.

Stiff fans of striped foliage multiple steadily into clumps 2′ tall and wide making it a perfect addition to the front of the border while the soft color lends itself to many different combinations.

Playing with Yellow

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Beautiful design by Lily Maxwell (Victoria BC)

In the stunning border above, the iris has been used to add contrast to the chocolate leaves of Bishop of York dahlia while echoing the sunny yellow flowers. Yellow toned variegated purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’) and a golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ) add fine texture while an overhead canopy of a variegated aralia (Aralia elata ‘Aureo-variegata’) emphasizes the theme and frames the vignette. Taken in August, the iris have long since finished blooming but their foliage clearly continues to add drama. You can see more from this garden in our new book due out fall 2016 with Timber Press.

Crisp and White

IMG_5437For a different look use the long-blooming Rozanne cranesbill (Geranium ‘Rozanne) to weave through a green and white variegated  iris, adding a dwarf dark leaved weigela (e.g. Weigela florida ‘Midnight Wine’) for contrast.

I have also used the green and white variegated form to create a pretty monochromatic scheme with green and white hosta or the silver/green Jack Frost Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’).

Flowers – the Icing on the Foliage

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In May and June dozens of exquisite papery periwinkle-blue flowers appear on stiff stalks 2′ above the foliage, filling the air with a delicate scent. Consider this color when selecting companion plants. In the examples shown above these flowers will repeat or enhance the color scheme of the surrounding shrubs and perennials.

Cultural Conditions & Care

Full sun or part sun/part shade (blooms best in full sun)

Average, well drained soil

Hardy in USDA zones 4-9

Deer resistant

Drought tolerant once established

Divide in fall or early spring if needed

Evergreen in mild winters; trim old leaves at an angle to tidy them up.

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