Tag Archives: Design Style

Garden Designer’s TOP SECRET Plant Picks!

Garden designers REALLY don’t want just anybody to be able to do what we do. We want there to be some mystique, some fascination, some magic to what we create for our clients. But we DO have secret weapons in our design arsenal that ANYONE can try out affordably and dramatically. Ready? FERNS! Yes, you heard us FERNS!

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksFerns are often low on the shopping order of excitement for nursery customers and often overlooked because they need to utilized WELL in order for them to shine. And if they aren’t sited or paired up with the right companions, they can be down right boring. However, designers know that ferns can be THE MOST dramatic and showy plants in the entire landscape if you allow them to be the super-stars that they can be.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksWhether you are wanting evergreen or perennial ferns, the design options are incredible and this little secret is one of many in a GOOD garden designers vast arsenal of tricks. Ferns are available for every type of location from full shade to sun, dry shade to moist, from tall to ground cover, from evergreen to perennial and everything in between. And this makes them a valuable plant option for many types of locations.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

For THE absolute experts in the world of ferns, my go-to professionals are at Fancy Fronds Nursery here in the NW. The amazing ladies who own this nursery know their ferns and can provide you with everything from collectors ferns to the more common.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Designers know that a fern can often do what other plants can’t, and that is being able to play a supporting OR a string role in the display at any given time during the season. This spectacular display by designer Riz Reyes  (above) shows the important supporting actor role that ferns are playing when other plants NEED to have a starring role.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksDesigners also know that ferns are not simply one shot wonders in the fluffy summer landscape, they are critical players in the year round landscape. In the shot above, the ‘Autumn Fern’ shows off-color in early fall with a ‘Cappuccino’ Sedge.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Another way to think of using ferns to their highest and best purpose is to know that they can be both bold AND delicate depending on how you pair them. In this shot above, the trio of the ‘Maidenhair’ fern with Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ and ‘Mugho’ pine are a texture lovers dream! But, it is in quite a powerful and strong way.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

In this photo, the delicate new growth in spring has lovely blushing color and comes across as incredibly feminine and lush.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksSometimes the green on green of ferns layered together is an elegant way to fill an area with hardy and showy textures, this is a common trick that designers employ in those hard to plant low-light spots. But, WOW! Who needs more color when you have this ‘Hart’s Tongue’ fern with a carpet of ‘Oak’ fern underneath?!

Garden designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Talk about luscious green on green! WOWZA! This ‘Paris’ Polyphylla truly shines as it stands up tall over a bed of ‘Maidenhair’ fern and glossy ginger foliage.

 

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Even in a fairly bright spot you have amazing ferny options, such as the leathery, deep green ‘Tassle’ fern.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Or use the incredibly beautiful ‘Ghost’ fern as a way to up-light these white allium flowers! This is a vastly under-utilized foliage color in the fern world, there are way too many great ways for this amazingly silver foliage to light up a dark corner or give just the right zing to a darker leaved companion.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Used in the foreground of this larger blue-green hosta in the rear, who needs more? The purplish-black stems are an incredibly lovely contrast to the ‘Ghost’ fern’s silver luminescence. But, if you wanted to play up those dark stems even more, pair this combination with the glossy bronze foliage of Beesia (see the photo below for Beesia in action) where it’s heart shaped leaves and white fairy-wand type flowers would bring even more wow-factor to this combination!

Obviously there are so many more ferns than we have room to show off here in one blog post, like the ever-present ‘Sword’ fern that is like a mascot in the NW garden, other than slugs possibly. 🙂 But, even a seemingly pedestrian plant like a ‘Sword’ fern shines with the right plants around it. So, the main take-away this week is that, we designers have this little design secret that may seem to many gardeners like a ho-hum addition to the landscape, but if you know the secret handshake and password, we’re happy to share ideas with you.

 

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksOh! Did we NOT mention the secret password??????? Next week……….

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Hot White Chic Style for Summer 2014

By now you might have noticed that I have a certain affinity for shade plants. Maybe it’s because I don’t have that much shade in my own yard to play in that it grabs my focus SO much. Maybe it is also because I love the challenge of finding new and different ways to bring light and airiness to dark places.

Spider Web Fatsia container in a shady nook.

Spider Web Fatsia container in a shady nook.

On a recent tour of gardens with 80 other garden bloggers in Portland Oregon, I noticed a hot trend among some of the designers that I took note of in particular. The use of this amazing new Fatsia ‘Spider Web’ or ‘Speckled Fatsia’. It brings a light bit of a tropical feeling to some darker corners. See the link for more details on this amazing and slightly rare plant.

'Yakushimanum' Rhododendron paired with the icy cool 'Spider Web' Fatsia.

‘Yakushimanum’ Rhododendron paired with the icy cool ‘Spider Web’ Fatsia brings a slightly masculine flair.

I was ceaselessly impressed by the drama these leaves could impart to almost any low-light location with the large palmate leaves and the elegant white Chanel-esque presence it brings to what could be a drab vignette.

A more feminine combination with the pink Lacecap Hydrangea.

A more feminine combination with the pink Lacecap Hydrangea.

If you live in a climate where you can’t grow this Fatsia outdoors, I’m told that it makes an exceptional houseplant. However you come to use this elegant and highly fashionable plant, it will serve you well and you just might become one of the many obsessed over designing with Fine Foliage in the shade.

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New Zealand Sends Fine Foliage to Seattle

New Zealand Garden Are you ready to go on a little adventure walk with me? C’mon, we will go see some amazing foliage! In the summer of 2012, the Arboretum Foundation of Seattle began installation of one small part of a larger puzzle called Pacific Connections; an Eco-geographic display of native flora and fauna from regions such as Cascadia, Australia, China, Chile and New Zealand with similar climate features to our own in the Seattle area.

The phase of the project I’m showing off today is the New Zealand Forest. There is a plethora of wonderfully well written articles to read that will give you some in-depth understanding of what this all entails from the preparation of the site to the plant selection. Here is a piece that is for the plant collectors out there!
I wish that I could give you all of the proper plant names for these shots right now, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to get them as these shots were taken last fall on a VERY cold day and I was getting numb! The incredible Cistus Nursery outside of Portland Oregon is supplying plants for this exhibit, so you may find the vast majority in this catalog. Here is another resource for plant names as well. As time will allow, I will go back and update some of these names for you, or if you are a Hort-Head like me, feel free to leave a comment with a plant name.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumThe foliage combinations are really the main focus here anyway. So, take the lesson in use of the colors and textures and apply them to your own climate and design style. The shot above deftly shows this plant with purple stems and silver foliage that bears an almost Holly-like detail on the leaf next to what appears to be an Ilex shrub. The contrast of the two is a blend of wild and refined. I LOVE it!

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumDrought tolerant plants are efficient in the higher elevations of New Zealand as well as in the Seattle area too. You might never imagine that our region can be quite drought ridden at times when we have SUCH a reputation for rain. But, grasses like this beautiful silver Astelia in the foreground are great with sharp drainage. Small leaved plants are also the big winners too as they can handle the heat in summer and deflect rain well in heavy, wet winters.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumPittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’ is the plant on the right of this photo. I adore the black stems with the white variegation, plus the growth habit is tidy too!

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumTo the left of the rock, different cultivars of Hebes grow in tidy mounds while a Green New Zealand Flax or Phormium stands up tall giving a sword-like foliage texture for them to snuggle against. The ground cover filling in here is the gorgeous ‘Purple Haze’ Acaena, one that I am going to bring into my own garden this season. I love it with the autumn color of the tree in the background.

Acaena 'Purple Haze' is the carpet of groundcover from which this lovely dark Carex grass emerges.

Acaena ‘Purple Haze’ is the carpet of ground cover from which this lovely dark Carex grass emerges.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumNew Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumAnother elegant example of the Variegated Pittosporum and grass textures together, planted next to the Purple foliage color Pittosporum ‘Atropurpureum’ or Purple Kohuhu.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumI noticed these in the distance and at first thought they were Rhododendrons, of course they aren’t but, I adore the growth habit of these small trees. This shot is cropped from quite a distance, so I didn’t have the where with all to climb down the small ravine to investigate- but they are BEAUTIFUL!

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumThe green New Zealand Flax in the “Hebe/Heath” section is such a brilliant textural contrast to the bushy plants in the foreground from the Heath family. The rich, green, upright Heath are perfectly suited for the “Emerald City” as Seattle is known, and the lower bushy ones with a slightly burgundy stem are Hebe.

I hope that you enjoyed our quick little stroll through a garden of foliage that might ordinarily be out of reach for many of us to visit in its native land. The Arboretum Foundation is a doing a masterful job at bringing the world to Seattle in a garden!

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