Tag Archives: Drought Tolerant

Favorite Fall Foliage – Arkansas bluestar

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A large planting of Arkansas blue star beginning its fall display

There are some plants I just can’t get enough of – and top of that list is the perennial Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii). While many herbaceous perennials are selected for their flowers, this beauty is invariably chosen for its outstanding feathery foliage that transitions from bright emerald green to shades of orange, gold and copper in fall. For the flower-loving folks, yes this does indeed have blue flowers in spring but even a glance at these photos will quickly convince you that it really is all about the autumnal foliage display.

How to use it

Even one plant can be a star in a container.

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Mingling with other late season foliage stars, the bluestar adds height, texture and color

I added a group of seven one-gallon plants to the far end of our ‘island border’, a key display border viewed from many vantage points within our large garden, from the patio and from most windows of the home.  As is typical, the perennials took three years to look significant – you need vision in the early days! I nestled these feathery beauties against a large mossy boulder to play off the texture.

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Color companions I enjoy the most are silver and purple, both of which work equally well with the summer or fall display.

To give you ideas from other gardens, here is an example from the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden where it mingles with golden sneezeweed (Helenium sp.).

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At Walter’s Gardens, the nursery that grows perennials for Proven Winners, I spotted it offering feathering companionship and powder-blue flowers to spring blooming peonies and poppies in the test garden.

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Of course I am not known for my minimalist approach so you won’t be surprised to hear that when I had a new raised bed to plant by our patio I decided to fill it with over 50 Arkansas bluestar! The design idea was to create a transition from the more ornamental plantings besides the patio to the distant summer meadow and woodland beyond.

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Anticipating the fall foliage color, we used steel to form the arc at the rear of this bed, knowing its weathered, rusted surface would look visually exciting with the autumnal display.

This is only year two for this bed but I’m already thrilled with how it is evolving. I also know I’m going to be out taking photos each day as the colors change!

Why you should grow it

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Arkansas blue star is reliably drought tolerant in my non-irrigated garden. This summer we didn’t have any measurable rain for three months and our temperatures were frequently in the 90’s with almost a week closer to 100′, yet I didn’t water the Arkansas bluestar in the island border even once and it still looks fabulous. I did water the newer plants by the patio a total of three times as after two months without rain a few plants were showing signs of stress. That may be due to them being in a raised planted rather than in the ground, or due to them being less well established. Next year will tell. Certainty they have started their fall display earlier but I don’t mind that at all!

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They are also both rabbit and deer resistant – YAY!!

More combination ideas

Our new book Gardening with Foliage First has several fabulous design ideas. Check out  Golden Threads (p285) and  Aquascapes (p140). The latter uses a different variety of this perennial called Halfway to Arkansas, but the effect is identical.

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Golden Threads – full design and planting details in our book!

Cultural details

USDA: 5-8

Size: 2 feet tall and wide (but tends to splay outwards to a bit wider than this)

Soil: average, well drained.

Site: Full sun

Water: minimal once established

How are you using this perennial? Share your ideas with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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

edibles

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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Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Chanticleer
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Points of Distinction”- a video from Fine Foliage

Watch for an exciting contest coming soon from FINE FOLIAGE!

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Leaves that Beat the Heat (and the Deer)

We expect succulents to cope with the heat but what else is there? (Design by Stacie Crooks )

We expect succulents to cope with the heat but what else is there? (Design by Stacie Crooks )

Now those of you in Texas and Florida will laugh – but it is HOT here in Seattle. And by that I mean mid-high 80’s for a few weeks now with just two days of torrential rain somewhere in the middle. I know it’s all relative but the people – and plants that live in Seattle aren’t used to such extended periods of heat and drought.

This is therefore the perfect time to assess which are the foliage workhorses in the garden. What still looks not only good but GREAT, is healthy, doesn’t need fussing with and has barely been given a drop of extra water? We expect grasses and succulents to be drought tolerant but what else is there?

Most trees and conifers are fine by virtue of their deep root system so I’ll keep this to my top shrubs, perennials and annuals that I grow for their leafy lusciousness – and deer tolerance.

Here are the awards;

Best Combo

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

This is an amazing trio; the perennial Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrechtii) gives height (and turns orange in fall) while two annuals – the chartreuse Lemon Fizz cotton lavender (Santolina virens ‘Lemon Fizz’) and silver licorice plant (Helichrysum ‘Petit Licorice’) form a fuzzy groundcover. I can’t reach them with a hosepipe so they are truly on their own and they look fantastic. I was a little concerned after our two day downpour which left the Arkansas bluestar flattened but 24 hours later when I ventured out with sticks and string they had picked themselves right back up and needed no help from me at all.

Best Bling

A silvery feathery puff ball

A silvery feathery puff ball

Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’) is much tougher than the fine textured foliage would suggest. In fact this fluffy perennial prefers tough love and will quickly rot with too much love, water or fertilizer. It dies down in winter and can be a bit slow to reappear in spring but it’s worth waiting for. This 2′ silver mound will add some glitz to the border like no other plant can.

Best Variegated Leaf

Not your typical barberry

Not your typical barberry

I’m partial to barberries. They come in lots of different shapes, sizes and colors, are drought resistant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant. Usually.

Thankfully they are NOT invasive in the Seattle area. If they are a problem in your state I’ll forgive you for skipping over this bit.

Lime Glow barberry is the pretty little sister of Rose Glow. Marbled light green and creamy white leaves with pale peach new growth and stems makes this a rather romantic addition to the garden border. It seems to be much slower growing than Rose Glow so enjoy this in containers as well as the landscape.

I have two of these. The first one is out of reach of the hosepipe so is on a ‘do or die’ regime. It is ‘doing’. The second was unceremoniously dug up one blisteringly hot day and relocated, watered a couple of times then forgotten about. Much to my surprise it is not only still alive it still has all its leaves. Pretty impressive as well as pretty.

Best Native

A bronze beauty - Northern bush honeysuckle

A bronze beauty – Northern bush honeysuckle

If you thought native plants were boring this one will change your mind. Northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) grows in sun or shade, wet soil or dry, has fragrant blooms and beautiful fall color. I have one in sun and one in shade. The shaded one is mostly green but the one in full sun (above) remains bronze for much of the year which I love. Bambi has ignored both plants except for a tiny nibble on the new growth of one stem. Thankfully it wasn’t to his taste. (or he was full by then).

Best Surprise

Glossy abelia - worth a second look

Glossy abelia – worth a second look

I have a low hedge of glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) at the side of our cabin. I don’t water them, fertilize them or talk to them. In fact I forget they are there until I become aware of a hummingbird frenzy in that part of the garden as the fragrant white flowers are a magnet for them it seems.

This unassuming shrub is one of the unsung heroes of my garden. It is usually evergreen, has healthy, glossy green leaves which tint red in fall and rich burgundy stems. While the flowers are white the sepals are pink giving a lovely two tone effect and the flowers last well into November.

I have not watered this for three years and the deer haven’t even tested it. I trimmed the height a bit this year but that is the extent of the care I have given it.

After this hot, dry stretch it is not only looking good it is thriving. Quite the surprise

So what foliage has earned superstar status in your garden this summer? Do tell us in the comments below or post to our Facebook page. we love to hear from you!

 

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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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