Tag Archives: Fall Color

Foliage First Fall Design Inspiration

 

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It begins with a single leaf – Jelena witch hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’). Look at those colors! Purple, gold, green….

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pumpkin-orange and hints of ruby….

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with a touch of magenta.

Pair these rich jewel tones with the peeling cinnamon-colored bark of a paper bark maple (Acer griseum)

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Then calm things down with a carpet of native, green salal (Gaultheria shallon)

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Want to keep playing? Add some bright red berries and glowing fall foliage  – in this instance Sparkle barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Sparkle’)…

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To complete a delightful fall vignette….

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….that is also mercifully deer resistant.

PSST! For more on this stunning garden designed by Deborah Heg, as well as over a dozen more  deer resistant gardens,  watch out for Karen’s next book with Timber Press, due for release late 2019.

Share your fall inspired Foliage First designs with us on Facebook!

Need More inspiration? Our latest book Gardening with Foliage First is cleverly organized to help you find designs just for fall for either shade or sun. Have you got your copy yet? Check it out here or using the affiliate link above.

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.

Transitions

What’s the first thing you do when you return home from a trip? Most gardeners will immediately head outside to see what has changed even before they unpack and I’m no exception.

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Tiger Eyes sumac anchors the container in the foreground while connecting the eye to the distant golden locust trees, katsura and swathe of black eyed Susan. Small accents of silver and blue cool the seasonal palette. Fall has begun.

It’s amazing what a difference 10 days makes. While Georgia was hot and somewhat humid with tropical end-of-summer storms, Seattle is now experiencing cooler night temperatures and the start of the glorious fall foliage display.

This is the first fall season that I have been able to enjoy our new patio and adjacent planting beds and I have been delighted with the effect. The color palette of these smaller beds echoes that of the distant border, creating a transition to the larger landscape while the container strategically placed in the foreground establishes a focal point to be viewed from the kitchen window and the patio. Plants in the smaller bed are scaled down in size and quantity but the focus is still very much on putting foliage first before layering in some floral accents.

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From this vantage point the cluster of river birch joins in the foliage party while the woodland beyond provides a green backdrop to show off the fiery sumac. This scene will continue to evolve as autumn transitions to winter; an ever changing kaleidoscope of color.

Simple tricks often work best.

(If you’d like to learn more about the design strategies of this space and see before & after images click here).

Want more ideas?

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When Life Becomes Foggy

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Our aim with this blog is to inspire you to try new foliage combinations and teach you how to accomplish them. We draw ideas from gardens that we visit and photograph across this country and beyond and occasionally we show you both success stories and embarrassing failures from our own private gardens.

Today’s post is more personal. This fall, while Christina has been single-handedly managing our Facebook posts I spent two months in England. For three weeks I sat vigil at my mum’s bedside as she slowly slipped away. The remainder of that time was spent taking care of her funeral, completing the mountain of legal paperwork and selling my childhood home which Mum and Dad designed and built brick by brick. For those of you who have been through this you will now understand the title of this post, because my life became a surreal grey fog.

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Spires of Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) grew under a canopy of well limbed up pine trees, their tropical-esque nature seeming at odds with the woodland setting

On one particular day my husband and I decided to take a few hours away from all the ‘doing’ and visit Ness Botanic Gardens. Boasting 64 acres of mature plantings in a naturalistic setting it was the perfect place to stroll even though the misty maritime climate seemed to mirror my mood.

At first I feared that taking photographs would be pointless in such poor lighting but I quickly realized that the rich colors of the fall foliage and berries seemed to intensify in such conditions.

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Water-loving bald cypress (Taxodium sp.) stands sentry, the amber needles glowing like a beacon in the fog

Rich gold and orange tones pierced the grey fog with ease, the glowing foliage appearing as lanterns to help the visitors navigate their way. Notice how repetition of a key fall color becomes an important design feature – a lesson we can all take home, regardless of our climate.

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My favorite scene from this visit; the burnished copper colors of imposing conifer and smaller smoke bush, balanced by the weathered stone wall and simple gravel path

Or try framing a favorite specimen such as this Japanese maple below with softer colors.

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Framing the smoldering Japanese maple with shades of gold and green – an easy design trick to plan for.

Fall/winter blooming flowers can also be incorporated to bring additional layers of detail. The bright yellow shuttlecock-type blooms of Oregon grape (Mahonia sp.)  shine more brightly thanks to the ruby foliage partners

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Ruby deciduous foliage enhances the yellow flowers and evergreen foliage of an Oregon grape (Mahonia)

I also loved this Mediterranean-inspired combination, the bold leaves of the peanut butter plant (Melianthus major) underplanted with a swathe of cigar plant (Cuphea ignea) interspersed with Gartenmeister fuchsia. Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) adds a dramatic finishing touch.

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The Melianthus major foliage may be the star but the sweep of fiery, late blooming annuals is what helps this scene have true star quality.

As I slowed my pace to enjoy the moment and appreciate the colors of nature I was reminded that even when unbidden grey clouds obscure the horizon there is beauty to be found if we take the time to look.

As we enter into the Holiday season, many of us will be mourning the loss of a loved one. Whether that loss is recent and the intense mental fog is still swirling or whether time has afforded some level of acceptance my wish for us all is that we can seek and find beauty and for me there is no better place to look than the garden. Step outside and breathe in the crisp air. Walk slowly allowing your eyes to focus on small details. Look for a special leaf, berry or bud – Perhaps it is the way frost crystals cling to its form or a drop of dew reflects your gaze? Maybe the color captures your attention? Share it with us on our Facebook page or just tell us about it here.

Let’s help one another.

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Remembering the happy moments – miss you mum x

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Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

It is natural to associate the color orange with the month of October for the obvious reason of course, Halloween!! But, Team Fine Foliage wants to remind you that it is of course the season for “leaf-peeping” and since orange is a hot and trendy color in design, why not start there?
Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The color orange can have such range and variety of tone and dimension that it can cover a lot of territory in the landscape. Not to mention the broad spectrum of personality and emotion you can convey with orange, it’s an incredibly versatile color. From the colors that embody coral sunsets to bbq and beans, you can find a plant or a shade that suits nearly every design idea.
This ‘Grace’ Smokebush (above) is a wonderful option if you like drama. She is a cool-as-a- cucumber teal and green foliage sophisticate who becomes a hot-blooded vixen in fall. You can NOT avert your eyes when ‘Grace’ is present in autumn!
Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! Stewartia is a tree that is enjoying the design popularity contest right now for numerous reasons, its fall vibrancy being one of the top points. Wonderfully warm orange that can be included on the edge of red-toned keeps the eye focused in the distance above where this tree is in perfect harmony with the rusted arbor that creates a backdrop.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Now when that same Stewartia is contrasted with pure white flower clusters of Choisya ternata and those fragrant blooms decided to bloom again because they think its spring- well then, THAT is a late season BONUS for sure!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Want to TRULY up your design street cred for fall color? How about matching your holly berries with the exact shade of Japanese maples you have planted in the distance. Talk about taking the loooooong view! But, you have to admit that it works!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

While you might have appreciated the idea of using Sedum ‘Angelina’ for her chartreuse wow factor in spring as a high contrast ground cover, you might not have realized to extent to which she sports some pretty amazing orange fall and winter color too.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

There are many interesting Heath’s, Heather and Calluna that have some form of orange in their personality throughout the year. Fall and winter feature those types that might begin gold or light green and gain color throughout the growing season from spring to winter. There are some that turn orange and even red. The one above is ‘Flamingo’ or ‘Red Fred’, they are very similar and are most vibrant in late winter and early spring. If you want great orange you may also look for ‘Robert Chapman’, ‘Spring Torch’ or ‘Wickwar Flame’, but there are SO many more. Maybe start a collection!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!
We couldn’t possibly feature ALL that embodies the variety of orange options year round, but naturally when we mention that you might be out on voyeuristic mission of the horticultural kind, you can’t imagine doing it without maples! Here in the Northwest part of the US, Japanese maples are king and queen for color. The range of shapes and colors for standout orange color are often missed the most by gardeners when choosing trees for the landscape as they tend to be more subtle and quiet in spring and summer when most of us are shopping. But, when cooler weather rolls around and the vibrancy of those shades ramps up- they are gone!!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! The ‘Fernleaf’ Japanese maple is one of the most coveted for its exquisite coloration in fall.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The tiny leaves of the ‘Lion’s Mane’ maple creates a completely different effect in the landscape where the tree’s congested structure plays an important role in showing off the warm cinnamon tones on an upright growth habit.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! These larger scale maples effortlessly frame this path with amazingly vibrant color that you may otherwise look past in spring.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The name ‘Coral Bark’ maple kind of says it all for our salute to orange this week. But, you know we HAD to include this little powerhouse of a tree. The coral colored bark and foliage that begins chartreuse and ends up shades of gold, apricot, orange and coral doesn’t need a gold medal to be included among winners.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

This oak is giving Japanese maples a run for their money this season!!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! A bright gold Japanese maple backs up these showy orange/russet colored pots filled with abundant foliage based designs for this front entry making them stand-outs for the cool months.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Whether you love the big trees or the smaller details of berries such as the transitioning hypericum berries above or perennials and containers, there are great options available if you love orange!

Drop us a note and tell us what orange foliage is rocking your landscape right now!

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The Power of PURPLE in Fall Foliage

Color theory and all of the fascinating things that go along with it have been a rather passionate research topic for me since I wrote a term paper about it in college. It touches nearly every avenue of our lives and recently, I had an interesting thing happen that relates to both foliage AND shopping for fall clothes. Who knew we could connect those two things so easily? Well, buckle up foliage fans, here we go!
Color ChipsI bought a few new long-sleeved t-shirts for the impending cold weather to add to my arsenal of fall layering for garden work last week. Olive was my first choice, then a vibrant shade of purple. When many of us think purple, particularly in gardening and plant description color terms, purple can range from almost burgundy all the way to true blue depending on a whole host of details that we won’t get into here, just suffice it to say that MY purple was PURPLE. As in royal purple, ‘Prince’ purple, grape colored marker purple, electric purple!

THIS is MY kind of purple for #Fall!!

THIS is MY kind of purple for #Fall!!

When I pulled the new purple t-shirt out of my stash and wore it the first time, within an hour, three people commented how much they not only LOVED the color, but that they ALL felt that it was a very under-rated color for fall. The very same thing happened at the next place I went and pretty much continued all day. Hmmmm….. I’m sensing a theme here.

Why YOU need more PURPLE in your Fall Palette
It’s true- purple is not commonly a focal point color in the fall, not to mention in the garden, when all of reds, oranges and yellows are getting all of the attention with the fall foliage watchers. But, if you think about it, purple is the connector color on the color wheel. It makes friends with ALL of the FALL colors.

Spectacular purple/plum hydrangea bloom in #fall with a golden backdrop
This fall hydrangea bloom is a deep shade of purple/plum, but I think you get the idea here. The golden backdrop of foliage is THE happy marriage of fall foliage to bloom color. Team Fine Foliage wants you to be thinking about this idea in spring when you get let out of the house in a garden frenzy and all you can think about in spring at the garden center is spring anything. 🙂

VIBRANT purple from the gorgeous 'Beautyberry' shrub.

VIBRANT purple from the gorgeous ‘Beautyberry’ shrub.

The all out electric purple berries only seen in autumn when this Beautyberry’s foliage begins to turn slightly golden and eventually drops is when this plant shines. Now, against a luscious red backdrop of ‘Rose Glow’ Barberry (not invasive in our mild Northwest climate, but can be in others) and a Variegated Eleagnus shrub make this a trio perfectly suited to show exactly what BOLD fall color can mean!

Purple 'Redbor' Kale and Ornamental Peppers in a #purple containerEven a smoky purple pot can be royally opulent in autumn. ‘Redbor’ Kale and Ornamental Peppers that turn from deep purple/black to red are standouts for fall color against the copper container with all of it’s golden highlights in the background.

#Fall container combo in full purple glory! We are incredibly fortunate that in our mellow winter climate of the Northwest, we can have the entire rainbow of Coral Bells (Heuchera) at our fingertips all year round and fall is part of the when they can truly shine best! However, there are MANY fabulous forms of Coral Bells in a wide range of colors for cold climates too.
This one is ‘Autumn Splendor’ Heuchera and I would say it’s perfectly named all right. Paired here in this russet color little container, that purple takes center stage. Also in the pot; the sweetest little shrub Honeysuckle called ‘Twiggy’ turns from a lovely chartreuse gold to a flush of pink/rose when the cold weather comes on. A quart size Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’ shrub does the same, it will gain more burgundy/plum tones as it gets colder, but the creamy white sure shines here. And lastly, the grass is a Dwarf Little Blue-Stem called Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Prairie Munchkin’ (say that one three time fast!). Another amazing perennial plant that shows off SO much personality by changing color in fall to the blues and purples.

Lime with #PURPLE make this Kale a standout! Citrusy lime can look great in a fall container too, even contemporary and unique! Adding a simple shot of bold violet and purple kale makes this combo chic! Mexican Orange ‘Sundance’, ‘Wilma Goldcrest’ Cypress, Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’, Heucherella ‘Stoplight’, the blue foliage of Mahonia ‘Charity’ and Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ round out this unusual color combination, not to mention a few viola’s for good measure.

#Purple for #Fall color adds drama and one thing that Fine Foliage is not short on is DRAMA. Go and add some sassy purple to your garden for next year and think about all of the ways you can pair it up with your favorite fiery fall tones.  🙂

What bold and dramatic purple are YOU seeing out there in your world this fall?

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