Tag Archives: flowers

Local Botanical Gardens Yield Inspiration

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The only limitation is your imagination – scene from a waterwise design at Bellevue Botanical Garden

As I sat on a shady bench, waiting for the perfect light (a photographer spends as much time sitting & waiting as standing & clicking it seems to  me), I watched the many visitors meandering through the Bellevue Botanical Garden (BBG). There were couples picnicking on a blanket, young families who were letting the kids run off some steam, professional photo shoots of wedding parties and graduating seniors  – and relatively few folks actually looking at the plants. That surprised me, because your local botanical gardens are often the best place to find inspiration for your own garden.

Whether you are looking for design ideas for moist shade, waterwise combinations that can take the heat or lush mixed borders, BBG has it all and a whole lot more.

In fact sometimes there is so much to absorb that it can be hard to spot the ‘take home’ ideas, so I thought I’d show you one especially colorful part of the large perennial border and take a closer look.

First Impressions

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Yikes – where do you look first? What does your eye go to? To the bold, bright, variegated leaf in the foreground? The orange flowers at the back? It’s too much to take in all at once and most of us would not be seeking to create this level of complexity in our own borders, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t design lessons here for us.

Let’s move  further down the path…

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There’s still a lot going on but our frame is a little more manageable now that we have eliminated the border to the right side of the pathway and reduced the dominance of the variegated dogwood shrub in the foreground.

Initial Design Lessons

  • Imagine what would this look like without the orange and magenta flowers. Actually pretty darned good because there’s lots of great FOLIAGE (even if you don’t know their names, analyze the colors and shapes). There are oval variegated leaves, big rhubarb-type leaves,  dark purple sword-like leaves, round purple-brown leaves, wispy grasses, a golden conifer, some tall silvery-white grasses and plenty of more ordinary green leaves tucked in too. In other words there is a fabulous foliage framework unifying this scene.
  • Now imagine what this would look like if all those leaves were green. Not so interesting! The color of the leaves adds drama to the scene and sets the stage for some fun vignettes using color echoes and contrast. To see that in more detail let’s narrow our focus a bit more.

Lessons in Color Repetition & Contrast

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This is where things start to get exciting!

  • Foliage Framework

In the foreground is fleshy, purple pineapple lily (Eucomis) foliage rising like bold swords and pointing us (very helpful!) upwards towards the similarly colored large, round leaves of a leopard plant (Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’). A large ornamental rhubarb leaf ( Rheum palmatum ‘Atrosanguineum’) also jostles for our attention, framing the left of this scene.

Perfect Foliage First design!

  • Finishing Touch (the flowers)

Sandwiched between the purple leaves are ribbons of red and white astilbe. The whote froth is needed for contrast and separation, even though the color echo between the purple leaves and red asilbe flowers was well thought out.

And how about the orange lilies in the distance? They repeat the deep orange-yellow blooms just beginning to open on the leopard plant. The blooms on other leopard plant varieties tend to be much more yellow – this one was specifically chosen for its closer connection to orange.

And orange really pops against such dramatic, dark foliage. Excellent contrast.

Lessons in Form

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Notice the contrast between the two layers of upward-pointing (vertical) astilbe blooms and the more horizontal plane of the leopard plant leaves. Beyond them the tall lilies add another vertical punctuation point. Incidentally the astilbe blooms will be left as seedheads well into fall so this design element is remarkably long-lived.

Lessons in Details

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There’s one final detail beyond the leopard plant – look at the ruby thorns on the stems of a wingthorn rose (Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha) and how they repeat the dark notes of the foliage and flowers in this vignette while once again introducing a vertical line. Genius.

So while botanical gardens are indeed a delightful location for your next portrait session, do take time to enjoy the planting combinations and glean ideas for your own garden. The combined genius of so many talented professionals is on your doorstep!

Want more ideas? Well we know of two rather excellent books to get you started…. Also be sure to sign up to our blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings

Team Fine Foliage is ever forward thinking, and today we’re considering all of the ways we can use coleus this spring. Seize the day and start your dreaming now so that you can hit the ground running when it’s time to shop.

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusWith a coleus (Solenostemon scutellaroides) for every design need imaginable, it’s hard to fathom a spot where this fantastic group of plants doesn’t make any combination better. What’s not love? When the color range, leaf shape and multitude of growth habits available are SO vast, it can make your head spin. I know I have landed on a few that have turned out to be my own “go-to” selections, but each year I try to break out and try new ones.

There are coleus selections available for BOTH morning and afternoon sun AND shade, so don’t assume that you might have too much or too little of either situation because the breeders are working overtime to bring new ones to market that are tougher than ever. But, to be safe, be sure to make an assessment of the time of day and how many hours of sun your spot will get to make sure you get the right plant for the right place.

**Plant tags are notoriously difficult in regard to sun/shade needs when it comes to coleus. Be sure to ask your local Independent Garden Center salesperson which are best for YOUR needs if you aren’t quite sure. Telling them apart can get a bit tricky and some plants can easily thrive in BOTH exposures, which is another reason why we love them so!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusThe incredible glowing burnt orange of this one called ‘Campfire’ by Ball Horticulture is a large scaled one that features this incredible purple shadow that is very subtle but really shows when you put anything purple next to it. A new favorite one for sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusOne fo the interesting things about coleus is that there are so many that are seemingly the same yet are different and so it’s a challenge to know for certain if you have the same one as last year without seeing the tag for yourself. I have often seen to that look identical at different garden centers, and they will have different names, so bear with me if you see one that I name as X, but that you know as Y. It happens ALL the time!

The one above is one that I happen to know as ‘Wedding Train’, fabulously colorful trailing option for showy, colorful foliage when a potato vine would be overwhelming in a container design. It can take more sun than you might imagine too!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusBlack potato vine makes a really neat groundcover at the front of this bed with hot pink Angelonia sandwiched in between another coleus from Ball Horticulture called ‘French Quarter’.  A significant thing to note here, if this coleus stands up to the same heat as Angelonia which wants to roast in the HOT summer sun, then you know this coleus is a toughy!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusNeed a desktop sized coleus? A terrarium sized coleus? A mini-gardening sized coleus? I found it! Hort Couture has created this incredible line of new coleus called Under the Sea ‘Sea Monkey’ and they come in a few colors. This one is ‘Sea Monkey Apricot’ and I ADORE it!

http://www.hortcoutureplants.com/product-detail/coleus-under-the-sea®-sea-monkey-rustHort Couture also created this one that I love called Under the Sea ‘Bonefish’As you can see, I let this one go to flower, and there are two philosophical camps regarding this idea, here’s my two cents on the topic; let them bloom if you enjoy it OR don’t let them bloom if you don’t. Some gardeners seem to think there is a real right or wrong on this and I think it totally depends on the plant, the combination and the time of year. I tend to let all of them bloom by the time September/October rolls around, why the heck not? However, I DO keep all of my coleus pinched for tidy growth especially the larger upright ones until then. But, you should do whatever floats your leafy boat!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsPersonally, these ones with the striking veins like ‘Fishnet Stockings’ seriously rev my foliage design engines!!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis one also from Ball Horticulture called ‘Vino’ was new to me this last year. But I tell ya, this dark, moody devil was one of the most hardcore TOUGH plants in my entire garden last summer! It held up in pretty extreme heat like a champ!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThe rich black of ‘Vino’ creates such an excellent tonal effect with the other plants in this container design, it quickly became a favorite for me. 

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Team Fine Foliage is positively green with jealousy over parts of the country where caladium thrive, it is a much tougher proposition up here in the Great Northwet. But, to combine them with coleus……that’s just salt in the wound of our jealous leafy hearts. 🙂 YOWZA!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsFrom the files of the weird and wonderful, the giant leaves of Solanum quitoense has wonderfully sensuous leaves until those big scary thorns grow in. Paired here with the silver lace of Senecio leuchostachys, Coleus (possibly) ‘Black Beauty’ is a dramatic combination to be sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis last shot strikes at the heart of all that Team Fine Foliage stands for, BODACIOUS foliage at its very best! Sexy sexy bromeliad combined with other foliage to create this dreamy scene, all topped off with ‘Sedona’ coleus to mark the sunrise/sunset tones of this wonderful composition shot at the Chanticleer Garden a few years back. This one never gets old!

So there you have it- a teeny tiny overview of some incredible ways to get your coleus craving fix. Drop us a note and tell us about YOUR plans for coleus this year. Need more ideas? Click here to peek at our newest book Gardening with Foliage First. And if you already ordered, we would be honored if you wrote a review too.

Cheers to the coming spring! 

Design Goals in the Garden for 2017

RHS Wisley 2016

RHS Wisley 2016

After looking over my photos of gardens that I visited in 2016 as well as my own, I am feeling the need to review some design choices I have made in the last few years. When you’re inside on a 25-degree day in Seattle, sunny though it may be, there’s no better time to start thinking ahead. The garden show season, garden tours and nursery hopping will be upon all of us hort-nerds soon enough and I want to have at least a minor plan of attack.

Maybe you need more bold colors of foliage in your spring and summer garden like the energetic heuchera above that provides a wonderful color echo to the elegant Japanese maple in the background.

Color echo with Hydrangea and Japanese maple

Or for the late summer and early fall, maybe you need to consider the color echo that this incredible hydrangea and maple duo bring in deep plum tones!

Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Chelsea Flower Show 2016

OR if you are a flower person in your heart of hearts but you are here with Team Fine Foliage because you need a leafy nudge to balance your impulses, then maybe adding more repetition is in order. The floriferous notes in any garden stand out better when you pick one color and texture in a foliage plant and use it to its fullest with repetition. This could just as easily have been boxwood and have a very traditional look, but the use of the silver foliage of this Senecio is much more interesting!

Paperbark maple

Paperbark maple

Maybe you are craving more interesting details in your landscape such as fascinating bark, berries, rock or art. Well, Team Fine Foliage certainly will have you covered there for 2017 when “Gardening with Foliage First” becomes available SOON!!! 

A sumptuous feast of fall color here!

A sumptuous feast of fall color here!

Our tendency as trapped winter garden designers is to load up the landscape with all things spring when we’re first let out of the house and released into the wilds of the garden center. But, it’s so important to make sure that you’re also thinking about the important and colorful transformation of color that happens in late summer and early fall. So, keep that in mind when you’re planning!

Foliage BONANZA! :-)

Foliage BONANZA! 🙂

Here is a snippet from one of my favorite little sections in my own garden that I am considering revamping a tad this year. I welcome your thoughts about what you might do. It’s jammed packed I know, but that my style and that likely won’t change, but other than that, bring it on. Give me some ideas designers! 

Let us know what YOUR leafy goals are for your landscape in 2017. Post a comment, we would love to hear from all of you in this upcoming and exciting year of the “Foliage First” garden! 

 

The Ones That Got Away

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

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

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

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

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

1. Architectural detail

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

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

2. New Plant!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

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

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

3. Look THIS way!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

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

4. Floral extravaganza

Design by Karen Steeb

Design by Karen Steeb

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

5. Fishing hole

Design by Ruth Hough

Design by Ruth Hough

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

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

Do YOU have a garden we can photograph?

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

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Creating a Picture Frame with Foliage

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There were only two or three poppies when I looked out this morning. Pretty, but hardly noteworthy. Yet when these are viewed within a glorious leafy picture frame the scene suddenly comes into focus.

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You see although we wrote FINE FOLIAGE we aren’t anti-flowers. It’s just that most flowers such as these poppies have only a fleeting beauty and contribution to the garden scene is equally short lived. Whereas foliage cannot only hold the garden together, it can enhance the flowers when they do have their moment  in the spotlight.

Bronze fennel is a wonderful addition to the garden but be sure to cut off the flowers or you will have a lifetime supply!

Bronze fennel is a wonderful addition to the garden but be sure to cut off the flowers or you will have a lifetime supply!

These simple Oriental poppies can be viewed from many angles within my garden and so a tapestry of foliage has been used to create a multi-framed scene. Feathery bronze fennel creates a soft haze, while playing off the dark splotches at the base of each flower petal.

The perfect color echo between Double Play spirea and the distant poppies

The perfect color echo between Double Play spirea and the distant poppies

‘Double Play’ spirea has bright rosy new growth (thanks to the deer who keep trimming it) – and these sunset tones are the perfect accompaniment to the bold orange poppies.

The late blooming Crocosmia will not only continue the color story with their orange flowers and seed heads but the foliage will hide the poppy as it goes into summer dormancy

The late blooming Crocosmia will not only continue the color story with its orange flowers and seed heads but the foliage will hide the poppy as it goes into summer dormancy

Then there are the broad vertical blades of Crocosmia (later with orange flowers), the peeling cinnamon colored bark of a paperbark maple (Acer griseum) and in the distance the bright foliage  of my favorite tree – the golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’).

Everything looks good with a golden locust tree!

Everything looks good with a golden locust tree!

Use the foliage in your garden to frame the flowers and the entire scene will be transformed into a memorable ‘garden moment’.

(Oh and the reason there are only a few poppies? The deer ate the rest. Yes I know….. “deer don’t eat poppies“. Right….)

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