Tag Archives: Foliage First

Foliage Favorites for Summer Fun

Whether you’re looking for a design boost for your containers or need a little ‘something’ to perk up the summer border, FOLIAGE is the answer. Yes we know those geraniums and fuschias are so tempting – and we’re not suggesting you avoid them, but simply that you consider the leaf as well as the flower before making your selection.

Here are a few of our top ‘go to‘ foliage annuals and perennials that are great to use as fillers in pots or the landscape.

Croton

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As featured in Country Gardens magazine, spring 2017

Whether you prefer the variety Zanzibar with its bad-hair-day attitude or the more familiar form (Petra) shown here, croton (Codiaeum) will add a serious color punch to any shade combination. In smaller containers it can be used as the focal point – often referred to as the ‘thriller’. In larger designs you may prefer to consider it as an understory plant to something larger such as banana or elephant ears (Colocasia).

Coleus

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Two different coleus are used to frame Dakota anthurium, while Vinca ‘Illumination’ trails from the center

With a gazillion varieties of coleus to choose from you can find one in any size, color and habit you need. The trailing variety used above is Lava Rose. I love how the touch of white on each leaf adds a little sparkle. (For lots more coleus ideas click on the coleus tag in the sidebar. There are some real beauties!)

Quicksilver artemisia

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Velvety, silver foliage of Quicksilver artemisia quickly fills in around shrubs.

Deer resistant, drought tolerant and perennial – this vigorous groundcover may be just what you need to fill a bare spot this summer. A new introduction from Proven Winners , I can personally highly recommend it after trialing it in my own garden last year. The cooling silver foliage is outstanding.

Purple Queen

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Purple Queen – stunning purple foliage

Previously known as Setcresea, recently re-classified as Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Queen’, one thing taxonomists agree on – it’s gorgeous! A dramatic groundcover in warmer climates or a tough annual in cooler areas – either way you NEED this plant.

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Purple Queen is used to echo the rich container color and deep veins in the Blue Hawaii elephant ears (Colocasia).

Place it at the edge of a container where it can mingle and tumble to its hearts content

Beefsteak plant

 

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Beefsteak plant looks like a sun-tolerant coleus

Hot fuchsia pink, burgundy-purple and  emerald green – yes it looks like a coleus but you will find beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens ‘Magilla’) much more adaptable to both sun and shade designs.

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Love this combination with lantana and sweet potato vine

The only limitation with this annual? Your imagination. What will YOU pair it with? Golden conifers? Hot pink geraniums??

Autumnale fuschsia

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When is a fuchsia more than a fuschia? When it has leaves like THESE

While I certainly have my own photos of designs using this variegated fuchsia, none compares with this stunning design by Christina! In case you’re not sure, the Autumnale fuschia isn’t even in bloom in this photo; it is the red/yellow variegated leaf trailing at the front of the pot. WOWZA! Use it to repeat orange-red tones elsewhere such as these coleus leaves and Gartenmeister fuschia blooms.

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Different combination – this Autumnale fuchsia is still a winner

The combination above is one I put together for a client a few years ago. Here you can see the fuchsia weaving through multiple pots to great effect.

Bella Grigio lambs ears

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Pretty in Pink – as featured in our new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

What’s big, silver and ultra-strokable? These GIANT lambs ears! This combination will appeal to gardeners who want lots of flowers but it’s the inclusion of foliage plants that really makes this design sing. Bella Grigio lambs ears (Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’) are also wonderful additions to the landscape and are both deer and drought tolerant. In many areas they are considered a perennial but they don’t fare well in my cold, wet winter soils so I accept them as a summer annual.

Want more ideas? Well we know of two rather excellent books to get you started…. Also be sure to click on our blog tags such as coleus and container design to find more inspirational posts.

 

Tiny Courtyard Makeover

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AFTER: the ferns and bugbane are still dormant in this newly renovated border yet it sparkles thanks to planning the design  #foliagefirst

You don’t have to be big to be beautiful – or to have potential.

This pint-sized courtyard had been planted with the ubiquitous builders basics of the Pacific Northwest – rhododendron, azaleas and andromeda (Pieris japonica).

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BEFORE: predictable Builders Blah

While all three are evergreen offering ‘year round interest’, in reality they were seriously BORING, not least of all because their foliage was identical in color and shape. What this needed was a quick foliage makeover.

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A dwarf coral bark maple provided a focal point, height and stunning red stems. It is important when selecting a tree for winter bark that you don’t hide it behind shrubs! In this instance I selected perennial ferns and grasses that would be dormant during those months, allowing the tree bark to be the star.

To add more color, Pink Frost hellebores were planted in a cluster. With evergreen foliage and a bounty of pink, burgundy, cream and apple-green flowers that last for many months, this variety remains one of my top picks. The pinkish-red tones echo the color from the maple tree too.

A few rugged boulders completed this updated vignette, contrasting perfectly with the soft, white-variegated Japanese forest grasses and finely textured Western maidenhair ferns. One rock was selected for its water-retaining depression in order to attract birds and butterflies.

Rich color contrast will come from the dark-leaved Hillside Black Beauty bugbane, while its height (typically 4-5′) will add balance to the composition and the vanilla-scented flowers will scent the late summer air.

Note that as with all designs, large and small, the final plant placement was somewhat different from the original plan. Never be afraid to move things around!

Is it time for you to tackle that less-than-stellar entry border? You’ll get lots more ideas for plant combinations that put Foliage First in our two books.

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Fall Container Inspiration

Ready to switch your petunias for pumpkins? Here are four ideas you can whip up in no time.

Caramel Flavors

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It all begins with the pot, in this case a frost resistant glazed container in rich caramel tones with just a hint of copper. The pheasant tail grass at the back of the design repeats these shades perfectly and creates height while adding a wonderfully airy texture.

The bold mahogany colored foliage of Blondie heuchera separates this grass from the similar texture of golden Everillo carex, an evergreen grass-like plant that drapes down the front of the container. (I love the dense clusters of ginger-cream flowers on this heuchera too).

Also included are evergreen, multi-hued Ascot Rainbow euphorbia and Twiggy box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’).

Soft Touch

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No signs of orange here, yet this design will see you through pumpkin season and into spring with style. It also shows how you can  easily ‘cheat’ a little. None of these plants were tall enough to be the key element so I simply cut some curly willow stems from the garden and stuck the branches into the pot. When the willow leaves shrivel, run your fingers slowly down the stems to remove them, leaving the contorted bare branches to add sculptural interest and height to the design.

Likewise that interesting green leafy plant in the foreground is Nova Flame mukgenia. It will have glorious fall color and pink blooms in spring – but as a herbaceous perennial it will die back during winter and leave a visual blank spot in the pot as will the tufted hair grass. No problem; add small white pumpkins, pine cones, decorative pebbles or other seasonal accents, removing these in spring to allow for the new growth.

Other plants include shiny purple Spellbound heuchera, pink/white/green variegated Rainbow drooping fetterbush, deep pink Svenja bud bloomer heather and Northern Lights tufted hair grass.

Portable Feast

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Bright Lights Swiss chard is a popular vegetable for cooks and gardeners alike and it’s no wonder with such vibrant colors.  I selected one with hot-pink stems and burgundy foliage and used it to anchor a rustic pot glazed in deep earth tones.

To brighten things up a trailing  Yellowstone Falls heucherella cascades down the side of the pot. Each yellow leaf has a deep burgundy venation, helping to connect it to the colors of both the pot and chard.

Other plants include Obsession heavenly bamboo (a sport of the popular Gulf Stream that exhibits deep burgundy year round), autumn fern and the beautiful marbled foliage of Winter Moonbeam hellebore

Putting on the Glitz

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For those who want sparkles and frills. First the pot; shades of turquoise, accented with deep purple and given a finish reminiscent of encrusted barnacles sprinkled with silver glitter. Wow!

Tying into the silvery-blue colors I added the shimmery Silver Falls dichondra, a blue star juniper, Silver Swan euphorbia and a gorgeous Silver Veil hellebore, one of the Gold Collection hellebores that is so new I can’t find a link for you! (I will contact the grower and ask about that….) Height was added with the new Hot Rod switch grass, those warmer colors being echoed by Crimson Fans mukdenia. Softening the contrast is a Lemon Lime heavenly bamboo which unlike most varieties does not turn red.

To look its best through winter when the dichondra freezes and the mukdenia becomes dormant, I would replace the trailer with  golden creeping Jenny and add some silver balls to disguise the sleeping perennial. Voila – ready for the next Holiday!

 

All pots from AW Pottery.

Fine Foliage Southern Style

The Atlanta Botanic Garden featured the incredible art of glass artist Dale Chihuly while were visiting the garden and we decided to try capturing it at night with the city in the background.

Team Fine Foliage has been on the road for almost 10 days in various cities from Washington D.C. to Savannah and most recently in Atlanta, Georgia. We’ve made our way to the south from the opposite corner of the country to tour gardens and attend the Garden Writers Association annual symposium and we couldn’t be more thrilled at the incredible foliage that we’ve seen here. This is truly a gardeners region!

Though we have a couple more days of touring to go, we made our way to one spectacular garden where unfortunately Mother Nature decided to intervene and throw is a weather curveball with incredible rains and we were only able to stay very briefly. But, we were able to capture a precious few photos to share with you just near the entrance of this magnificent garden and on this quick post we can give you a small taste of what we saw.

The exquisite Gibbs Gardens were a long bus ride, but were SO worth it! One of our tour bus’ even got stuck during the torrential downpours we experienced. We are going to try (fingers crossed) to rent a car and go back in a couple of days before making the long flight back to Seattle.
Just look at what greeted us right as we got off the bus and you can understand why we MUST make our way back if we can!
Fine Foliage Southern StyleApologies for the uncharacteristically less than stellar quality of this photo as it was raining and as photographers, trying to juggle an umbrella while shooting is an acrobatic feat we have yet to master! However, now you can see why we feel so strongly about going back as soon as possible! The caladium, variegated ginger and begonia’s that anchor this showy display are truly just a small sample of what we plant to go back to shoot when its dry!

Fine Foliage Southern StyleThese fabulous gold conifers at the swelling creek side were standouts on such a dark and gloomy day that they commended attention. While the spiky blue yucca give a textural and color contrast brilliantly, the fluffy white aster that blooms in the early fall was the perfect billowy soft accent for an ideal display of what we mean when we say “Foliage First!”

Fine Foliage Southern Style

Who on earth decided that pink and orange DON’T go together?! Clearly whomever designed this doesn’t follow the rules and thank heavens! These GIANT caladium love the heat and humidity of the south and we are ever so jealous. But, pairing them with this orange-gold coleus was brilliant and created such a perfect foil for the flowers in these overflowing containers.

Fine Foliage Southern StyleAs the afternoon of our tour got darker and stormier, the foliage that stood out was whatever has a light feeling to it, we talk about that often on this blog, but what a day for a perfect example! These white caladium and bright gold coleus in the background make our point perfectly in contrast to all of those flowers.

We are off to a bus and more gardens in mere moments. Hopefully this gives you a little idea of what we are experiencing here in the south and we will have MUCH more to show you from some unbelievable gardens we are seeing here. MORE to come!

Want more ideas?

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