Tag Archives: Garden Design

Fine Foliage Fusion

It’s going to be a stunning spring day here in the Pacific Northwest and I’m thinking about shade combinations with pink foliage. All of these plants are on my back porch waiting for their starring role in my client’s landscapes and containers for the summer.

Obviously, there are still more choices to add to this for more contrast, but I wanted to focus on some of the amazing foliage at my fingertips today in this slim color profile. There’s an unending number of coleus and caladium options that I can add in here too, just too many to share today. What other pink foliage can you think of for a shade garden or container?

As I get ready to run out the door to get working, I hope you enjoy a quick little tour of the pink display I’m enjoying right outside my window until they get installed!

Cordyline fruticosa

Variegated Fuchsia Magellanica

Rex Begonia

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’

Hypoestes (Polka Dot plant)

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Pink Angel’

Fine Foliage Fusion

Fittonia ‘Frankie’

Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’

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Emergent Fine Foliage for Spring

Whether it’s delicate spring ephemerals, gasp-inducing shrubs, perennials with personality or colorful ways with groundcovers if you keep your eyes open spring is sprouting all around you. I know in some of the colder parts of the country it might not feel that way right now, but Team Fine Foliage can at least entertain and keep your eyes busy while you wait for it!

The blue-green and silver tones of Trillium sessile’s camouflage patterned foliage will never fail to impress with its bold performance the minute it’s up and out of the ground. This plant is set for “all systems SHOW” from mid-March onward in the woodland garden where it can have some protection from the heat of later spring and summer. The flower ranges from mid-to deep red and is fragrant too!

Emergent Fine Foliage for Spring Commonly called the Lily of the Valley bush, Pieris is an amazingly versatile group of shrubs. From large to small, they often have quite showy new spring growth at about the same time as they flower with panicles of white, pink or almost red blooms. They have a sweet aroma that typifies the scent of spring for many people.

The top image shows Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’ with intense rosy pink new growth that stands out against the variegated foliage that it will fade back into come summer. A moderate sized plant, this one will mature at 2-4ft. tall and up to 5 ft. wide. in zones 6-8.

The bottom image shows one of the dwarf cultivars that might be either Pieris ‘Sarabande’ or ‘Cavatine’ which are both nearly identical except that ‘Sarabande’ is about 4x4ft tall and wide at maturity where ‘Cavatine’ is more likely going to be smaller at 2x2ft. tall and wide, but can get a bit larger under optimal circumstances. Either one is a winner with caramel and russet toned new growth in spring and constrasting pure white, fragrant flowers on glossy evergreen foliage year round.
Team Fine Foliage knows full well that not everyone can enjoy the plants in the barberry family the way we do in the Pacific Northwest due to its proclivity to procreate. But, if you live in areas where they are not invasive, you have a wealth of deer and rabbit resistant options to choose from in wonderful new spring growth. The one above is ‘Golden Rocket’ and we love it’s more vertical growth habit versus the rounded mounded types in gold. It produces little to no viable seed, so it’s a safe bet where invasiveness is in question. The stems where these beautiful little golden leaves emerge have a lovely reddish tone to them offering a nice contrast of another warm note on cool spring days. At 3-5 ft. tall and only 2ft. wide, it fits nicely in tight parts of the garden where you need that warm golden light. Contrasted with the blue-green foliage of the daffodils, it makes a beautiful spring scene that no varmints with bother!
The day that a gardener meets an iris named ‘Gerald Darby’ is an unforgettable moment indeed. I know it was for me. That utterly amazing purple new growth in spring hits you in the wallet because you’re often on the hunt for it thereafter! This new growth fades back to the medium green that is standard for iris x robusta, but it also features a respectable burst of purple blooms in June too. So this hardy perennial definitely earns its place even after the spring foliage show!
This unknown member of the Lilium family is boasting the most scrumptious bronze on the growth tips for spring, echoing the rich russet-red toned foliage in the background. It will fade back to a mid green before blooming, but it’s always worth noting when you see this kind of coloring as it might give hints as to the eventual tone and color of the blooms in summer too.
Last but not least on my little tour of fabulous spring foliage emerging right now is this simple little Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’ that’s here to teach us to stop and look down loooooow once in a while and notice the lowly little groundcover screaming to get our attention! The cool spring weather lends it that shock of bright pink glowing on the margins and will fade back a bit in summer to a still lively three-way color combo. Drought tolerant and polite, this little mat-forming succulent blooms from late spring to mid-summer. I love to use this one at the edges of combo pots that might not get watered as religiously as most containers would want and it thrives!

Hopefully, these few tidbits gave you the urge to go out and find spring in your area if you can and if it’s still too cold, hang tight! Team Fine Foliage is posting on FB daily. 🙂

If you need still more inspiration, be sure to click the follow button to play along with us here regularly and then, of course, click here to see our latest book Gardening with Foliage First!

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One Can’t Exist on Fine Foliage Color Alone

PowellsWood Garden, Federal Way, Washington

A spectacular winter scene at PowellsWood garden in Federal Way Washington.

When we wrote the original book Fine Foliage, we knew that addressing all of the other components of strong foliage based design would need extra focus in the follow-up book Gardening with Foliage First. Twigs, berries, bark, thorns, rock, art, color echoes, and so much more were some of the things we touch on in that book in a multitude of ways.

When I was out photographing in the drizzle of a late winter day, this vignette nearly took my breath away as it exemplifies so much of what we were trying to describe. The magnolia that takes center stage here utterly glows with gold lichen and swelling glittery silver flower buds.
We like to re-enforce for all of you foliage fans just how important noticing these types of details can be to design work in your own landscape.

Another classic point we like to emphasize often is how your eye moves through a landscape scene with color. Even on a cold, rainy day, color directs the eye where you want it to focus. The large maple in the background is largely responsible for why this magnolia stands out the way it does. Then your eye naturally sees the showy red-twig dogwood shrub to far left and then circles down to notice the orange new growth on the spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’ below it on the right.

In some of my research on color and design, one technique that I have learned and still employ in my own design work is to think of leading the eye in the pattern of a lower case “e”. If you start your “e” from the magnolia and curve it around to the maple, then over to the dogwood shrub and down to the spiraea, you can see the “e”!

The warm glow these colors provided on a wet gloomy day here in the Great Pacific North-Wet was welcome indeed and I hope you enjoyed it too!

As of today, it’s only 21 days until SPRING!!  Follow along with Team Fine Foliage to see what we have up our sleeves for spring and summer by clicking the subscribe button!

Need more foliage in your hot little hands? Then click here to order our books Fine Foliage and our latest Gardening with Foliage First! 

Framing a View with Fine Foliage

 

A literal frame in the landscape of Alyson Markley.

Do you have a spectacular view somewhere in your landscape that you would like to highlight? No? OK, how about a mediocre view? Or even a peek-a-boo view? Maybe your view is around a corner and down a path. Or maybe it’s not a “view” at all but a focal point like a tree, garden art or seating area that you want to feature.
Leading the eye by using foliage “frames” the view and thereby directs the eye to where you want to look. In the case above, the bamboo is planted densely, enclosing the path and making you want to venture further to see what’s at the end of the path.
This view of the pool house at Chanticleer is iconic. The copper verdigris roofline echoes the exquisite color of the Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Blue Ice‘) on either side of the entry gate. They provide a sense of scale against the cupola as well as luscious fragrance.
Here at the famous Hidcote garden, this section of the border was emphasized with all manner of red and burgundy foliage that takes you all the way down the path, looking left and right as the color carries you to the gate at the far end.
Another iconic view at Hidcote stops you abruptly to look at the masterful pruning of the boxwood and then to the fountain pool and then further through the archway and beyond.
The beautiful garden art sculpture set into the yew hedge is masterfully framed by this unique arch of what I think is a type of Hornbeam, but I can’t confirm which one. The foliage was a very silvery white!
The intense blue of this epic glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly against the pink toned building in the background is expertly framed by multi-trunked Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees and their reddish toned bark guides you straight down this path. All of the colors are working together brilliantly.
Sometimes not exposing the full view of the scene (Huntington Botanic Garden), but simply giving the taste of what’s beyond and through is just enough titillation to make you want to find a way to see what’s over there.
This tightly constricted view to the meadow beyond forces you to stop, sit and ponder.
Here’s a glimpse through a hornbeam tunnel that you would meander down to the bench you see in the photo above in the gardens of Bourton Hall.
OR, maybe you want to show off an expansive view (Pettifers) all at once and make the landscape scene feel ever more accentuated by creating a perspective that forces both close inspection of certain plants and design as well as appreciating the overall composition.
I love the way the designers at Chanticleer used vertical and contrasting colored chunks of cut foliage to mark this path edge and force your focus toward the meadow beyond.
The same idea, only in much larger scale here at Bourton Hall, uses fastigiate yews to guide your eye parallel the water feature and into the distance.

When you think about your landscape design, large or small, are you using foliage to frame or lead your eye the parts of your design that you really want to emphasize?

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.

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If You Could Only Choose One….

If you were to chase me through the garden with a gun, forcing me to choose only ONE category of plant that epitomizes what fall looks like to me, once I stopped blathering about all things leafy and my enthusiasm for many beloved ginkgo in my past, I’d have to say it’s miscanthus that wins my heart.

We can discuss all of the amazing merits of this group of grasses all day, but the ONE reason that it stops me in my tracks year after year is the way the low angled fall sun sparkles on the soft blooms like diamonds on magic wands.

Since I also love lots of strong color, I am always taken aback by just how much I love the warm, muted beige and sand tones that you only get in fall. It shows up beautifully against the electric gold of  Solidago ‘Fireworks’.

Lastly, it takes great restraint not to wax poetic about the effect those miscanthus blooms have on their unwitting neighbors. But, I will close with this; the movie star quality that the Belladonna lily (also known as Naked Lady) enjoys in this shot would not be the same without these grass blooms. It reminds me of those old movies where the female star got a romantic close-up and the camera operator would put vaseline around the edge of lens for the soft focus effect.

The next time you pass a gracious stand of Miscanthus hopefully, you will take note of these points, because if someone were chasing YOU with a gun through the landscape in fall forcing YOU to choose a favorite piece of Fine Foliage hopefully, you will thank me for making your choice much easier. 🙂

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.

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Dynamic Fall Texture with Zebra Grass

Whether you choose the full-sized Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) that grows 5-8ft. tall or the dwarf form that stays much shorter and more compact, Zebra grass is a wonderful addition to the fall landscape. The horizontal bands of cream on green are striking under gray skies, adding tons of character.

As the autumn temperatures cool, this clump-forming grass begins to turn soft gold. And if it’s allowed to stay without pruning through winter, you will be rewarded with handsome beige color as well as crown protection in cold climates.

Using contrasting and complimentary grasses to balance this one is a nice design choice where this grass is SO striking that you don’t generally need masses of them to stand out. The copper/pink flowering tips hold up well for fall arrangements too!

Here’s a link for more information on Zebra Grass. 

For more foliage based design ideas check THIS out! And be sure to sign up to receive more leafy goodness in your email by clicking the button to sign up for more posts from Team Fine Foliage! 

 

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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.

Fine Foliage and the Glory of Fall

The entry drive at PowellsWood Garden.

While much of the country is beginning to feel the first tell-tale signs of fall, with cooler nights and even a first frost warning or two, in the Pacific Northwest, we frequently get the best of both worlds in late summer. We know how spoiled we are to be able to enjoy both seasons at once until the real fall hammer drops when the rains arrive. As I write this, my door is open this morning, and it will likely be 80 by dinner tonight.

In spite of that, our landscapes are all talking about the slow march to the true fall weather. Our abundant Japanese and native Vine maples are coloring up like crazy with the heat stress of our long drought this summer. Understandably, these trees are tired and ready for rest soon, but we will enjoy them as long as we can!

The conifers of all kinds are gearing up to takes the center stage for winter soon. The stately weeping hemlocks in this photo are protected from the heat of summer under the broad canopy of a giant fir tree as well as the dappled canopy of the maples. They lend such a fine texture, blue-green foliage color, and the perfect scale for the mid-border.

One of my favorite things about the photo above is how the intensely colored spikes of blue fescue contrast with the orange of the vine maple. Blue and orange are always such happy friends on the foliage color wheel. A great point to make a note of if you are planning any changes or additions to your home landscape this fall.

When we zoom into the center of this bed, we can take note of even more amazing details. The hydrangea aspera (‘Plum Passion’) from Monrovia shows more purple color intensity on the foliage in a higher light location. In this dappled light, it is pale, but the pink veining and flowers are no less attractive and interesting at providing marvelous details.

Below the hydrangea, euphorbia a. robbiae (Mrs. Robb’s Bonnet) fills in densely with glossy green rosettes of foliage. This ground cover can strike fear in the heart of gardeners with its aggressive nature, so it’s one to plan and plant carefully. However, the cheerful yellow bloom bracts in late spring are so welcome after long winter. Once it’s done blooming, giving this plant a hard prune to tidy it up for the rest of the year, results in this textural backdrop for falling orange maple leaves.

Whether you are fully ready and committed to dismantling your summer garden now to enjoy fall, or if you are trying to squeeze every last ounce out of the late summer landscape, noting some of the fantastic details that make this “shoulder season” dramatic in its own way are a good way to be “in the moment” with your fine foliage design goals. 

Gardening with Foliage First is another way to see some excellent ideas for fall combination drama. And of course clicking the SUBSCRIBE button on your right brings this blog to your inbox monthly for even more ideas! 

Team Fine Foliage- ZOOM! Designers on the Run!

This is the part of the post where you should be inserting the tune from Paul McCartney and Wings “Band on the Run”  in honor of two designers who are literally crisscrossing the country, and multiple continents too!

The last time we checked in with you we were in process of developing our amazing shots taken at the test trial gardens home of Proven Winners, so we HAD to post this one as soon as we saw it because it is such a wonderful example of what we mean by “Gardening with Foliage First”.

The background layer features bold and sumptuous gold foliage from a new favorite of mine for sure ‘Glow Girl’ Birchleaf Spirea. I am SO impressed with this plant! Here you can plainly see how nicely the glow shows off the soft lavender blooms of Buddleja Alternifolia and it’s silvery foliage. Gold and purple are always friendly pairings in the landscape!

This little tidbit of tendril goodness is about all we have time for at the moment until one of us lands and can wax more poetically on design and foliage. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed! Off we zoom again- Cheers until later!  May your foliage be wondrous and your book buying heavy!

The Foliage Backstory

Savvy Solution – as featured in Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

We’re delighted to hear that you have been enjoying our new book Gardening with Foliage First – thank you for all your encouraging messages telling us how  inspiring the combinations have been!

Behind every published combination there were typically several dozen images taken from unique perspectives or framed in different ways. You see even when we knew we had found an exciting vignette, it often took a few attempts to  discover the best way to present it to you. With that in mind, we thought you might enjoy this ‘behind the scenes’ peek at the evolution of  Savvy Solution  discovered in Mary Palmer’s  garden in Snohomish, WA.

Initial inspiration

Walking down one of several intriguing pathways, this scene is what initially caught my eye:

Stopped in my tracks by this Foliage First combo

I was struck by the color echo between the variegated Color Guard yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’), golden juniper and acid-yellow blooms of the spurge (Euphorbia), all contrasting with the dark red barberry and framing a triumphant explosion of blue sea holly (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’). Yet this angle seemed a little too busy, the horizontal roof line was distracting, the bare tree-trunks were rather too dominant, plus I was tantalized by glimpses of a large, silver leaf hiding behind the spurge, so I continued a little farther down the path.

Hidden Treasures

Soft and spiky – a great textural treat just waiting to be discovered

Now I could see what I’d been missing and fell in love with the steroidal, silvery foliage of yellow mullein (Verbasum epixanthinum). What fun to see the sea holly valiantly poking through those velvety leaves!

However this was just one part of a much wider scene that now opened up.

Too much of a good thing?

This is where this member of Team Fine Foliage had to be resuscitated with a recuperative glass of wine – WOW! Where to begin? From this perspective I could still appreciate the relationship between the yucca, spurge, sea holly, barberry and mullein but now there was a tall dark-leaved daphne (Daphne houtteana) and a golden incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens Berrima Gold), joining in the fun. Success? Not quite – I could live with the glimpse of the home’s roofline – but not the landscapers red truck visible through the stems. There also seemed to be too many vertical lines confusing the story in the upper left quadrant

The final cut

So a slight angle change and a final re-framing was called for, to focus the story on the key plants – and Savvy Solution was born.

As we tell you in our book “If you want drama without the dramatics, this may be your answer. Thriving in poor, dry soil and a sun-drenched site, this trio will reward you with color, fragrance, foliage and flowers. The juxtaposition of soft and spiky textures with the alluring color scheme of silver, blue and yellow creates a memorable combination. All three plants are deer resistant and drought tolerant, making them a wise choice for many landscapes.

To get information on how this design will evolve over time as well as full plant profiles just turn to pages 24-25. Then enjoy the other 126 combinations we found for you!

Did you know?

The Royal Horticultural Society recommended Gardening with Foliage First in their latest RHS Garden magazine (May issue) ? They also included it in their spring books promotion throughout their shops and mail-order service! A huge honor and one that the British half of Team Fine Foliage is especially appreciative of 🙂

Meanwhile it continues to rock the Amazon charts on this side of the Pond – have you got YOUR copy yet?