Tag Archives: Grasses

Simple, Straightforward and Serene Foliage

Sweet, Simple and Serene FoliageAs Team Fine Foliage recovers from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show week, the official launch to the local gardening public of Gardening with Foliage First and as of today Karen Chapman is officially a “Nana”, we’re truly in recovery. So this post about “simplicity” seemed SO appropriate right now. ūüôā

This shot above from the show last week was taken from the garden designed by Nature Perfect Landscape and Design, it was a crowd favorite for sure! But, for our purposes today, I’m only showing you this small portion of it even though there was MUCH more to it.

So why DOES this work so beautifully? It was SIMPLE! Groundcover plants were strategically used in this geometric patio design along with polished river rock and pavers. Small ‘Gold Moss’ stonecrop positively glows in this setting and having the black mondo grass as a contrast along with one of the many shades of Club Moss lining the wood pile/boulder seating space make it almost a magical detail that drew many many raves.

Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageThis small section from a garden design at the show also provided a great lesson in simplicity. Using golden sweet flag grass in multiples as a groundcover in this space looked sophisticated and would stay low around the spheres and dwarf rhododendrons. Designed by Jefferson Sustainable Landscape Management and Avid Landscape Design, the other elements in this display were fantastic as well!
Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageLast but certainly NOT least is “Mid-Mod-Mad….It’s Cocktail Hour in the Garden” another of my very favorite award-winning designs at the show from creator Father Nature Landscapes and designer Sue Goetz. Though I’m not showing you all of the display here, to further our point on simplicity, this one is a very good showing!

Proving the point that you don’t need 800 different types of plant material to have an excellent design. Sue chose to use lots and lots of Orange Sedge to surround and fill this space and bring your eye to the fire bowl, seating area and water feature in the background. Water loving umbrella grass sits in the water giving a nice vertical look on the colorful wall.

There you have a quick look at simple and serene ideas for using foliage repetition with a small palette of plants. Hope you enjoyed a few photos from the show, I’m sure you will see MANY more in future posts.

Cheers to catching our breath!

If you liked this post and want to see more ideas in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First that’s burning up the charts ūüôā Click here!¬†

Easy Combinations for Winter

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Get ideas from your winter containers – here colorful conifers are paired with blooming winter heather and a humble pansy

The secret to adding winter interest to the garden is to create mini vignettes using just two or three elements. These colorful clusters will draw your eye and hold attention better than dotting individual evergreens around the landscape. By limiting the number of plants in each winter combination it also allows room for your other seasonal favorites such as  deciduous shrubs, herbaceous perennials and ephemeral spring bulbs.

As always, build that foliage framework first then layer in the finishing touch.

Here are some easy ideas for you to copy or use as a springboard for your own combinations.

Ruby and Amethyst Shades

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Snow Queen hydrangea photo credit; Monrovia

The eye catching foliage here is a Snow Queen oak leaf hydrangea – the leaves will typically remain on this shrub for much of the winter although the peeling bark of any exposed branches will only add to the textural feast. Paired with Goshiki Japanese holly, and Pink Frost hellebore the suffused pink tones are repeated and highlighted.

A perfect trio for dappled shade although the Japanese holly would be equally at home in full sun.

Using a Colorful Pot

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The bare bones foliage are all fairly pedestrian – a Silver King euonymus, blue star juniper and Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo. Add a rustic pot that marries all those colors together and BAM! – suddenly this is transformed into a year round vignette. Use this as a focal point near the front door and it will always say ‘welcome home.’

Sunshine in the Shade

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Three evergreens – a columnar yew, Sundance Mexican orange blossom and beesia. With varying leaf shapes and form this trio could be used to establish a bright spot in an otherwise shady corner of the garden. Perhaps add in some golden bleeding heart for pink spring flowers to play next to those of the beesia and you’re set.

Monochromatic Elegance

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The key to having this Gentsch White Canadian hemlock look its best is tip pruning in spring. This stimulates the beautiful white new growth that really makes this  conifer a star for the shade. Create that shade with a river birch tree and you will get to enjoy the peeling bark while adding a sweep of Monte Cristo hellebore at the base will introduce those welcome winter flowers

Hummingbird Favorite

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My Charity Oregon grape is in full bloom right now and the hummingbirds are fighting over the yellow flowers! If I can ward off the rabbits I’m going to try adding some Everillo carex to the base to repeat the golden color. Unlike Japanese forest grass this is evergreen so the foliage and flowers will appear together. The shiny purple Spellbound heuchera would be great for contrast as well as giving the birds a spring time treat with the abundant flowering spires.

Berry Beauty

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Holiday colors here! The clusters of berries on the Parney cotoneaster look festive and echo the colorful red twig dogwood stems. The foliage framework is provided by the deeply veined cotoneaster leaves which have a silvery white underside as well as the bright foliage of Winter Chocolate heather which will go through several color changes during the year. (Check to see if this cotoneaster is invasive in your area before planting)

Caramel Deliciousness

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Autumn fern, Teddy Bear rhododendron (with its fuzzy orange indumentum), Creme Brulee heuchera and orange hair sedge – swoon worthy…….sigh

Delicate Details

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From the cinnamon colored peeling bark of the paperbark maple that echoes the burnished copper foliage of Robert Chapman heather and stems of the dwarf Ramapo rhododendron to the exquisite shade of blue-green that the rhodie contributes to be joined in spring by purple flowers – this is all about the details.

Got you thinking? Tell us YOUR favorite winter trio – you always inspire us. For more ideas be sure to get our NEW BOOK Gardening with Foliage First. It is available to pre-order on Amazon NOW, shipping in January. There are oodles of new ideas for winter interest in there just for YOU.

Five Reasons Why We’re in Love with Fall Foliage

Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThere are all of the text book, expected reasons to love fall foliage of course. But, we like to keep you on your toes with ideas and combinations that might stretch your design muscles. Even friendly partners of fall foliage counts!

Five Reason Why We We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 1:  The awe-inspiring world of conifers for fall. No matter where you live there are incredible options to feature conifers in the landscape year round. From diminutive to giant, there is an incredible conifer option to fill every situation. Whether a Lemon Cypress or the Italian Cypress as above, exclamation points are helpful when making design points.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageGold is something that we often talk about in this blog. When it comes to conifers, gold can be a stylish and showy option in a cold climate for fall. It stands out beautifully against anything you show it against. Many gardeners don’t realize that there are even conifers that change color in the fall and winter. Cryptomeria is one of our favorites that turns a lovely burnished red in autumn.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage Number 2: Now add grasses to your conifers and fall landscapes and you get even more design inspiration options! This Little Bluestem grass is the MOST divine color in fall against the blue of the Weeping blue Atlas Cedar.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThese golden arborvitae are another way to show off the extraordinary color of the Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) grass in autumn.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage We also love the tall blond amazingness that is Karl Foerster grass that brings such a strict verticality to the lateral structure of this pine.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage The fluffy puffiness of this stipa is an interesting echo of shapes against the weeping Japanese maple in the background.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 3: When late season perennials show off great seed heads that are SO perfect against fall foliage, it’s an easy win-win. Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia) are a natural choice for a prolific and easy flowering perennial.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageAstilbe seed heads are one of Team Fine Foliage favorites, shown here against the incredible coral toned bark of the ‘Pacific Fire’ Vine Maple.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 4:¬†Evergreen plants that change color! WHAAATTTTT? Yes indeed there are many hardy, evergreen plants that DO change color in fall and winter and the Calluna vulgaris above is ¬†just one of those options. These fall into the group of plants many of you might know as heath’s and heathers. They come in a rainbow of colors and many change¬†dramatically in fall and winter.
Five reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThe heaths and heathers that change color SO well in fall and winter are also late season bloomers. One more reason to love them!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageOrange and blue are an unexpected fall and winter combo to be sure!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageSedum ‘Angelina’ is a top performer, possibly even a little “too easy” at times, but for all of her potential flaws she has some excellent qualities too. We adore her burnished apricot tones in fall and winter and rely on them after she is done with her audacious chartreuse performance in spring and summer.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 5: Try the not-so-obvious choices for fall and winter interest! This soft leaf yucca lends a tropical feeling and a green-blue color that pairs so well with the traditional fall colors.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage Speaking of blue! This Donkey-tail Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) is an amazing blue textural interest. Mixed here with Sedum ‘Angelina’ before she shows off her russet¬†tones in the cold weather to come, we can still get a taste of that soon to be color¬†when we focus on the INCREDIBLE peeling bark of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in this combo.
Five Reasosn Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageWant to have some function to your fall fashion? Well then grapes might be an excellent way for you to get your fall color and eat it too! These happen to be an ornamental form of the typical edible vine, but you can still eat these grapes though they are smaller.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageLayer, layer layer! Whether evergreen, grassy, seeded or for the sheer personality of it all, get out there and fall in love with some new ideas for autumn!

Want to know about what Team Fine Foliage thinks about designing with foliage though all four seasons? Then you came to the right place! Click here for more info on our upcoming book coming out in early 2017 from Timber Press titled “Gardening with Foliage First”.¬†

If you aren’t already enjoying our weekly wit and design wisdom then you NEED to click that button over there >>>>>>>>> to get Fine Foliage delivered to your email easy-peasy like! ūüôā

Understated Elegance with Fine Foliage

20160610-CS_IMG_4333After shooting a LOT of garden photos in the last few weeks I have been editing more than normal too. I have a process where I glance through a whole file and without over analyzing any one thing too much, I quickly flag the shots that “speak to me”. It’s that gut reaction you get quickly that tends to be very reliable about which ones to go back and spend time on or ditch them now and move on.

To that end, I originally passed this one over when I was on my elimination frenzy¬†and I’m so glad that I came back to give it a second glance. Then, the more I kept looking at it the more I loved it. The photo itself is all right, THIS is about the design lesson.

If you even half pay attention to this blog or my other social media posts, then you likely know my style is most decidedly NOT quiet, demure or conservative, but this one speaks to me. I got back from photographing and touring gardens in England for ten days recently (more to come on that exciting adventure!) so maybe the quieter garden style there has rubbed off on me a little. Not there that weren’t dizzying displays of “WHOA….” at times, the focus is just different there.

The interesting thing is that I took this photo at the VERY colorful Bellevue Botanical Garden last weekend and I must have passed this combination hundreds of times over the years and up until now noticed parts of this vignette, but not the “full picture”. Maybe this is maturity in my garden design evolution talking, or maybe it’s just another layer of awareness that comes with experience about what I’m viewing.

The centerpiece of this photo is the Red Tussock grass (Chionochloa rubra) is a New Zealand native hardy in zones 7-10, grows 3-5ft tall and wide in a clump that features gracefully arching blades that move with the breeze in color tones that can range from sparkling tan to coppery red. Feminine white Japanese iris stands up on the left, almost waving the white flag to get your attention and lovely though they are, I’m still not quite enamored enough to draw my eye away from that grass.¬†Then on the right, you just can’t deny that the lime green juvenile flowers of the snow white hydrangea ‘Incrediball’ are harmonic color perfection with the golden tan grass.

Now take all three together and sigh…..it’s the recipe that works! You might have three ingredients for a dish that you can’t fathom coming together and yet it does. The flavor profile is subtle, refined and utterly elegant. I don’t feel the need to douse it in Sriracha sauce to make it spicy and grab my attention. In fact, a little tea with milk, a biscuit and that may be all is needed here to make me happy. Oh and that boxwood down front with its deep green….

Holy cow! This British co-author and that trip have gotten to me…. Shhhhhhhh…… ūüôā

Want even more ideas?

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Oh MY Iris!!!

There are grasses and all manner of spiky plants to add colorful texture in the garden, but its extraordinary to find iris with phenomenal foliage used to great effect. It used to be something rare and unique, but now iris of all kinds are being favored for the personality they bring to the landscape with leaves and not just flouncy flowers. 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Paired here with a lavender Japanese primrose (Primula sieboldii), these variegated yellow flag iris make a classy color combination for spring at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Now look at how different that same iris looks with the emerging new foliage of this astilbe. Red and yellow are so vibrant together! 

Oh MY Iris!!!The the same iris again in front of this deep green ilex….. I don’t think fans of foliage would have hurt feelings if I said that I wouldn’t feel bad if this never bloomed would you?¬†

Oh MY Iris!!!
This beautiful German style iris is perfectly suited to this spring display with Forget-Me-Nots, Iceland poppy, pale yellow carex grass and moonlight toned wallflower. I have to hand it to the designers at Chanticleer, they know how to make a fashion statement all right! 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Another Siberian iris ‘Gerald Darby’ makes you stop in your tracks to get down and check out the marvelous legs on this plant! Blue-purple and not even a flower yet. Imagine the design possibilities!¬†

For more information on the amazing world of iris, see “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts” from our good friend of Fine Foliage Kelly Norris. And a good companion option for all of the other amazing iris selections out there is this one, “Bearless Irises: A Plant for every Garden Situation”¬†by Kevin C. Vaughn.

In the mean time, join us over on our Facebook page for more daily doses of leafy inspiration by clicking HERE!

Plant Therapy – one leaf at a time

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My color inspiration, bridging the interior colors with the garden

If you’ve been following along with the ups and downs in my life recently you won’t be surprised to know that I felt in need of a little pick me up, and what better tonic could there possibly be than a trip to buy plants at the nursery?

The excuse…

We¬†have recently¬†had a new patio installed and I now have several more garden¬†beds to fill (oh darn). ¬†We have also just added a new window to¬†our open concept living/dining/kitchen so suddenly find ourselves mesmerized by the daily changes in our garden. I swear buds swell as I stare at them….. It’s a wonder I get anything done!

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The view from our new window; better than TV!

Where to start?

The hard thing about being a designer is that I often have too many ideas! I can put plans together far more efficiently for clients than I can for our own garden and needed to narrow down my focus. I started by considering the color palette.

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Our living room is a blend of soft blues and grays but I’ll often add a contrast throw or switch out the pillows with the seasons. I really like this one I found at Pottery Barn as it pulls the¬†garden colors (foliage and flowers) ¬†into the home – and gave me a good starting point for plant shopping.

Now to SHOP!

I decided to add some deep purples to the blue-grey, green and orange mix and selected a new variety of corkscrew hazel as a specimen plant. It is Red Dragon corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Red Dragon’) which reputedly holds its burgundy color longer than Red Majestic – we’ll see! Of course right now its just a bunch of curly twigs but soon it will have twisted¬†dark burgundy-purple¬†foliage and next year should also sport some cool purple catkins.

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If you can ignore the bamboo cane, you will appreciate the wonderful contorted branches of Red Dragon corkscrew hazel. It also has purple buds, leaves and catkins

However I need purple tones right NOW so  was really excited to come across this new Rhododendron called Wine and Roses. Look at that foliage!!!

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Purple indumentum underneath the dark green leaves of Wine and Roses rhododendron

Oh swoon. That is some serious fine foliage. Now to be honest my excitement may have got the better of me as I think this spot may be too hot for this rhodie. Not to worry, I’ll put it in the front garden where it will receive protection from more mature plants and the colors will still work there. The flowers are said to be a deep pink which also works better for the front. What can I say in my defense? I got distracted….

So I STILL needed purple leaves; finally nailed it with Ruby Glow spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides¬† ‘Ruby Glow’). Great evergreen perennial and love the lime bracts that are just beginning to open.

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Chartreuse ‘flowers’ on the dark leaved Ruby Glow spurge are just beginning to open. Joined by a stray branch of Quicksilver hebe!

Time to get back to my base color of blue-grey. You can see a little branch of Quicksilver hebe¬† (Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’) weaving through the spurge; that will work well as will this blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens).

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The evergreen foliage of blue oat grass is the perfect shade of blue-grey

Finally time to bring in my accent color of orange. Love looking out of my new window and seeing the orange pots and new orange foliage of my Double Play Gold spirea. However that spirea is too large for this space so I selected Magic Carpet¬†spirea¬†(Spiraea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’) instead as it only grows to about 2 feet tall.

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From back to front:Magic Carpet spirea, Ruby Glow spurge, Quicksilver hebe and Henfield Brilliant rockrose

Look how it works with all the other foliage – yum! There will be another splash of orange in spring from Henfield Brilliant rockrose (Helianthemum nummularium ‘Henfield Brilliant’).This is a tough, evergreen groundcover that will be covered in burnt orange flowers soon. The ¬†foliage is a lovely fresh shade of green¬†.

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Henfield Brilliant rockrose will have deep orange flowers in spring

I also picked up a few orange pansies for good measure. Voila!

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Notice how these plants pick up the colors in the distant border (as well as the interior color scheme)

Now if this rain would just stop I could get planting…..

So what are YOU finding at the nurseries? Do let us know in the comments below or leave a note on our Facebook page.

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Fine Foliage for Clay Soils

Anyone who has ever broken a pick axe or had to use a digging bar to plant even the smallest plant knows the torture of gardening in clay soils. Whether your clay is a sculptors sort of muck or more like rock and sometimes even both, spending your gardening hours chipping, scraping and banging your way to your dream landscape in clay takes patience and fortitude.

Fortunately, there are secret weapons that can turn you hours of sweaty labor into less of a dreadful return on investment. First weapon of choice is using the right tool for working in clay so that you aren’t working harder than is really necessary. I won’t go through the myriad of available tools, but I’ll just mention my favorite here, and it is indeed a “digging bar”. This is what mine looks like, but there are a number of types and my neighbors borrow it constantly. ūüôā

The second weapon is ironically, improving your soil. The old adage “Never put a five dollar plant in a ten cent hole.”¬†By adding compost, and other high quality soil amendments to your clay soil, you help the beneficial organisms in your soil to literally grow MORE good soil. If you continue to do this over time, you will end up with the deepest and dreamiest soil. Here is the name of one of my very favorite soil amendments by Kellogg Garden Products- Soil Building Conditioner, made specifically for helping to break up and add nutrient density to heavy clay soils.

Fine Foliage for Clay Soils
The other, and MUCH more important tool in your arsenal for saving money, time and labor when landscaping in clay soil is, wait for it….., “RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE”! Choosing the best possible plant options to thrive in your soil type from the very beginning makes for lazy gardening in the best possible way!

So to that end, Team Fine Foliage presents you with just a handful of extra yummy foliage based options to consider for your landscape if you suffer with clay soil like we do!

Switchgrass or Panicum v. 'Shenandoah' or 'North Wind' are some handsome medium sized grass for the middle of the border.

Switchgrass or Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘North Wind’ are handsome choices for medium-sized grasses in the middle of a border.

Pennisetum 'Hameln' or 'Burgundy Bunny' are long time favorites of ours!

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ or ‘Burgundy Bunny’ are long time favorites of ours!

'Little Blue Stem' is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

‘Little Blue Stem’ is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus saneness left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Miscanthus sinensis left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for it's spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for its spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Hellebores are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options!

Helleborus are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options! This is one of the lesser known types, the Bearsfoot Hellebore.

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore 'Silver Lace'

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore ‘Silver Lace’

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is 'Samobor' featuring distinctive black markings.

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is ‘Samobor’ featuring distinctive black markings.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It's a champ! This one is 'Neon' with its exh uberant pink flowers!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It’s a champ! This one is ‘Neon’ with its¬†exuberant¬†pink flowers!

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap root that they put out that helps them survive.

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap-root that they put out that helps them survive.

Soft Leaved Yucca

Soft Leaved Yucca

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spirea! This is 'Magic Carpet'.

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spiraea! This is ‘Magic Carpet’.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called 'My Monet', a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called ‘My Monet’, a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

The notoriously long lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

The notoriously long-lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

So now you have a SMALL taste for what you can choose for everything from perennials to ground covers and shrubs to trees, we expect to hear about all of the Fine Foliage that YOU discover at your local garden center to try in your clay soil. Toil no more!

Here are two great resources for a MUCH more expanded list; 1) Royal Horticulture Society, Plants for Clay Soils 2) The Missouri Botanical Garden’s list and additional tips.¬†

Want even more ideas to feed your Fine Foliage addiction?
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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

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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 Рor 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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Cool Color on Fresh Foliage

 

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage, White Ornamental Kale

BRRRRR…..For those of you bundled up near your fireplace with seed catalogs and dreamy garden books, Team Fine Foliage does not want to make you more cold with a discussion¬†about cold season white foliage, but quite the opposite. We want you to begin thinking and planning now for the possibility of adding elegant white foliage to your warm weather landscape.

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage, Salvia, Red Barberry, White Variegated Grass

Whether white in the garden means grasses, perennials, conifers or even annuals, trend watchers in design are all pointing the refreshingly old-fashioned charm and gentility of this clean, high contrast element in fresh new ways. Now, the thing about white is that it can cover a WIDE variety of variations depending on how you choose to interpret its use.
It was once very en vogue to have an all white garden, but that really meant the flowers. Then there was the transition to favoring the idea of the “moonlight garden” where the flowers were still prominent, but the foliage began to also take stage as a prominent focus of the theme with silvers and creamy whites adding to the mix.
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageWhites, creamy tones, silvers, variegation and even tones that border on being more blue can all translate to white depending on how they are used. And they can even work in harmony together.
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageAbove, a ‘Butterfly’ Japanese maple harmonizes with a ‘Spiderweb’ Fatsia, both with white leaning variegation, but both also work beautifully with the grasses that have a distinctly creamy variegation.

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Dappled Willow, Variegated Comfrey

The purity of the shade of white in the variegation of the Dappled Willow (above) (Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’) is always sweet. Paired with the bolder variegation of the unusual perennial, Variegated Comfrey, this combo shows the cool whites used beautifully for a shade combination.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel'On the other end of the white spectrum, the buttercream color in this Acanthus ‘Tasmanian Angel’ shows beautifully against the deep dark shady background.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Polyganatum 'Striatum', Actea Snow white stripes on the rich green of this unique variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum ‘Striatum’)¬†contrasts brilliantly with its neighboring deep black actea foliage.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Caladium, WhiteNow if you live in a warmer climate zone, you are likely already familiar with Caladium, but just look at that giant, pure as snow-white leaf! Think of what you could do with it!
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageWhether you are familiar with Alocasia or Colocasia, in warm climates, both are handsome and dramatic. This velvety off-white variegation has oodles of design possibilities!
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Solanum, Centaurea, ColeusSpeaking of BIG leaves! This large solanum ‘Quitoense’ is the perfect 1/3 of the dreamy trio for its bold surface area that contrasts perfectly with the lacy qualities of both the Centaurea ‘Colchester White’ and the racy red coleus.
Cool Color for Fresh FoliageAnother close view of Centaurea ‘Colchester White’.
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, CentaureaThis view of Centaurea ‘Colchester White’ was seen at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens where we are green with envy about this plant thriving!! The pink flowers are such a bonus! ūüôā
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Arundo donaxVanilla toned Arundo donax var. ‘Versicolor’ is a large-scale grass that needs room in the landscape to thrive, but oh what a suave¬†thug!
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Carex 'Everest' From BOLD to now delicate and feminine, this Carex ‘Everest’ is ever so appropriately named for the snow-white variegation on this hardy little evergreen grass. An award winner too!
Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Stachys 'Bellagrigio'Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Stachys 'Bellagrigio'Whether you try the brand new, award winning Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’ in the landscape beds or in container designs, this is a bright white foliage that is showy! The new cousin to traditional Lambs Ears is a fun alternative.
It’s time to start thinking ahead to warmer times when we will all be whining about our need for air conditioning and what you may want to plant to lighten and brighten the landscape this summer. At least whites are COOL right?

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. We’d love to know!

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End of the Year Fine Foliage HOT List

As we wrap up 2015, lets take a speedy peek at what is looking fantastic in foliage and twig for the rest of winter. If cabin fever is starting to hit you, dreaming and planning for how you can add these amazing winter details to your landscape and containers is a good idea!

Contorted Filbert takes center stage in this large container for winter interest in the front garden landscape.

Contorted Filbert takes center stage in this large container for winter interest in the front garden landscape.

Hellebore foliage is ALWAYS the height of fashion!

Hellebore foliage is ALWAYS the height of fashion!

Need a classy, hardy tree for your landscape to replace troublesome disease mongers who don't perform well? The Paperbark Maple has it ALL!

Need a classy, hardy tree for your landscape to replace troublesome disease mongers who don’t perform well? The Paperbark maple has it ALL!

This young Paperbark maple shows off the famous reddish peeling bark.

This young Paperbark maple shows off the famous reddish peeling bark.

Grasses may be frozen where you are, but even cold grasses are beautiful when the low winter light shines through.

Grasses may be frozen where you are, but even cold grasses are beautiful when the low winter light shines through. Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ is a wonderful one for it’s “Bunny Tails” that wave their fuzzy little tops in winter wind.

Are you collecting amazing dwarf conifers yet? Team Fine Foliage hopes so! When you add a fabulous grass like Carex 'Everest' you just doubled down on your landscape investment by adding a light and airy variegated plant too.

Are you collecting amazing dwarf conifers yet? Team Fine Foliage hopes so! When you add a fabulous grass like Carex ‘Everest’ you just doubled down on your landscape investment by adding a light and airy variegated plant too.

I am FULLY obsessed with this winter combo pot near my front entry; A half-high blueberry and 'Midget' ivy in full on winter color finery!

I am FULLY obsessed with this winter combo pot near my front entry; A half-high blueberry and ‘Midget’ ivy in full on winter color finery!

Who says winter containers have to be bland and boring?! Amp up the color with light foliage like Heuchera 'Lime Rickey', one of our favorite shrubs, Pieris 'Little Heath', a handsome white tipped Hemlock shrub named 'Gentsch White' and just a peekaboo of white variegated Acorus grass.

Who says winter containers have to be bland and boring?! Amp up the design energy with light foliage like Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’, one of our favorite shrubs, Pieris ‘Little Heath’, a handsome white tipped Hemlock shrub named ‘Gentsch White’ and just a peekaboo of white variegated Acorus grass.

Last but NOT least is the UBER drama that this amazing foliage brings to a mild climate landscape or container! This is 'Camouflage' Variegated Japanese Aralia up against the amazing color of azaleas showing off their red winter foliage. What a combo!!

Last but NOT least is the UBER drama that this amazing foliage brings to a mild climate landscape or container! This is ‘Camouflage’ Variegated Japanese Aralia up against the amazing color of azaleas showing off their red winter foliage. What a combo!!

Team Fine Foliage wishes you a happy, healthy and super LEAFY 2016!!!

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