Tag Archives: groundcover

Deer Resistant Spring Bloomers – with GREAT foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

Every gardener loves to celebrate SPRING with early blooming perennials. After months of rainy, grey Seattle skies I’m first in line at the nurseries for anything with color. Be warned, however, that your desperation for early spring flowers may result in late spring frustration – simply because you have forgotten to keep the FOLIAGE in mind. What will this perennial contribute to the design once the flowers are done?

Not to worry, Team Fine Foliage has you covered with  some of our favorite spring blooming perennials that also have stunning leaves to make sure that today’s impulse buy will continue to bring you pleasure tomorrow.

1. Gold Heart bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Goldheart’)

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Gold Heart in front of Mountain Fire andromeda

How can you not love the glowing, fern-like golden foliage of Gold Heart? The pink heart shaped flowers are a bonus! Combine this with a foliage plant that echoes the pink stems and flowers such as a pink toned heuchera or an andromeda, whose new growth is often pink or red (shown above). Alternatively work with the gold detail by siting this next to a spotted leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’).

In my experience this variety is not as vigorous as the regular bleeding heart but it is a delightful addition to the spring landscape or containers nonetheless. Just plant a couple more if you are looking for a massed effect.

Don’t care for the pink flowers? Then look for white-blooming White Gold from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.  Try this paired with a green and white variegated Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’) or variegated acanthus (Acanthus ‘Whitewater’)  to highlight the white flowers.

Bleeding heart is also reliably deer resistant in my garden and either the rabbits haven’t found it or they don’t care for it.

2. Double Stuff Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum ‘Double Stuff’)

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Tall arching stems of richly variegated leaves are a delightful addition to any shade garden. Add an abundance of white, bell-shaped flowers dangling from each burgundy stem in spring and the delight is doubled; Double Stuff is well named. Translucent yellow fall color makes sure that you enjoy this perennial through to the very last day of fall.

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Terra Nova Nurseries Inc display garden

For companion planting take your inspiration from the breeders own display garden shown above: a dark purple heuchera to echo the stem color and golden forest grass for contrast.

Mercifully it is ignored by deer and rabbits too.

3. Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) varieties

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Jack Frost Siberian bugloss

While Jack Frost may be the most popular variety with its large heart-shaped leaves displaying a network of silver tracery over green, it is not the only one. Hadspen Cream is more sensitive to sun but is loved for it broad creamy leaf margins and is one of several white-variegated forms. Spotted Langtrees has been available for many years and offers a more subtle effect.

All Siberian bugloss have a remarkable display of blue forget-me-not type flowers in spring and in my native England are often called ‘perennial forget-me not’. My daughter used to love picking these and English primroses for tiny floral displays on the kitchen table.

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Sea Heart Siberian bugloss in a late summer container display

While Siberian bugloss make stunning landscape plants Team Fine Foliage loves to use them in containers. They mix with tropical caladiums and bromeliads just as well as ferns and heuchera. From contemporary to cottage – you can’t go wrong!

Bonus points for deer and rabbit resistance.

4. Berry Exciting corydalis (Corydalis ‘Berry Exciting’)

Delicate, fern-like foliage in brilliant gold, each leaf brushed with crimson- who needs flowers? You do? Well, for you we can add grape-colored  flowers held a few inches above this delightful shade loving groundcover. Tuck this under weeping Japanese maples, interspersed with black mondo grass or Maroon Beauty saxifrage (as seen above). Also a great addition to containers.

This may go dormant in summer heat but with adequate moisture and shade will continue to shine until fall.

Deer resistant, although rabbits may try to nibble emerging shoots. A spritz with Liquid Fence helps mine get large enough to be ignored by the inquisitive bunnies.

5. Lungwort (Pulmonaria varieties)

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Believed to be Mrs. Moon (P. saccharata)

Do you have favorite flowers from your childhood? This is one of mine. In England  one of the common names for Pulmonaria is ‘Soldiers and Sailors’, a nod to the blue and pink flowers that appear at the same time on this perennial. Some varieties have now been bred for pure pink, cobalt blue or white flowers , but I love the old fashioned ones such as Mrs. Moon that opens pink and fades to blue. The cut flower stems make exquisite posies  and the foliage is virtually evergreen.

Although gardening books will recommend this for rich, moist soil in partial shade I have successfully grown this in full sun with only occasional supplemental water.

Combine with other spring blooming perennials such as hellebores and primroses in the woodland garden, or mass at the base of white barked birch trees where the dappled light will offer protection and the tree bark will enhance the silver spotted leaves.

I have found these benefit from trimming back the foliage as well as flowering stems when blooms are done. This seems to prevent powdery mildew developing on the leaves in summer, and the new clumps resemble healthy, spotted hosta as seen in this next image.

Want more reasons to buy it? It is both deer and rabbit resistant, and hummingbirds love it! Also very easy to divide to get new plants in fall or spring. You NEED this….

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Spotted lungwort at the bottom left of this image, making an important contribution to this dappled shade border in Portland. (Design by 4 Seasons Gardens LLC)

Combination Ideas

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Our new book Gardening with Foliage First has more inspiring combination ideas for all five of these key plants! Have you got YOUR copy yet?

You’ll even find most of them in foliage-only combinations in our first, award-winning book Fine Foliage.

And there’s more….

Hellebores -some of the newer introductions have variegated or speckled foliage as well as amazing flowers. So many to choose from….

Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ – new and fabulous!

Mukdenia ‘Crimson Fans’ – gorgeous for the shade garden

Bergenia ‘Lunar Glow’ – lemon and lime colored leaves with pink blooms. Worth hunting for.

What’s YOUR favorite spring blooming perennial  – with GREAT FOLIAGE?

Tell us in a comment below or post a photo to our Facebook page.

 

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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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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 – or 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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Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Cover Some Ground with Fine FoliageGround covers are a fun and easy way to get a full garden look with great foliage plants. You can try small pots of plants that you might not have considered before with little investment. Or go all out with swaths of one plant en masse. Even container designs offer options for testing out ground covers that might appeal to you.

This week, Team Fine Foliage wants you to take a look at what amazing ground cover can do for your garden with showy foliage for many exposures and types of locations through the entire year. Whether your style leans to naturalistic, formal or eclectic, there are ground cover options that will help you make your garden more low maintenance, colorful and full of texture.

The 'Purple Haze' Acaena MAKES this combination!

The ‘Purple Haze’ Acaena MAKES this combination!

When we design garden or landscape it can be a little like furnishing a room. You need to understand the scale of your garden room, then you can choose the right sized “furnishings”, like your trees, shrubs and larger perennials. Then it’s time to “accessorize” with perennials that bring on the flower show, containers of showy mixtures and maybe some garden art or furniture to add the final touches.

Colorful Heath's and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

Colorful Heath’s and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

But, what about the garden floor? Adding in the ground cover is the touch that truly makes the picture complete, fills in the gaps and odd corners, softens the hard edges and often brings the intangible that completes a design.

Take a stroll through some lovely ground cover options and see if you don’t agree that adding the final element of ground cover makes a BIG difference in the big picture for your designs.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover in a shady nook.

Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Sedum hybrida ‘Immergrunchen’ creates a golden uplight under this ‘Kamagata’ Japanese maple.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Lysimachia 'Persian Carpet' makes a dramatic paring contrasted with silver euphorbia 'Rigida' foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Lysimachia ‘Persian Carpet’ makes a dramatic pairing contrasted with silver euphorbia ‘Rigida’ foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

From spring to winter there is a Fine Foliage ground cover that suits every design style and location. What are your favorite ground covers?

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Hot New Coleus for 2015

Grab your sunglasses, think warm tropical breezes, delicious cocktails with little umbrellas in them and sand between your toes. Think SUMMER.

Ignore the snow, ice, hail, rain and bitingly cold wind and feast your eyes on these new introductions from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., Start dreaming up your summer foliage combinations now.

Coleus Hipsters™ ‘Zooey’

Coleus_Hipsters_Zooey_1bWOW! You did get your sunglasses didn’t you? This is one serious party-coleus. Zooey has a wide spreading habit (9″ h x 23″ w) and spiky yellow leaves that are splashed with crimson. What about growing this as a groundcover around tall green ferns? Shade/part shade

Coleus Wildfire™ ‘Smoky Rose’

Coleus_Wildfire_Smoky_Rose_1bShort and wide this smokin’ hot introduction is going to look stunning tumbling at the edge of a large container. It grows 8″ h x 24″ w so give it some elbow room. Deeply cut leaves really help show off the rich plum and hot pink variegation, edged with just a hint of lime. I can see this with a spiky gold grass such as Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex). Shade or part shade

Coleus Flying Carpet™ ‘Shocker’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Shocker_1bNo more excuses for dark and dreary shade gardens – add a carpet of Shocker and your garden visitors will be….well SHOCKED! The dark red center expands as the leaf grows to give a wonderful layered look. This big mama grows to 24″h x 28″w. Fabulous as a groundcover in shade or part shade or as a solo container plant.

Coleus Terra Nova® ‘Green Lantern’

Coleus_Green_Lantern_3bThe only lime green trailing coleus on the market, this is one you just have to try this year. Imagine this with a dark leaved Canna and bright orange Bonfire begonias….. This one is sun tolerant too although the best color is in partial shade. 10″ h x 24″ w

Coleus Flying Carpet™ ‘Zinger’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Zinger_1bA traditional color with a twist – literally. Love the curled end of each leaf that is reminiscent of a paisley design. Beautifully sculpted and frilled picotee edge together with a clean lime and deep red color – this is one I’m going to look out for. Zinger grows to 24 x 24 and does best in shade or part shade.

General growing tips

Coleus prefer well drained soil and like to dry out slightly between waterings. They need warmer temperatures than annuals such as geraniums – ideally wait until night temperatures are consistently 55′ or above.

So which ones are on your shopping list for 2015? Leave us a comment below or get in touch on Facebook.

All photos courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., – and no we didn’t get paid for writing about their plants!

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Ground Cover Collision!

Whether for sun or shade, the last finishing touch most of us plant is our ground cover plants. It’s that ever so important detail that makes a lovely garden design HOLY COW! But, how do you decide which ground covers are going to be best for your light conditions? What if you just simply can’t decide which one neeeeds to come home from the nursery with you? This one or that one, that one or this one?

Sometimes it’s both! If your light conditions, watering needs and soils are in harmony for more than one ground cover, how about a groundcover MASH-UP? A mash-up is when two great things, in our case plants, but it could just as easily be food, music, fabrics, etc. end up snuggling together to make ONE great look, taste or sound. Think peanut butter and chocolate, mint and chocolate, coffee and chocolate, wine and chocolate. Hmmmm, maybe I need chocolate now. 😉

Acaena 'Purple Haze' with Sedum 'Oreganum' This Sedum oreganum ‘Oregon Stonecrop’ is a wonderful example of a lovely collision with Acaena inermis ‘Purple Sheep’s Burr’ as a flat, hardy and walkable ground cover for light traffic.

Not all ground covers are flat and walkable, some are fluffy and full like this combination of hosta ‘Halcyon’ with ‘Black Scallop’ Ajuga and white variegated Comfrey in the background. The triad of textures and cool colors are lovely in this eastern morning sun exposure.
'Black Scallop' Ajuga, Hosta 'Halcyon' and White Variegated ComfreyThis singular and exotic looking Paris podophylla stands tall above a monochromatic mash-up of ground covers. The hardy Asarum europaeum ‘European wild ginger’ is a glossy textural contrast to the low Adiantum venustum ‘Himalayan maidenhair fern’ in a shady nook.

Paris podophylla, Maidenhair Fern and European GingerWhy not try a ground cover mash-up in your own garden? Snuggle up a plant or two and see what foliage combinations you can create in your very own ground cover collision!

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Power-Packed Hearts

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Design by Riz Reyes, RHR Horticulture

What is it about this combo that had both Christina and I reaching for our cameras? Between us we took a dozen or so shots from different angles. I came to the conclusion that its power is in its simplicity.

The star is undoubtedly the Iron Cross oxalis (Oxalis tetraphylla ‘Iron Cross’) with its four leaved clover type foliage, each cluster of heart shaped leaves having a dark center. The color echo with the strappy black mondo grass (Ophiopogon plansicapus ‘Nigrescens’) combined with the high contrast in texture is striking.

Thrown into the medley is the burgundy wedding train coleus (Solenostemon hybrida ‘Burgundy Wedding Train’) a vigorous trailing cultivar with smaller leaves than most. Notice how its leaves are also heart shaped – a repetition of the oxalis.

All three could mingle happily as a dramatic shady groundcover or be equally at home in a container where the coleus would  throw up stems to pierce its companions and also spill over the edge of the pot.

How easy is that?

Plant Details

Iron cross oxalis; hardy in zones 8a-10b; or use it as an annual! This grows 6″ tall, has hot pink flowers and likes part shade. (It may wilt in full sun). Average moisture. Non-invasive. It is also said to be deer and rodent resistant – I’m still testing that!!

Black mondo grass: Hardy in zones 6-10. 6″ tall and wide. Evergreen. Sun or part shade. My deer leave this for the rabbits.

Burgundy wedding train coleus: annual. 12-18″ high and trails/climbs to 2′. Morning sun and afternoon shade.

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One Plant – Two Ways

Simple contrast

Simple contrast; hosta and shamrock

Who knew a humble Pacific Northwest native groundcover could offer such variety? Shamrock (Oxalis oregana) can be seen spreading with ease in the dappled light of our deciduous forests yet in the garden it is not difficult to keep within bounds.

This evergreen beauty has velvety, evergreen foliage which is studded with white flowers in spring, each having a distinct lavender vein.

Option 1; The co-star

No second fiddle here – the shamrock and hosta share the limelight equally in this serene monochromatic combination.

Why it works.

1. Great contrast between the matte shamrock leaves and the glossy hosta foliage

2. A perfect match of green!

3. Exciting contrast in leaf shape between the two plants

A backdrop for finer details

A backdrop for finer details

Option 2; The supporting player

Shamrock forms a dense mass of overlapping leaves, making it a perfect backdrop for the delicate unfurling fronds of ferns and periwinkle bluebells.

Why it works

1. The shamrock provides a clean horizontal canopy through which the ferns and bluebells can rise

2. The fresh green shamrock leaves add a backlight to the darker fern stems and bright blue flowers, throwing them into clearer focus

3. The decaying bluebells foliage will be nicely hidden by the evergreen groundcover.

Plant details

Common name; shamrock, redwood sorrel

Botanical name; Oxalis oregana

Size;                    6″ high and 2″ wide with a spreading habit

Light;                  part shade, shade

Soil;                    moisture retentive

Zones;                7-9

A bonus combination can be seen in our book FINE FOLIAGE called ‘Twice Lucky’. look for it on pages 88-89!

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