Tag Archives: Japanese Maple

Designing with a Point of View

This handsome zen garden demonstrates how you can view it from four sides and have a completely different interpretation of what it represents with each passing angle. One step forward and you might see islands in the ocean, two steps back around the other direction and you may see something entirely different. Other zen garden styles force you to view them from only one angle in an enclosed setting. Each experience is unique and yet the intrinsic reverence for nature and simplicity are both honored by differing views.

This vignette at the Franklin Conservatory was a wonderful example of this same idea for allowing us to experience the garden from many vantage points. The designers used the angles of the walking paths along with the dips and turns to make the most of each particular view. It made a huge difference in how you see the complexity and layers of this gorgeous foliage. That’s saying a lot for this photographer who is VERY close to the ground.
Layers and layers of luscious grasses, conifers, shrubs and specimen trees came together here with subtle color echoes, textural crescendo’s and ethereal color tones that force you to stop and take it all in slowly. These are very large-scale examples obviously, but what can we learn in our own landscapes about how we can make the most of each view-point?
This large garden is a sunny jewel toned mix of color, texture, and layers. While voluptuous lemon-lime toned privet adds ruffles in the foreground, the ribbon of Russian Sage creates an amethyst river that is a complimentary color. The red-ombre effect from hard pruned smokebushes are a delightful larger leaf that brings a marvelous garnet color addition. The point of view, in this case, was broad and deep. There is a hedge in the foreground that hides a colorful foliage and bloom surprise.
Blues and golds or purple and yellow are such happy friends on the color wheel. When you look closely at the entirety of the design from afar, you can’t see this perspective. But, it sure was worth coming up for the close-up! The entire river of Russian sage was underplanted with ‘Samantha’ Lantana, a fantastic choice with that incredibly jubilant foliage. It was like stage lighting for the sage to glow against.
Next time you’re out perusing your garden with a glass of your favorite beverage, force yourself to look at it from angles you might not ordinarily see. From the neighbors view? From the back facing toward the house? From under a tree even! In small or large expansive landscapes, we can all afford to be more open to all of the views, not just the ones we are used to seeing.

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Tiny Courtyard Makeover

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

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

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

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BEFORE: predictable Builders Blah

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

makeover

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

It is natural to associate the color orange with the month of October for the obvious reason of course, Halloween!! But, Team Fine Foliage wants to remind you that it is of course the season for “leaf-peeping” and since orange is a hot and trendy color in design, why not start there?
Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The color orange can have such range and variety of tone and dimension that it can cover a lot of territory in the landscape. Not to mention the broad spectrum of personality and emotion you can convey with orange, it’s an incredibly versatile color. From the colors that embody coral sunsets to bbq and beans, you can find a plant or a shade that suits nearly every design idea.
This ‘Grace’ Smokebush (above) is a wonderful option if you like drama. She is a cool-as-a- cucumber teal and green foliage sophisticate who becomes a hot-blooded vixen in fall. You can NOT avert your eyes when ‘Grace’ is present in autumn!
Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! Stewartia is a tree that is enjoying the design popularity contest right now for numerous reasons, its fall vibrancy being one of the top points. Wonderfully warm orange that can be included on the edge of red-toned keeps the eye focused in the distance above where this tree is in perfect harmony with the rusted arbor that creates a backdrop.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Now when that same Stewartia is contrasted with pure white flower clusters of Choisya ternata and those fragrant blooms decided to bloom again because they think its spring- well then, THAT is a late season BONUS for sure!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Want to TRULY up your design street cred for fall color? How about matching your holly berries with the exact shade of Japanese maples you have planted in the distance. Talk about taking the loooooong view! But, you have to admit that it works!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

While you might have appreciated the idea of using Sedum ‘Angelina’ for her chartreuse wow factor in spring as a high contrast ground cover, you might not have realized to extent to which she sports some pretty amazing orange fall and winter color too.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

There are many interesting Heath’s, Heather and Calluna that have some form of orange in their personality throughout the year. Fall and winter feature those types that might begin gold or light green and gain color throughout the growing season from spring to winter. There are some that turn orange and even red. The one above is ‘Flamingo’ or ‘Red Fred’, they are very similar and are most vibrant in late winter and early spring. If you want great orange you may also look for ‘Robert Chapman’, ‘Spring Torch’ or ‘Wickwar Flame’, but there are SO many more. Maybe start a collection!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!
We couldn’t possibly feature ALL that embodies the variety of orange options year round, but naturally when we mention that you might be out on voyeuristic mission of the horticultural kind, you can’t imagine doing it without maples! Here in the Northwest part of the US, Japanese maples are king and queen for color. The range of shapes and colors for standout orange color are often missed the most by gardeners when choosing trees for the landscape as they tend to be more subtle and quiet in spring and summer when most of us are shopping. But, when cooler weather rolls around and the vibrancy of those shades ramps up- they are gone!!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! The ‘Fernleaf’ Japanese maple is one of the most coveted for its exquisite coloration in fall.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The tiny leaves of the ‘Lion’s Mane’ maple creates a completely different effect in the landscape where the tree’s congested structure plays an important role in showing off the warm cinnamon tones on an upright growth habit.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! These larger scale maples effortlessly frame this path with amazingly vibrant color that you may otherwise look past in spring.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

The name ‘Coral Bark’ maple kind of says it all for our salute to orange this week. But, you know we HAD to include this little powerhouse of a tree. The coral colored bark and foliage that begins chartreuse and ends up shades of gold, apricot, orange and coral doesn’t need a gold medal to be included among winners.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

This oak is giving Japanese maples a run for their money this season!!

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange! A bright gold Japanese maple backs up these showy orange/russet colored pots filled with abundant foliage based designs for this front entry making them stand-outs for the cool months.

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

Whether you love the big trees or the smaller details of berries such as the transitioning hypericum berries above or perennials and containers, there are great options available if you love orange!

Drop us a note and tell us what orange foliage is rocking your landscape right now!

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Stylish Early Fall Shade Garden

One of the most common complaints that I hear from design clients about their gardens is that they feel defeated about what to do in the shade garden. After spending time and energy trying plants that were too water needy, can’t tolerate being moist, disease prone or simply needing more light than they realized, it absolutely can be frustrating, not to mention expensive.
So, when I mention some of the great shade standards such as hosta, they scrunch their face up and reply with a response that usually describes their boredom and lack of enthusiasm for these seemingly “pedestrian” options. However, when we begin to talk about the exquisite varieties that they can plant and which plant pairings can go with them such as conifers and grasses, there is a distinct change of expression and excitement like a little kid who can’t wait for Christmas.
Here are a few early fall shade garden examples of just such options this week from the spectacular garden called PowellsWood in Federal Way, Washington. Much of this garden resides under mature fir trees with superb plant pairings that absolutely shine in the shade.
Stylish Early Fall Shade GardensStylish Early Fall Shade GardenThese chalky blue hosta (‘Hadspen Blue’) or ‘Halcyon’ are the perfect counterpoint under the chartreuse color of the Japanese maple. Layered together with one of the MOST unique new hosta available called ‘Praying Hands’ with its upright dark green, wavy foliage featuring fine white edge details, it is one of my favorite vignettes in the entire garden.
At the back of this captivating foliage combination, the tips of a hemlock shrub, ‘Gentsch White’ glow in a soft and misty white detail. It will grow up and have even more prominence standing up over this combination in the future.
Stylish Early Fall Shade GardenSplendid Chinese wild ginger spreads out elegantly in the shade of this palm tree garden paired with Astelia ‘Westland’ that sports a subtle bronze stripe. The spiky upright habit of the Astelia is perfectly suited in size and lacy texture of the Japanese ‘Tassel’ fern while billowy grasses thrive partial shade in the background to compliment them.
There is no need to be frustrated and disenchanted with your shade garden plants. These photos in a spectacular shade garden illustrate how common types of plants in uncommon forms, paired with new options you may never have considered, can give you stylish options. Ask your local independent garden center to provide new and unique plants that will inspire you to try combinations that excite and delight you in your shade garden

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Naked and Loving It!

Since we’re all about foliage it may seem rather strange to be featuring bare branches but we want it all! Yes we positively swoon when we come across a tree or shrub that looks as good fully clothed as it does in the nude. So here are a few of our  bare-bottomed favorites

1. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)

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I suspect as soon as I mentioned colorful bark you thought about the coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’) as a great example but I want you to consider two very different maples. The first is this paperbark maple, named for its cinnamon colored bark which peels away in fine strips; visible in all seasons but especially striking in winter. The foliage opens a soft green and fall color ranges from gold to salmon. This slow growing maple needs to be in your garden!

2. Lions Mane maple (Acer shishigashira)

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The lions mane maple is grown for its twisted clusters of dissected leaves that have the appearance of a shaggy mane. This is a slow growing tree well suited to container culture when young. The spring and summer foliage is green but in fall the leaves turn yellow, gold or orange (mine seems to be different every year!). Yet the story doesn’t end there – notice the smooth green bark that is revealed when the last leaf has fallen silently to the ground. Beautiful

3.  Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius varieties)

Left and center; 'Coppertina'. Right; 'Diablo'

Left and center; ‘Coppertina’. Right; ‘Diablo’

While the shrub twig dogwoods are an obvious choice for a colorful winter display with bare branches in fiery shades of red, orange and gold there are other options such as the ninebarks. Depending on the variety the foliage may be gold (Dart’s Gold), bronze (Coppertina) or almost black (Diablo) and all have clusters of white flowers followed by decoratives seed heads. They also have coarsely peeling bark on the older branches giving a marked striped effect.

4. River birch (Betula nigra)

IMG_3726_1While I will always love the pristine white bark of the Himalayan white birch (Betula utilis var, jacquemontii) and have three multi-trunked specimens in my own garden, I have to concede that the river birch (Betula nigra) is often the better choice. River birch is resistant to the birch borer and those pesky sapsuckers and other woodpeckers seem to leave this species alone. We planted a cluster of three multi-trunked river birch ( the named variety Heritage) in an area that is  exceptionally wet, often with standing water in winter and they are thriving. With soft green leaves that rustle in the breeze, butter-yellow fall foliage and bark that peels away to reveal the smooth inner trunk that is….well as soft (pink) as a babies bottom – you know you’re going to like it.

Of course we have lots of other favorites and we’ll introduce you to some in our next book (Foliage First, Timber Press, 2016) but we’d love to know what your favorites are. Leave us a comment below or tell us on our Facebook page. Even better – post a photo to share. (Just make sure only the plants are naked please!!)

 

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The Finer Points of Interest

Foliage patterns and textures are ever fascinating. If you have never looked at some of the amazing web pages devoted to Fractals found in nature, I highly recommend you fall down the rabbit hole and go look at some, you will be mesmerized. Here is a great link to start your journey.

When you think about it, those are the tip of the leafy iceberg when it comes to falling in love with the amazing patterns, arrangements and configurations that you can discover in the stunning realm of foliage when you really take the time to look.

(Name still TBD)

(Name still TBD)

 

 

 

The subtle and sumptuous succulent above would still be gorgeous even if it never bloomed. The patterning begs you to step in to take a much closer look to appreciate the exquisite quilting of elements that mother nature dreams up.

Today I was enamored with the shapes that were cornered, spiked, arrow like or elongated and finger-like. Sometimes the variegation’s and colors play a role and other times the fascination is purely with how a single color works with the leaf shape.

Impatiens 'Omeiana'

Fractals and spikes20140610-CS_IMG_0316'Trompenberg' Japanese Maple
As you spend some lazy days with a cool drink hanging around in the garden in the dog days of summer, stop and take a long, slow gander at the shapes and coloration of certain plants as they team up in pairs and trios. Are you noticing stripes, polka dots, contrasting veins, a woven pattern, or a framework of colors together that you may not have noticed before?
Agave 'Shiro No Ito'What patterns of foliage textures and shapes draw YOU in for a closer look? Tell us about it and join the conversation with Fine Foliage!

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Colorful Canopy – Trees and Layering

Sometimes we get the trees we have in our landscape because we inherit them with the property. Other times we get to choose our trees. Oh, the myriad of possibilities we have to choose from. When we get to choose several it can very nearly be decadent and dripping with the amazing number of choices at our disposal these days. Our grandparents never had it so good!

So, when we do get the luxury of choosing our trees, a good thing to think about would be if you can layer a few of them together and create a living tapestry of color. This is exactly what I noted in a few gardens recently. It really struck me how large-scale foliage options had such great impact in the landscape, on a relatively modest sized lot or on large country acreage.

IMG_2399.CR2The layers upon layers of this spectacular Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’, often called the “Wedding Cake Tree” were striking against the soft blue backdrop of the Pine and the rich gold of the conifer and Japanese Maple in the foreground. Imagine this same scene with a green foliage tree. It wouldn’t have nearly the impact that this texture and color bring to the scene.

IMG_2575Facing the street , these trees help to create a screen of color. The Flowering Plum backs up this grouping and creates the perfect foil for one of my very favorite trees, the Arizona Cypress ‘Blue Pyramid’. Even on a cloudy day, these colors would still be rich and luscious, not to mention the beautiful textures together.

IMG_2789I was fortunate to see yet another Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ in this garden but this time with my other favorite tree (Karen’s too) the Robinia pseudoacaciaFrisia‘, a true stunner if there ever was one. Sunshine in the form of a tree. But, what a sophisticated pairing this makes! Soft, glowing and yet very 21st century in its color scheme.

What trees would YOU layer together in your perfect world? Drop us line and let us know. Or post your pic on the Fine Foliage page on Facebook!

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