Tag Archives: Proven Winners

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.

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!

Sharing the Foliage Love -Enter to Win BIG!

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Bejeweled: an exquisite Foliage First composition at the Horticulture Center of the Pacific, Victoria B.C. and featured in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

PLEASE NOTE THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO WINNER BITTSTER

Team Fine Foliage loves to share. Whether it is our passion, knowledge, ideas, photographs, tips or garden produce – it’s just what we do! Today we are excited to offer you the chance to win BIG in our best ever GIVEAWAY!

Our new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press) is rocking the Amazon sales charts and has consistently been  a Best Seller in multiple categories since its release in late January.With 127 inspiring designs organized and color-coded into season and sun/shade this is a reference book you will want to keep at hand. Whether you need ideas for a container or acreage, drought tolerant or deer resistant – we’ve got you covered. You may enjoy this blog post for an insider peek (note that the giveaway mentioned in that post has now closed).

The fabulous, colorful combination featured above is just one example. We called this Bejeweled.

This artisan collection sparkles with shades of red set in a distinctive framework of gold. From the vivid dogwood stems to the smoky sweetspire foliage and tiny clusters of crimson flowers nestled within the isu tree, red foliage is clearly the linking theme, yet each of these layers showcases a unique texture. The glowing Japanese cedar in the background sets off all the flowers, foliage and bare stems. Any one of these elements would add beauty to the garden, but the artistry comes from achieving the perfect balance between each component.”

You can read How The Design Grows as well as get full details of each of the featured plants on pages 246-247.

What reviewers are saying…

Our good friend and gardening guru Shawna Coronado recently posted this review and VIDEO PREVIEW of our book on Facebook:

“This collection of 127 combinations introduces gardeners to the idea that a well-planned garden starts with a solid framework of foliage. Organized by season with options for sunny and shady locations, each plant combo includes design descriptions that will equip readers with the knowledge they need to get creative and devise their own.” —Garden Design

“This is a useful resource for new gardeners testing their design teeth and for experienced horticulturalists looking for some new inspiration. Regardless of the reader’s experience and expertise, the recipe format is charming and engaging. . . . If you haven’t designed a “foliage first” garden before, Chapman and Salwitz have design recipes in hand, and a willingness to help and inspire you.” —NYBG’s Plant Talk

Come and say hello!

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We anticipate great excitement during our official launch at the upcoming Northwest Flower and Garden Show (February 22nd-26th). Forget the circus, THIS is the Greatest Show on Earth – if you can possibly get to Seattle you really need to visit. Display gardens galore, a tempting marketplace, the new Container Wars (lots of giveaways for the audience), and hundreds of free educational seminars – this will be an unforgettable event.

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Christina and I will be there on most days as judges, speakers, Container War contestants and of course signing our books. (It’s a great opportunity to request a special personalized copy or three for your gardening friends and family). Here’s a snapshot of our appearances:

Wednesday February 22nd:

11am – noon Container Wars (Karen)

1.45-2.30pm One Ingredient – Two Designers  (Karen & Christina)

2.30 – 3.00pm Book signing

3.15-3.45pm Garden 101: Don’t let Moving Scare the Plants out of You (Christina) NB: starts at 2.15

3.45-4.15pm Book signing

Thursday February 23rd:

11am – noon Container Wars (Christina)

Sunday February 26th:

3.15-4.15pm Spring Container Fashion Show (Karen)

4.15-4.45pm Book signing

For more details see here

Sharing the Foliage Love!

To celebrate our book launch we have teamed up with three of our favorite plant growers to offer  a chance to win the following fabulous collection of prizes – our best ever giveaway.

About the  Growers and their Prizes:

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Bailey Nurseries is a family owned company with over 110 years in business. We have featured their First Editions plants many times in out blog posts because they have so many outstanding shrubs that offer downright delicious foliage! Add to that the fact that we have found everyone in this company to be friendly, knowledgeable and extremely helpful – the sort of folks we love to work with.

You may select your prize from the following selection of luscious leaves:

Clockwise from top left: Tiger Eyes sumac, Cool Splash bush honeysuckle, Rainbow Sensation weigela, Summer Ruffle hibiscus, Amber Jubilee ninebark, Cinnamon Girl distyllium, Limoncello barberry, Little Devil ninebark. All images courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

pwccProven Winners® ColorChoice® Flowering Shrubs are sourced from all over the world, then tested and trialed in North America for a minimum of 5 years before being introduced to local gardeners. With hundreds of Color Choice® shrubs now available and more on the way, why settle for plain green?!

Team Fine Foliage will be visiting their primary growing facility this spring and we are SO excited!

A representative will assist you in selecting something suitable for your climate, soil type and landscape style but may be suggest a few of our personal favorites (some of which are NEW for 2017)?

Clockwise from top left: Double Play Painted Lady spirea, Gatsby Pink oak leaf hydrangea, Lil Miss Sunshine bluebeard, Red Rover silky dogwood, Strait Laced black elderberry, Wild Romance hebe, Pearl Glam beautyberry, Lemony Lace elderberry. Photos courtesy Proven Winners

logoMonrovia is a brand name known worldwide for high quality plants and more than 200 plant patents and trademarks. Monrovia offers the gardener a truly outstanding selection of trees, shrubs, perennials and more.

Wondering what to buy with your gift certificate? Enjoy this video on selecting foundation plants by our good friend Nicholas Staddon to get you started with some great ideas – and fab foliage.

How to Enter

Leave a comment below telling us what your favorite foliage plant is and why.

One lucky winner will be drawn using a random number generator on Tuesday February 21st at 9am PST  and notified by email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours they will forfeit their prize and a second name will be drawn – so watch your email!!

The not-so-small small print

  • You may only enter once 🙂
  • Comments left on social media while appreciated will not be included in the drawing: only those left on this blog post.
  • Entries are limited to residents of the United States (sorry …)
  • The winners name and mailing address will be forwarded to Bailey Nurseries, Monrovia and Proven Winners. They will contact you to arrange shipment of your prizes.
  • Bailey Nurseries and Proven Winners will determine a mutually convenient shipping date and the size of plants that you receive. Availability may impact these decisions.
  • Your book will be shipped separately.
  • Cash alternatives are not offered

And finally…

Please share this post with your Valentine, family and friends!

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If you have already been enjoying our new book please write a review on Amazon for us – it would mean so much. (If you can’t wait a minute longer and want to buy a copy you can use the same link!)

Thank you to our friends at Bailey Nurseries, Proven Winners and Monrovia for sharing the foliage love and sharing in our celebration!

New Introductions – New Favorites

I am always excited to see what new plants growers are offering, especially if they have fabulous foliage. Bonus points for deer resistance! Reading about them is only half the story, however. Actually growing them in my own landscape and/or containers is the true test as to whether I recommend them to you or use them in future designs for clients. Here they have to deal with deer, rabbits, lack of irrigation, squishing into pots or neglect. The latter is never intentional but I must admit I do sometimes put smaller test plants into ‘corners’ and promptly forget about them. It’s a wonderful surprise to discover them a few months later and see the plants thriving!

These are a few of the shrubs and perennials I have been testing in my own garden this summer.

Summer Ruffle Hibiscus

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Hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

There are a few variegated hibiscus on the market now; Sugar Tip is a beauty that I have written about before, but at 5-6′ tall and wide it is a fair size. Summer Ruffle is a new introduction  and one of the First Editions collection that got my attention for its petite stature at just 3-4′ tall and wide. That makes it a prime candidate for container design as well as smaller gardens.

The foliage is a soft blue-green with wide creamy-white margins. It is a beautiful shrub even without blooms.

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hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

The ruffled semi-double flowers open lavender and fade to blue – very pretty.

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Lots of blooms on this young shrub

Place this near blue-green conifers, green and white variegated grasses and deep purple foliage such as barberry, weigela or Loropetalum for a delightful combination that puts foliage first but celebrates the summer blooms

Purple Preference Euphorbia

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Euphorbia ‘Purple Preference’

On a recent trip to Portland I called in at Xera  (of course) and scooped up three of these Purple Preference euphorbias. I fell in love with the smoky purple new growth over the dusky green older leaves – oh my. This is an evergreen perennial so it promises year round beauty.

Purple Preference a fairly new introduction from England (well that explains it – we spoke the same language…) and is said to grow to 2′ tall and wide. In terms of self seeding the growers state it as being well behaved. I haven’t had it long enough to give feedback on that but I can tell you that both in a mixed container and in the landscape it looks stunning. Try it in front of peegee hydrangeas (e.g. Hydrangea p. ‘Quickfire’) for a delicate color echo as the flowers fade from white to rose, or mingled with  silver foliage such as this next perennial.

Quicksilver artemisia

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Quicksilver artemisia

At first glance this new introduction from Proven Winners seems to be identical to Silver Brocade with its felted silvery-white leaves and groundcover habit. It is certainly more vigorous; mine are at least 4′ in diameter and I find myself wishing I had  allowed them more space! Where they appear to be superior to Silver Brocade is that this new Quicksilver does not flower. So no little yellow flowers to clip off in order to keep the plant looking its best. That makes it lower maintenance – always a good thing.

Drought tolerant and deer resistant, I use this as a weed suppressing groundcover in my sunny borders.

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Delosperma x Jewel of the Desert ‘Opal’ with Quicksilver artemisia

Try it with the Purple Preference euphorbia mentioned above, perhaps adding the new ice plant Delosperma x Jewel of the Desert for some bold flower power.

Cool Splash Diervilla (Bush honeysuckle)

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Cool Splash foliage in full sun

This is one TOUGH little shrub! But let’s back up…..have you grown the native bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)?

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Northern bush honeysuckle grown in full sun

Here’s a photo taken in a full sun, never watered, exposed to elements type of border in my own garden. Gorgeous, right? Look at the coppery new growth and imagine the fragrance from those lemon blooms.

So here’s what I like about its relative, the new introduction from First Editions; Cool Splash diervilla (Diervilla sessilifolia ‘Cool Splash’) can take full sun or a lot of shade. This next photo shows the shrub that has been totally neglected since planting it under a towering Douglas fir tree three months ago. It has never been watered unless it rained and gets only 1-2 hour of direct sun, being in open shade for most of the day.

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Cool Splash grown in dry shade

What you’ll notice is that the variegation isn’t as remarkable as the first image and it isn’t blooming – yet. However it is very much alive and doing fine, despite my less than stellar nurturing! Having said that, the growers recommend this shrub for full sun but I think I have proved a point that it isn’t a primadonna. The shrub in my sunny border rarely gets watered either and is squished between several exuberant perennials.

This deciduous shrub grows up to 4.5′ tall and wide and its crisp variegated leaves will brighten both shade and sunny combos. Try it next to early blooming shrubs that can look lack luster by August such as lilac or forsythia. Or partner it with the variegatedCanadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Glentsch White’) shown below;

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Gentsch White Canadian hemlock

and perhaps a delicate rose such as the David Austin rose ‘Wildeve’ for a romantic vignette;

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Wildeve rose

Pearl Glam beautyberry

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White flower buds on Pearl Glam beautyberry

Beautyberry (Callicarpa) is known for its metallic purple berries in fall. The problem – until now – has been waiting that long for the shrub to be of interest. Problem solved with the new variety Pearl Glam from Proven Winners.

Although the emerging foliage is green it quickly turns dark; a perfect foil for the white flowers shown here. I can’t wait to see how it looks with the purple berries!

This variety is said to grow 4-5′ tall and wide, making it a great candidate for a container or the landscape.

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Pearl Glam beautyberry

Try it with chartreuse foliage for high contrast or silver for a more contemporary look.

I have one in a mixed container (first image) and one in the landscape (above). The latter has never been watered since it was planted but is thriving. It is also on the ‘wildlife freeway’ through my garden but seems to be untouched. A very exciting new shrub for sure.

Lots more to share with you in the near future so be sure to stay tuned!

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Potted Inspiration

Remember this luscious pairing? Great bromeliad-pot combo at Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco

Remember this luscious pairing? Great bromeliad-pot combo at Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco

A couple of year ago we brought you color inspiration from our trip to Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco as we shared the dramatic ways they had taken the  color of a container as a springboard for the foliage planted in it. You can enjoy it again here

Well we decided it was time for an update so here for your potted pleasure is a smorgasbord of fabulous containers and foliage divas that were simply meant to be together.

Unexpected Companions

Rustic meets contemporary thanks to the skill of Graham Smyth, Victoria BC

Rustic meets contemporary thanks to the skill of Graham Smyth, Victoria BC

Putting succulents in a rustic container would have been fun and matching the shade of the teal foliage to the patina of the pot would have been clever. Adding fossils? Now that’s genius! They add to the sense of antiquity, bring the paler color of the house stucco into the pot and introduce a new texture.

Plan ahead

Consider the four season color palette when adding plants to a pot

Consider the four season color palette when adding plants to a pot

Clearly the Pomegranate Punch million bells play a key role in echoing the pot color of this summer design but there’s more! Black mondo grass is evergreen and accents the faded detail around the container rim year round. The key plant; Tiger Eyes Sumac will display shades of orange, gold and red in fall and when the leaves eventually drop the remaining fuzzy branches will be a shade of dusky rose, the warm note continuing to enhance the container and vice versa.

Pull a Vignette Together

Use the container to link the colors and style of the surroundings to the pot design

Use the container to link the colors and style of the surroundings to the pot design

This bold orange pot works as a focal point in the loose meadow-like planting, defining the color scheme and connecting the backdrop to the potted pheasant tail grass and berried wintergreen

When Procrastination Works

Serendipity and artistry combine in this pairing by designer Stacie Crooks of Crooks Garden Design

Serendipity and artistry combine in this pairing by designer Stacie Crooks of Crooks Garden Design

Designer Stacie Crooks never quite got around to cutting off the dead flowers of this donkey tail spurge – and aren’t we glad?! The succulent-like foliage of the spurge echo the rustic teal pot while the faded flowers relate to the brick detail on the pathway. Tufts of black mondo grass add color and texture contrast.

Aqua Shades

Contemporary wizardry by Todd Holloway of Pot Inc

Contemporary wizardry by Todd Holloway of Pot Inc

From shallow hanging planters to narrow trapezoid containers and a low bowl the shades of silver-grey and aquamarine set the color palette while the contemporary shapes suggest plants with ‘personality’ are a must. Todd used assorted succulents and other drought tolerant plants to get the look. You can read more here.

What are your pots telling you? Post a photo on our Facebook page – we love to see your ideas! Or leave us a comment below.

 

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If you could only choose ONE plant….

……what would it be? Christina would stamp her feet and insist on at least two; Heuchera and Euphorbia. I’m rather more pragmatic because my choice has to survive fickle weather, burrowing rabbits, hungry deer, drought, clay soil – and be cheap. But of course those are just the boring practicalities. I also want low maintenance, longevity, stunning foliage and maybe some flowers as well. Yes I am my toughest client! Here’s my answer though;

Spirea.

While many of my trees are still leafing out the spirea can be relied upon for adding lots of color to the May border

While many of my trees are still leafing out the spirea can be relied upon for adding lots of color to the May border

I wrote about this amazing group of deciduous shrubs three years ago on my personal  blog but my collection and appreciation has grown since then and I think it’s time to share the love with my Fine Foliage friends too.

As certain conifers, weigela and even some barberries have  succumbed to weather or wildlife in my garden the spirea have continued not only to survive but to thrive. These are the ones I am currently growing and am thrilled with.

Gold Fountain bridal wreath (Spiraea x vanhouttei ‘Gold Fountain’).

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Even though this is still a young plant it is developing a beautiful shape.

This is a more colorful version of the  old fashioned bridal wreath spirea since its spring foliage is a vivid lime green . By May (seen here) the leaves soften to a more muted gold – a color that persists through fall when it adds more vibrant yellow and orange notes to the display.

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Give this shrub some room to stretch into a loose weeping fountain 5′ tall and wide. In May the branches are weighed down by festoons of white flowers – a stunning display to look forward to each spring.

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Hardy in zones 3-8 and happy in full sun or partial shade although the color will be brightest in sun.

Double Play Blue Kazoo spirea (Spiraea media ‘SMSMBK’)

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Blue Kazoo is worth the treasure hunt

This is a new introduction so you may have to hunt for this one but it is worth seeking out. The leaves are larger than many spirea and quickly mature to a beautiful blue-green with a soft rose blush – an invaluable color in the garden to break up higher contrast plantings. Flat clusters of fuzzy white flowers cover the mounding shrub in mid-spring and are a magnet for bees and butterflies! In fall the foliage assumes red and burgundy tints.

I featured this shrub as an ideal specimen to grow in a container in the March 2015 issue of Country Gardens – it’s that good!

Hardy in zones 3-9 in full sun or part shade.

Mellow Yellow spirea, Ogon spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’)

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Ogon spirea has a wonderful feathery texture – quite different from the other species

For a completely different look consider this larger shrub. Ogon grows to 5′ tall and wide, is fabulous planted en masse or as a single specimen and is one of the first shrubs to get leaves in spring in my garden.

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Long arching branches of golden willow-like leaves move in the breeze and cascade to form an informal mound. Small white flowers dot the branches in early spring but aren’t as decorative as those on other spirea.

Fall color is a blend of rust and orange so situate this shrub near trees or shrubs that have contrasting autumnal color such as the red maples (Acer rubrum).

Hardy in zones 5-8 in full sun or part shade but the color is brightest in full sun.

Glow Girl birchleaf spirea (Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor Gold’)

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I wasn’t expecting much from Glow Girl when I received it as a trial plant a few years ago. I figured it would just be another spirea that started out lime green, faded to yellow and had nice fall color. In fact it really does stand out from the spirea crowd in my garden. The lobed leaves are well defined and have tints of red on the margins and stems. Rather than pink flowers this variety has pure white blooms that bring a fresh look to the spring border.

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Glow Girl adds sparkle to a mixed (deer resistant) border with bronze astilbe, Rainbow leucothoe and a purple barberry.

 

I am growing this in full sun as well as an area that receives afternoon shade and both shrubs do equally well. The foliage doesn’t scorch and remains bright through fall when it turns yellow.

Hardy in zones 3-9. the growers predict an ultimate size of 3-4′ tall and wide. After two years my 4″ baby plant is now 18″ tall and wide.

Double Play Artist spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Galen’)

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When you need an easy care ‘filler’ shrub for the border consider this option. The foliage of Artist opens a soft burgundy/muted purple before maturing to a nice mid green. Fat clusters of fuzzy fuchsia-pink flowers in spring contrast well with the leaves.

This variety seems to be more compact than other mounded forms, maturing to 30″ tall and wide. It is hardy in zones 3-9.

Double Play Gold spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Gold’)

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Double Play Gold warms up the May garden alongside a Blue Star juniper, flowering viburnum and a Thunderhead pine

This is one of the key shrubs in my main border. I have two groups of five shrubs and they are truly stunning for three seasons of the year.

The foliage of Double Play Gold opens in shades of copper, matures to gold and softens to yellow in fall. New growth is constantly appearing and is a lovely rosy color. Flat clusters of pink flowers cover the bushes in summer and with just an occasional trimming will continue to bloom until fall.

Although the growers state this as reaching 2-3′ tall and wide mine are already 3-4′ after three years so allow enough space when planting.

I love these next to blue foliage such as Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’). Watch out for a very special combo called Sassitude in our new book next year featuring these together with other great foliage and flowers.

Goldmound spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Goldmound’)

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Rhododendrons need colorful shrubs nearby; Goldmound spirea is perfect

There were several of these large shrubs in the garden when we moved here. They thrive despite being ignored, squashed by other plants, in sun and shade, in wet soil and dry. .Again the growers seem to suggest these are ‘compact’ yet one of mine is well over 4′ tall and wide and still growing!

Hardy in zones 4-8 in sun or part shade.

General characteristics

  • Deer resistant (deer may nibble flowers but have never damaged the shrubs – and I love the new foliage color caused by their inadvertant deadheading!!)
  • Drought tolerant
  • Will tolerate wet and/or clay soils
  • Sun or part shade
  • No pruning needed
  • Low maintenance
  • Great fall color
  • Attracts bees and butterflies plus some short sighted hummingbirds

What’s your ‘must have’ group of plants for the garden? Leave us a comment or tell us on Facebook!

 

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New Leaves for 2014

As seed catalogs replace Christmas cards in the mailbox the planning begins! Although I am always ready for a break from regular weeding and hoeing by October it never seems to dampen the giddy excitement as I consider those glossy photographs and ponder my choices for the New Year. Yet those catalogs only show you a few of the new offerings and rarely focus on cool new foliage plants so we thought we’d share some with you here. Start your 2014 foliage wish list!

Sunjoy® Tangelo barberry (Berberis th. ‘Sunjoy Tangelo’)

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Late season color. Photo credit; Proven Winners

I know barberries are listed as invasive in many States so for those of you who cannot – or prefer not to grow this shrub just skip ahead!

Before I moved to my deer-plagued garden I had little interest in these thorny shrubs but I have since completely changed my tune. I can rely on these in less than favorable circumstances AND their wide range of foliage colors offers the potential for endless new combinations.

So what’s special about this one? Bright and cheery, this new barberry has tangy orange foliage that is often accentuated by a distinctive chartreuse margin. Stronger growing than other variegated cultivars, it is a medium-sized shrub to 4′ wide and tall. Like all barberries it needs full sun for the best color and is drought tolerant once established. Hardy in zones 4a-8b.

Foliage combination ideas

Try underplanting this with Lemon Fizz lavender cotton (Santolina virens) to pick up on those bright green margins. Alternatively Ogon spirea (Spiraea th. ‘Ogon’) has finely textured foliage also in a golden-yellow that turns orange in fall. Since this grows to the same size as the barberry they would make quite the fiery duo!

Glow Girl™ Birchleaf Spirea (Spiraea sp.)

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Spring flowers and foliage

My love affair with spirea has grown for much the same reason as it has with barberries – they come in fun colors and are both deer resistant and drought tolerant. I’ve never been terribly partial to the pink flowers on chartreuse varieties, however, so Glow Girl grabbed my attention thanks to its vivid lime green leaves and white flowers which give the shrub a wonderful fresh appearance.

Glow Girl holds its color well and doesn’t burn in the summer. Since it also offers great fall color this is a true three-season shrub.

Fall color is equally lovely. Photo credit; Proven Winners

Fall color is equally lovely.

At 3-4′ tall and wide this spirea is well suited to the middle of the border where it will be happy in part or full sun. It tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and is hardy in zones 3a-9b. Whats’ not to love?!

Foliage combination ideas

Pair this with the fluffy silver foliage of Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana) in sunny, dry spots or if you have part shade and moisture retentive soils the evergreen autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) would bring shades of copper to the display.

Tiny Wine™ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious)

A new option for dark foliage. Photo credit; Proven Winners

A new option for dark foliage.

Christina and I both love  ninebarks and have enjoyed using the dwarf ‘Little Devil‘ in container designs where its rich chocolate leaves add excitement to pink, orange or yellow companions. Here is a new introduction for 2014 which promise to be more petite still at 3-4’ tall and wide with a good upright habit.

Tiny Wine appears to be bushier and to have smaller leaves than Little Devil too resulting in a shrub that appears to be more balanced in scale. Even though we are most interested in the foliage we have to concede that the flower show is exceptional, with dainty flowers blooming up and down each stem in late spring.

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the diplay

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the display

Ninebarks are tolerant of many soil types, do well in full sun or part shade and are hardy in zones 3a-7b.

Foliage combination ideas

For a three season combo the variegated pink foliage of My Monet weigela (Weigela florida) would echo the ninebark flowers in spring while creating an artistic medley for summer and fall.

Anna’s Magic Ball™ Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

 
What a cutie!

What a cutie!

I had the pleasure of testing this in my garden and just loved its puffball demeanor. Even after weeks of low temperatures and hard frost this golden ball shines. I use dwarf conifers a lot in containers but there are relatively few that stay small – this one fills that role nicely with its mature size being listed as 10-15″.

Average water and  average soil makes this an easy care conifer for zones 3a-7b. Definitely one to look out for in 2014.

Foliage combination ideas

Blue and gold make great color partners so I might try this with the low growing Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) or the striking Beyond Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca ‘Beyond Blue’).

Wild Romance hebe (Hebe hybrid)

A new hebe to look for

A new hebe to look for

Just look at those leaves! Dark green foliage turns to deep burgundy at the end of each stem in winter and spring, mellowing to a lighter red in summer. For those who want flowers you will enjoy the purple display in early summer.

The leaves are smaller than many variegated hebe resulting in a more delicate appearance. When grown as an evergreen shrub it will reach 24-30″ tall and wide but I would expect half that when grown as a summer annual

Hebe are drought tolerant, deer resistant and prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Wild Romance is hardy in zones 7b-9a – enjoy it as an annual elsewhere

Foliage Combination ideas

I would look for bolder foliage companions such as the dark, fleshy rosettes of black rose (Aeonium arboreum var. atropurpureum ‘Zwartkop’) and one of the chartreuse sweet potato vines for an easy container combo perhaps throwing in some of the sun-tolerant hot orange Spitfire coleus for drama.

Which new introductions are you going to try this year? Do leave a comment below or on our Facebook page to tell us.

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