Tag Archives: Seattle

Winning With Silver

What's the buzz in your garden today?

What’s the buzz in your garden today?

It’s hot, too hot for most of my Seattle garden to handle. Fried astilbe, sunburned hosta and crispy ferns are just a few of my casualties while a semi-naked katsura tree also tells the sad story. I garden on 5 acres without an irrigation system, relying on the inherent drought tolerant properties of plants and occasional watering of selected plants by hand. Being on well water may save us on utility bills but there is a high probability that our well will go dry this year so every drop counts.

Feeling frustrated and disheartened I headed out into the garden with my camera, determined to find something that looked good despite drought and record breaking temperatures. A camera helps me narrow my focus and reduces distractions. Sure enough there are a few things to celebrate.

The overall winners were all my plants with silver leaves.

Licorice plant

Licorice plant

That’s not really surprising. Silver leaves reflect light and heat. You may notice that many of them are covered with fine hairs such as the licorice plant above. These are an adaptation to water conservation by reflecting light away from the plant. Hairs on the underside of the leaf raise the humidity of the surrounding air and slow down the movement of the air so that water is carried away more slowly. Cardoon leaves have that feature.

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We all love lavender for the fragrant flowers as well as the foliage which can be silver, green or variegated

Have you noticed how many of these silver leaved plants are also aromatic? Lavender, catmint, Russian sage, culinary sage to name just a few. Interestingly these volatile oils increase the air density and reduce evaporation.

To conserve water loss, plants with smaller leaves also do better in a drought since the surface area is significantly reduced.

These are just a few examples from my own garden this year but you will soon see how they exemplify one or more of these survivor traits. By understanding what has done well I hope to make wise choices going forward since meteorologists tell us this pattern may hold for three or four more years.

 Silver Falls dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’)

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Although just a fun annual for me I was thrilled to see Silver Falls dichondra as a tough, vigorous groundcover when we visited  San Diego earlier this year. I love to grow this trailing over the edges of brightly colored containers or hanging baskets. Like strands of exquisite shimmery beads this will bring a touch of class to the simplest design. For me it does equally well in full sun as it does in part shade.

Silver Brocade wormwood (Artemisia stelleriana ‘Silver Brocade’)

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I do love the silver foliage of so many wormwood including Valerie Finnis and Silver Mound but have only marginal success overwintering them. My heavy clay soils just don’t drain quickly enough. So after several years of replacing Silver Mound I decided to just buy a few inexpensive 2″ basket stuffers of Silver Brocade. For many this will be a reliable perennial but I’m considering it an annual. However knowing that they would spread really quickly I didn’t mind investing a few dollars for some serious summer sizzle.

I tucked the little plugs in with some white alyssum (either seedlings I’d grown or more 2″ basket stuffers) and have been thrilled with the results. They have only been watered once a week yet have spread at least 2′ in every direction, their felted fern-like foliage adding a bold carpet under its neighbors.

Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)

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I’m not generally a fan of growing groundcovers as their presence makes it difficult to add soil amendments such as compost and can even make weeding more awkward. However in the summer I have come to rely on the silver licorice plant to disguise the gaps between young plants, add a silver uplight to darker colors and be a seriously drought-tolerant groundcover from May until late September. I allow a certain amount of free-form scrambling over small shrubs and encourage them to weave between perennials such as black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’). One little 4″ plant can spread 3-4′ so that’s a good return on a couple of dollars.

Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

Mature cardoon foliage (at a local nursery)

Mature cardoon foliage (photo taken at a local nursery)

Drama? Check. Scale? Check. Pollinator caviar? Double check

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My intention was just to show you the huge, coarse, deeply dissected silver foliage of this monster perennial but how could I possibly ignore the blooms, especially when there was a pollinator orgy going on in my garden?! Thistle-like flowers are being produced with complete disregard for drought conditions. Like many plants these cardoon are a little shorter this year due to lack of regular water but that’s OK as they still offer such great architecture to the garden border – and pollen for the bees.

Weeping silver-leaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’)

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Metallic silver, willow-like foliage is remarkably eye-catching in a mixed border; even more so when on a weeping small tree. It creates a focal point yet highlights other plants from bold conifers to finely textured grasses. It goes well with deep jewel tones and adds a soft touch of romance to pastels.

In its youth the weeping silver-leaf pear can be rather gangly but give it a few years to step beyond adolescence and you will be well rewarded.

White flowers in spring are followed by inedible pear-like fruit but this ornamental small tree or large shrub is all about the foliage. This is one of my favorite plants in the garden.

Catmint (Nepeta species)

Walker's Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

Walker’s Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

I have both Walker’s Low and Little Trudy catmint in this garden and have grown the classic Six Hills Giant previously. I love them all for their fragrant foliage, blue flowers, easy attitude and superior drought tolerance. After blooming I unceremoniously hack them down to a few inches and this is my reward; more flowers and fresh foliage despite no water or fertilizer.

Sea Heart Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Sea Heart’)

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I don’t have a lot of shade in my garden but where I do you won’t be surprised to learn that it is fairly dry shade. Siberian bugloss seems undaunted by such conditions. Jack Frost does extremely well but  Sea Heart is even more remarkable not least of all because of the much larger size of its leaves. Rough to the touch this heart shaped foliage has an intricate overlay of silver on green. Forget-me-not blue flowers appear in spring. This is holding its own under a golden locust tree and is thriving.

Quicksilver hebe (Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’)

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Just a few miles from here in Christina’s garden Quicksilver hebe is hardy but in my cold, sticky, heavy clay soils I’m happy to use it as an annual or short term semi-evergreen shrub. The color and texture are easy to blend with bolder, brighter offerings in the landscape and I know this can take both the heat and low water. I’ve been especially glad of it this year although its color leans more towards a pale teal than true silver

Elsewhere in the garden are assorted lavender, Silver Shadow astelia and the new Bella Grigio lambs ears; all thriving in our crazy summer.

As a bonus all the plants listed here have proven deer resistant in my deer-ravaged garden

Take a few moments to look at your own garden and assess what looks good right now despite your particular gardening challenges. Tell us about it in the comments below or post a photo to our Facebook page; we’d love to hear your news.

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High Spirit Foliage Color for the 4th

With the 4th of July fast approaching, Team Fine Foliage is dealing with a 100 year, record-setting heat wave here in our typically mild northwest climate (as I sit in front of the AC writing this post). We have surpassed records made in past hot July and August months so far and there seems to be no end in sight. Most of our time when not working on the NEW BOOK “Foliage First”, has been holding a hose or setting up sprinklers.

Karen Chapman's explosion of fireworks Brit style. :-)

Karen Chapman’s explosion of fireworks Brit style. 🙂

Since the vast majority of us can’t let off fireworks here due to the heat advisory and one half of Team Fine Foliage is British anyway, we can get crazy HERE! 🙂 I thought it was a good time to bring you foliage ideas that are both high energy color and high impact forms. Some spiky shapes that mimic fireworks are interesting and maybe they will give your imagination some ammunition to add some explosive foliage interest to YOUR landscape.

An Acalypha that I snapped in Disneyworld, BOLD!!

An Acalypha that I snapped in Disney World, BOLD!!

Red Castor Bean is a showstopper, but can be a bit hard to find. Those giant red leaves are about 2ft. across.

Red Castor Bean is a showstopper, but can be a bit hard to find. Those giant red leaves are about 2ft. across.

I could have stuck with the good old red, white and blue for this post, but I came across SO many other fun bits of color and detail for you that I gave up on that theme. But, there is always this one that you could do in a cobalt blue pot with red and white New Guinea Impatiens right? Someone make that combo and post it for us on the Fine Foliage page!

Drama with Caladium, never fails!

Drama with Caladium, never fails!

High Spirited Foliage for the 4thRed Mandevilla, red Rex begonia and a red sphere, now THAT is some color for a partially shady nook!

Another unique Acalypha harmonizing with orange, bronze and the lavender toned Asters.

Another unique Acalypha harmonizing with orange, bronze and the lavender toned Asters.

Impatien 'Omeiana' is ALMOST like fireworks in the shade garden!

Impatiens ‘Omeiana’ is ALMOST like fireworks in the shade garden!

A reddish Bromeliad in a patriotic blue pot makes a statement!

A reddish Bromeliad in a patriotic blue pot makes a statement!

Canna makes a wonderful backdrop for airy Gamma Grass like little sparks shooting up from the pot!

Canna makes a wonderful backdrop for airy Gamma Grass like little sparks shooting up from the pot!

Now THIS is a fireworks display!!

Now THIS is a fireworks display!!

There are always blue foliage plants (for the good old Red, White and Blue) that are dramatic and stunning around, sometimes you just have to think out of the box a bit. 🙂

High Spirited Foliage for the 4th

'Silver Swan' euphorbia with 'Quicksilver' Hebe.

‘Silver Swan’ Euphorbia with ‘Quicksilver’ Hebe.

Melianthus

Melianthus

White foliage can be white HOT in sun or in shade!

'Spider Web' Fatsia

‘Spider Web’ Fatsia

Creamy off-white foliage from variegated Cordyline is plenty classy on it's own in a container.

Creamy off-white foliage from variegated Cordyline is plenty classy on its own in a container.

Garden Art, soft Mexican feather grass and one lone canna leaf glowing like a burning ember make for an unexpectedly electric combo of form and colors.

Garden Art, soft Mexican feather grass and one lone canna leaf glowing like a burning ember make for an unexpectedly electric combo of form and colors.

HOLY COW Yankee Doodle look at that BIG BOLD showy foliage in white? :-)

HOLY COW Yankee Doodle look at that BIG BOLD showy foliage in white?

Look at that, it’s time for me to go out and water the landscape, we should talk succulents next time. 🙂

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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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Spring Container Inspiration

Walking into a nursery in spring is like meeting old friends. There’s that gorgeous coleus you used last year – and yes the stunning fuchsia with variegated leaves is back! Memories of last years containers play through our mind as we deliberate on this years color scheme and plant combinations.

Do you want to use your old favorites but in new ways? Would you like to incorporate something different but don’t know where to start? That’s where we come in; welcome to spring container inspiration 2015.

Canna with a Twist

IMG_4193Who doesn’t love big tropical Canna with their bold leaves and bright flowers? Do you find yourself always heading for the orange striped Canna Tropicanna to use as a centerpiece then layering in other plants around it?

The freshly planted design above features Tropicanna Gold but those luscious gold striped leaves are playing a supporting role to the Orange Rocket barberry shrub rather than being the star. This works well because the barberry can be left in year round and adds instant height while the Canna is just getting started.

Balancing these two key plants is a Cyclops Aeonium at the front. Its multi-hued rosette marries the colors of the Canna and barberry together while bringing the eye down.

An assortment of  flower and foliage favorites round out the design including Angelina sedum, pheasant tail grass, African daisies and million bells.

Try a new color scheme

IMG_5778This design was driven by the oval purple pot. I’ve always liked purple and orange together but rather than reaching for chartreuse as the third color I opted for silver and white.

Blue Hawaii Colocasia provides the height, its large translucent leaves showcasing purple veins and stems to re-enforce the color of the pot. Purple basil and Purple Queen (Setcresea pallida ‘Purple Queen’) also echo the theme while Sedona coleus adds a wonderful splash of contrasting orange. Silver bush (Convolvulus cneorum) and white trailing geraniums add sparkle.

Spikes with a difference

IMG_4785 - revisedDo you find yourself reaching for the ubiquitous  ‘spikes’ for a thriller, red geranium as a filler and white bacopa as a spiller? Dare to be different!

In this shade design while the cordyline adds height it is the perennial Siberian bugloss that takes center stage with its large heart shaped leaves each overlaid with an intricate network of silver veins. Maybe you have one in your garden you can dig up? A lime green heuchera and humble dusty miller round out the foliage framework. For color and fun the chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) is used as a trailer at the front of the pot (look for it with the houseplants) and a rex begonia adds nice color contrast. This is definitely not your grandmothers design!

Sophisticated Succulents

IMG_5772With so many exciting succulents available now we all want to play with them! Try some unexpected companions such as the the tall feathery foliage of perennial Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii) shown here. It will turn orange in fall. Silver icicle plant repeats the color of the tender panda plant while two black sweet potato vines add depth and a contemporary note.

Excited to get planting? If you live in the Seattle area you may be interested in signing up for one of my spring container workshops in May where I’ll have lots of fun plants for us to work with. You can read the details here.

So what are you planning to do differently this year? Leave us a comment or post to our Facebook page because YOU inspire US too!

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Foliage for your Spring Floozies

 

From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery - Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery – Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

Gardeners are easily seduced. We understand – sometimes that flirty petal just calls to you but if you don’t give it the right foliage partner it will be a fizzled floozy in no time.

Spring bulbs and pansies leap onto our shopping carts at this time of year don’t they? While you’re at the nursery be sure to select some foliage beauties to create the necessary framework to make them shine and fill the beauty gap when the blooms are less than bountiful.

Here are a few of our favorite foliage+floozy options to try.

Pansies 

IMG_8686Who can resist the cute pansy faces? Whiskers, bold colors, frills – these are the flowers of our childhood.

Choose accompanying foliage plants to echo the colors. I have found that the fine strappy blades of grasses offer great contrast to the chubby faces as can be seen above where the golden variegated Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) accents the golden moment.

IMG_0514Or look for something more subtle. Here variegated box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’) repeats the yellow eye in the blue and purple pansy.

In either case there is a visual color connection between the flower and foliage.

JH pansyThis simple combination has  color repetition between the yellow of the pansy and Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) but the most striking theme is the connection of fine pansy ‘whiskers’ and the strongly vertical lines of the common rush; a green grass-like foliage plant  (Juncus).

Tulips

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Big, bold and beautiful – marry these extravagant blooms with equally sassy foliage. Princess Irene tulip is planted here with the similarly colored Peach Flambe heuchera while the chartreuse conifer Goldcrest Monterey cypress adds contrast.

IMG_0909Or go for moody drama with rich purple tulips against black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’). Emerald green ferns and Rainbow leucothoe (Leucothoe f. ‘Rainbow’) add lighter notes, the variegated shrub even hinting at burgundy-purple tints.

Floozy Frenzy!

IMG_2006Hellebore, hyacinth, candytuft – yes there’s a lot of floral action going on but it’s all held together with foliage. Silver Queen euonymus establishes the soft color scheme and adds strength to the combination of looser structures. The large purple foliage of Spellbound heuchera adds drama while a simple cotoneaster groundcover trails over the edge of the stone urn. All the foliage plants are evergreen, allowing the flowers to come and go without compromising the design.

Remember flowers are fleeting so enjoy their ephemeral beauty and seduction – but be sure to have great foliage tucked in alongside them for real drama that lasts.

 

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Winter Survivors and Thrivers

This is a good time to review those winter containers and see what has thrived despite extreme temperature swings, inconsiderate deer and neglect. Let’s face it, January is not the finest hour for most gardens but if we can keep a few containers looking stellar in the ‘off season’ it’s easier to ignore those iffy garden corners.

After several years observation I have found these plants to be reliable performers with little or no winter damage in my zone 6b/7 garden. Although Christina and I only live about 45′ away from one another my garden is much colder and I have to deal with deer so like some of you I have plant envy at times!

So take this foliage selection as a little winter pick-me-up. You can totally justify a trip to the nurseries to find one or more of these – just tell them Team Fine Foliage sent you.

Curly Red drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red’)

IMG_1134Evergreen, leathery twisted and puckered leaves take on rich burgundy tones in cold weather deepening to purple in winter. This dwarf shrub  grows slowly to about 16″ tall and wide as a tidy mound so is perfect for a container but also works well in the landscape, perhaps planted as a mass groundcover or as a compact specimen to accent more delicate foliage.

IMG_8698It makes a stunning contrast with golden conifers such as the Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’) shown above.

IMG_8117In summer the foliage is mostly green, the younger leaves being a lovely fresh shade.

Color ideas

I’m thinking of planting a group in my woodland near a stand of Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’), autumn ferns (Drypoteris erythrosora), dwarf green spruce and yellow  cowslips. To one side is a young Rhode Island Red Japanese maple (Acer p. ‘Rhode Island Red’) and the whole group is in the dappled shade of a golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’). Mmmm.

Cultivation notes

  • Well drained soil in partial shade, partial sun
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Somewhat drought tolerant when established
  • Hardy in zones 6-9

Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

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The winter color is deeper

 

I have many different conifers in my garden from towering 60′ Douglas fir to dwarf spruce  with colors from darkest green to bright gold. Each has earned its place and is loved for different reasons but if I could only pick one and it had to be tough as nails, had never shown any winter burn, had great color, didn’t need pruning, was disease resistant, drought tolerant and was ignored by deer the humble Blue Star juniper would be my pick. We featured it on the cover of our book Fine Foliage and we have some breathtaking combinations using this conifer in our next book (still busy writing that one….). It’s inexpensive, easy to find…. Have I convinced you yet?

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The foliage is a duskier blue-green in summer

Use this low growing conifer to edge a border, add to a container, soften a stone wall or snuggle up to a large boulder.

Color Ideas

Take a leaf out of our book (pun intended – couldn’t resist) and pair it with Berry Smoothie coral bells for year round color

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen in spring with pink and gold companions

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen here in spring with pink and gold companions

Looks equally fabulous with bold orange and hot red; think dark leaved barberries or weigela in an orange container with black mondo grass….

We have a multi-trunked Himalayan white birch tree (Betula utilis var. ‘Jacquemontii’) underplanted with Blue Star junipers anchoring one end of a large border. ‘We’ (aka my long-suffering husband) has just moved my large orange pot into that area so it is now framed by the blue conifers; those colors really POP.

Cultivation notes

  • Compact 3′ x 3′ mound
  • Evergreen
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Drought tolerant once established
  • Full sun
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Blondie coral bells (Heuchera ‘Blondie)

 

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Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

Some heuchera do better than others depending on where you live – agreed. In fact you may find this post I wrote with breeder Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. to be helpful in helping you fine-tune your selection.

I have some I consider annuals, some that look terrible in winter but revive so well in spring that I let them stay, others that I consider short term perennials (great for 3 years – maybe 4) and just a few that I have to stand back and admire because they truly exceed my expectations.

These are neither deer nor rabbit resistant so I am limited in how I can use them but the value of a colorful, evergreen bold leaf is such that I keep a few on hand for my designs. Blondie is one of my current top picks.

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The round leaves are a soft ginger in fall (as seen here), getting deeper throughout the winter and rich mahogany in spring. Each leaf is ~ 2″ in diameter so it wont swallow neighboring plants, making it a great container plant.

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Blondie has some of the showiest flowers of all the coral bells. Fat spikes of creamy flowers on red stems bloom profusely over many weeks. These make great cut flowers or leave them for the hummingbirds to enjoy.

Color ideas

I can’t give too much away here as we have a five star combo featuring Blondie in our new book! I’ll give you a clue; the colors are deep teal, deep rose and burnt orange……

Cultivation notes

  • I keep this in a corner of my fenced vegetable garden, ready for me to add it to a container as needed. It has done equally well in that semi-landscape setting as it has in pots
  • Partial sun and partial shade are generally recommended but mine was in full sun all summer and never scorched.
  • A smaller, more compact variety than most; mine measures 10-12″ tall and wide after 2.5  years.
  • Evergreen
  • Do not over-water.
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’)

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Walk into any nursery in February and get ready to swoon…………it’s the time of year when winter daphne tickles our olfactory senses – or perhaps assaults rather than tickles! Some may find the sweet and spicy fragrance cloying but I love it and have two of these semi-evergreen shrubs near our front door.

Daphne have a reputation of being rather fickle but I haven’t found that to be the case at all. I’ve grown them in containers then transplanted them without a problem. Mine are in morning shade and afternoon sun (the opposite of what many books recommend), I never water them (my soil is moisture retentive but well drained and good quality loam) and the deer have ignored them.

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

In many areas these daphne are evergreen. In my  garden they can lose up to 75% of their gold and green variegated foliage during an extremely cold snap  but quickly leaf out again and the flowering buds never seem to be affected. I therefore consider them worthy of inclusion here!

Color ideas

Pick up on the pink and white flowers with the addition of hellebores – there are so many to choose from right now.

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Check out the last post Christina wrote on choosing hellebores for their foliage too.

Penny's Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink foliage would be a fun companion to the daphne, bringing pink and yellow color echoes. I’d soften the duo up a bit with some fine textured grasses such as the variegated moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’ ) which would look good even dried and bleached in winter while the very finely variegation of green and soft yellow would be pretty from spring-fall.

Cultivation

Do as I do or do as I say? Up to you! I’ve already told you how mine grows. Here’s the official line;

  • Grows to 4′ tall and 6′ wide
  • Prefers light, open or dappled shade
  • Water occasionally
  • Hardy in zones 7-9

Consider us your enablers – we’ll see you at the nursery!

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Need Some Winter Foliage Inspiration?

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Then head to your local independent garden center! We are blessed with an abundance of first class nurseries in the Seattle area. Staffed by professional horticulturalists, keen home gardeners and part time designers you can always be assured of finding a great selection of plants, expert advice and most importantly at this time of year – ideas!

I wanted to freshen up the containers on my front porch this weekend and had planned to gather greenery and holly from the woods at the back of the property. Only one problem – they are covered in a few inches of frozen snow which doesn’t seem to be melting anytime soon. I can also usually dig up a few things from the garden to tuck in such as young evergreen shrubs and trailing periwinkle but that isn’t possible either. So when the ice melts on the roads a bit I’ll be heading out to a nursery to gather my ingredients.

Here’s what I found at Sky Nursery in Shoreline, Seattle last December.

1. Oval metal planters

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Why it Works

Simple and elegant this design has a crisp green, red and white color scheme with a few tasteful metallic accents. Notice how the silver sprays echo the washed grey metal containers- great attention to detail.

Foliage Framework

Young upright conifer

Small evergreen fern

Green and white variegated grass

Bright green moss to hide the soil

Accents

Jacob hellebore

White pansy

Red cyclamen (also has great foliage)

Berried wintergreen (small glossy evergreen leaves too)

Decorative silver spray stems

Sheer gold ribbon

2. Round birch pot

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Why it works

The rustic pots leads the design style here. All foliage and flowering elements follow a simple monochromatic green and white theme with only the bow adding a touch of contrasting color

Foliage Framework

Dwarf mounding conifer

Green and white variegated euonymus (Euonymus f. ‘Emerald Gaity’)

Silver icicle plant (or substitute a silvery lavender)

Grey Spanish moss to trim the pot

Accents

White cyclamen (gorgeous green and white foliage too)

White pansy

White flocked branches

Sheer burgundy bow

3. Tiered fountain

IMG_1166This design would only work if the fountain was in a covered courtyard – otherwise the tiers would fill with water and rot the plants. However we can still get ideas for plant combinations to add to our containers out in the garden.

Why it Works

All three tiers have a common color scheme yet use different plants to get the effect.

Plants are repeated around each tier for a unified look

Foliage Framework and Accents

Top tier;

Green and white variegated grasses

Berried wintergreen

Green and white trailing ivy

Middle tier;

Silver Astelia (the grass-like plant with wide blades)

Deer fern

Icicle plant

White pansies

Lower tier;

Soft burgundy coral bells

Green and white trailing ivy

White pansies

4. Final Flourishes

IMG_1197Look past the large number and varieties of plants here to get ideas for adding the fun factor.

The tiered stand to the left could easily be a re-purposed pot stand, or perhaps an old kitchen produce holder. Each section is lined with moss as you would a hanging basket then filled with soil and plants.

The tall green pot may not be planted at all and just acting as a pedestal. There appears to be a ‘nest’ of wood excelsior that is acting as the shallow planter. Placed over the top is a rusted metal frame. Is it a hanging basket frame placed upside down? Or a cloche without the protective fabric or glass? Or a cake dome??? I’ve no idea – but maybe I have something in the barn like this that I can use. Do you? A few thin twisted branches have been inserted too, helping keep the arrangement loose.

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Our Next Step

Team Fine Foliage gets a new look!

Team Fine Foliage gets a new look! Photo by Ashley DeLatour

We tend to forget that not all our wonderful readers also follow our foliage frolics on Facebook so in case you missed our announcement, here it is;

We have signed a contract with Timber Press to write a new book, tentatively called

FOLIAGE FIRST!

It will be filled with even more leafy goodness but this time we will show you how to build a foliage picture frame or backdrop and layer in other design elements such as flowers or artwork. In other words we’ll show you the next step in our design process. We’ll have ideas for all four seasons and the clear layout you love will be essentially the same if not even better. If everything goes to plan it will be released in 2016. Stay tuned!

And now back to our regular program………………….

As maples begin their glorious colorful display it's a good time to assess whether or not they are shown off to their best advantage

As maples begin their glorious colorful display it’s a good time to assess whether or not they are shown off to their best advantage

Last week we admitted to you our passion for Japanese maples. Actually we’re passionate about lots of leafy plants but Japanese maples are so versatile they give us oodles of design inspiration. They are available in all shapes and sizes, varying leaf textures and colors and many are suited to container culture as well as the landscape.

With such staggering beauty it can be a little daunting to figure out what to put them  with – and that’s where Team Fine Foliage comes in! Here’s what we would be looking for;

  • Contrast in color either in all seasons or just focusing on one time of year
  • Contrast in texture
  • Either a contrast or repetition in form (shape of the tree)
  • The WOW factor

To achieve all that my first thought is to explore the world of conifers.

From dwarfs to giants, all shades of blue, green and gold, different leaf textures and their unique shapes I can usually find something that will work. In their natural environment they are also found in association with one another which of course is a great design clue.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Opposites attract

Koto-no-ito Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Koto-no-ito) behind Wissel’s Saguaro false cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’)

The warm tones of Koto-no-ito Japanese maple are tempered by the rich blue green of the conifer

The warm tones of Koto-no-ito Japanese maple are tempered by the rich blue green of the conifer

This is all about contrasts; lacy leaves and delicate branches juxtaposed with stiff spires of deep blue-green needles, and the wide dome shape of the maple against the columnar form of the conifer. Yet the two also work in concert  as warm colors of the maple are tempered and enhanced by Mr. Wissel (my pet name for this great conifer).

A unlikely pairing yet all the more beautiful for it.

2. Try the color-mush test

IMG_0814I’ve always loved blue toned conifers with red foliage and this combination shows how well the colors work together. I know the photo above is a rather ‘arty shot’ with the red maple in the background all fuzzy but actually that can be a helpful way to assess the basic shapes and colors without being distracted by the details. Try squinting to get a similar mushy effect.

Here’s the same combination photographed differently;

IMG_0811

Design by Mitch Evans

Now we can appreciate the fine foliage too. This Oregon Sunset maple (Acer palmatum ‘Oregon Sunset’) is quite short and so the rare low growing  Home Park cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani ‘Home Park)  has to grow in front rather than underneath.

You could get a similar effect using Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) under any upright red leaved maple such as Fireglow  (Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’)

3. Crayola combo!

IMG_0791

Design by Mitch Evans

What’s more beautiful than one Japanese maple? LOTS of Japanese maples! This glorious fall display celebrates the season in full technicolor with the aptly Crimson Queen (Acer p. ‘Crimson Queen’) in the foreground clearly the star. The vivid golden foliage behind is a Lions Mane maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’) while the orange leaves forming an overhead canopy are from a Forest Pansy redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’)  and Iijima sunago (Acer palmatum ‘Iijima sunago’) on the upper left.

This autumnal extravaganza needs a place for the eye to recover and the two conifers on the left provide that quiet visual resting space to do just that. Simple fanned foliage of a bright green Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’) together with the spiky Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) needles are both great choices.

When the last of the leaves have fallen and we are left with only our leafy memories, the stalwart conifers offer color, structure and a promise of a repeat performance next year.

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The Softer Side of Fall

IMG_7633Fall foliage isn’t always about those screaming red, orange and gold shades. There is a softer, quieter side to autumn and it is perfectly expressed in this soothing combination by artistic gardener Mary Palmer of Snohomish, WA.

Soft teal needles of a blue Chinese fir mingle with the dusky purple plumes of the Red Head fountain grass; a  subtle color combination that would look good all year yet has an ethereal quality when dripping with fall raindrops.

In the distance are two splashes of gold that pull out the lighter tones in the conifer. Autumn Moon maple is a standout in the garden for many months but this late season color seems like a final blast of watery sunshine.

Repeating the yellow is a simple perennial sunflower, Tuscan Sun. Well this may not be Tuscany but the pure color definitely adds a highlight to the group yet does not detract from the simplicity of the foliage combination. (And we’ll forgive it for being a flower……)

Plant details

IMG_7637

Blue Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata ‘Glauca’)

Light; Sun – part shade

Mature size; To 50′ tall and 20′ wide

Water; Low (Drought tolerant when established)

Hardiness; USDA zones 6-9

IMG_7640

 Red Head fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head’)

Light; Full sun

Mature size; 3′ tall and 2′ wide

Water; low, drought tolerant

Hardiness; USDA zones 5-9

IMG_7648Autumn Moon Japanese maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’)

Light; Open shade or full sun

Mature size; 15′ tall x 18′ wide

Water; Regular water

Hardiness; USDA zones; 5-8

IMG_7643Tuscan sun sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Tuscan Sun’)

Light; Full sun

Mature size; 2 feet (a great compact variety)

Water; Average

Hardiness; USDA zones 3-9

What’s going on in your garden today?

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Leaves that Beat the Heat (and the Deer)

We expect succulents to cope with the heat but what else is there? (Design by Stacie Crooks )

We expect succulents to cope with the heat but what else is there? (Design by Stacie Crooks )

Now those of you in Texas and Florida will laugh – but it is HOT here in Seattle. And by that I mean mid-high 80’s for a few weeks now with just two days of torrential rain somewhere in the middle. I know it’s all relative but the people – and plants that live in Seattle aren’t used to such extended periods of heat and drought.

This is therefore the perfect time to assess which are the foliage workhorses in the garden. What still looks not only good but GREAT, is healthy, doesn’t need fussing with and has barely been given a drop of extra water? We expect grasses and succulents to be drought tolerant but what else is there?

Most trees and conifers are fine by virtue of their deep root system so I’ll keep this to my top shrubs, perennials and annuals that I grow for their leafy lusciousness – and deer tolerance.

Here are the awards;

Best Combo

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

This is an amazing trio; the perennial Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrechtii) gives height (and turns orange in fall) while two annuals – the chartreuse Lemon Fizz cotton lavender (Santolina virens ‘Lemon Fizz’) and silver licorice plant (Helichrysum ‘Petit Licorice’) form a fuzzy groundcover. I can’t reach them with a hosepipe so they are truly on their own and they look fantastic. I was a little concerned after our two day downpour which left the Arkansas bluestar flattened but 24 hours later when I ventured out with sticks and string they had picked themselves right back up and needed no help from me at all.

Best Bling

A silvery feathery puff ball

A silvery feathery puff ball

Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’) is much tougher than the fine textured foliage would suggest. In fact this fluffy perennial prefers tough love and will quickly rot with too much love, water or fertilizer. It dies down in winter and can be a bit slow to reappear in spring but it’s worth waiting for. This 2′ silver mound will add some glitz to the border like no other plant can.

Best Variegated Leaf

Not your typical barberry

Not your typical barberry

I’m partial to barberries. They come in lots of different shapes, sizes and colors, are drought resistant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant. Usually.

Thankfully they are NOT invasive in the Seattle area. If they are a problem in your state I’ll forgive you for skipping over this bit.

Lime Glow barberry is the pretty little sister of Rose Glow. Marbled light green and creamy white leaves with pale peach new growth and stems makes this a rather romantic addition to the garden border. It seems to be much slower growing than Rose Glow so enjoy this in containers as well as the landscape.

I have two of these. The first one is out of reach of the hosepipe so is on a ‘do or die’ regime. It is ‘doing’. The second was unceremoniously dug up one blisteringly hot day and relocated, watered a couple of times then forgotten about. Much to my surprise it is not only still alive it still has all its leaves. Pretty impressive as well as pretty.

Best Native

A bronze beauty - Northern bush honeysuckle

A bronze beauty – Northern bush honeysuckle

If you thought native plants were boring this one will change your mind. Northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) grows in sun or shade, wet soil or dry, has fragrant blooms and beautiful fall color. I have one in sun and one in shade. The shaded one is mostly green but the one in full sun (above) remains bronze for much of the year which I love. Bambi has ignored both plants except for a tiny nibble on the new growth of one stem. Thankfully it wasn’t to his taste. (or he was full by then).

Best Surprise

Glossy abelia - worth a second look

Glossy abelia – worth a second look

I have a low hedge of glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) at the side of our cabin. I don’t water them, fertilize them or talk to them. In fact I forget they are there until I become aware of a hummingbird frenzy in that part of the garden as the fragrant white flowers are a magnet for them it seems.

This unassuming shrub is one of the unsung heroes of my garden. It is usually evergreen, has healthy, glossy green leaves which tint red in fall and rich burgundy stems. While the flowers are white the sepals are pink giving a lovely two tone effect and the flowers last well into November.

I have not watered this for three years and the deer haven’t even tested it. I trimmed the height a bit this year but that is the extent of the care I have given it.

After this hot, dry stretch it is not only looking good it is thriving. Quite the surprise

So what foliage has earned superstar status in your garden this summer? Do tell us in the comments below or post to our Facebook page. we love to hear from you!

 

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