Tag Archives: Silver

Do Your Poppies POP?

Visit any nursery at this time of year and the chances are you’ll come across poppies in full bloom. In my own garden the annual varieties and perennial Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica) are still tight buds but the oriental poppies (Papaver orientalis) have been showing off their gaudy colors for a few days now.

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Large and luscious  – the oriental poppy loves full sun and dry or well-drained soil

Their ephemeral beauty can be lost, however, without great foliage to show them off. I’ve shared one such vignette with you before; Creating a Picture Frame with Foliage but rather liked this  combination I spotted in my garden yesterday that we could call…

Fire and Ice

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A fleeting Garden Moment – without the foliage these poppies would just be flowers.

The vibrant orange  oriental poppy (an unknown variety that was a gift from a friend) gains depth from the rich hues of Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’) behind it while Skylands spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) glows to one side.

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Backed by Orange Rocket barberry the poppies become serious Drama Queens

Tempering this heat, the cooling silver and blue-green foliage of a weeping willowleaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) and Blue Shag pine (Pinus strobus ‘Blue Shag’) create a soothing backdrop.

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The reflective silver leaves of the weeping pear

A large, wide boulder adds a sense of solidity to the scene, balancing the vertical lines of the poppy stems.

What other foliage plants would transform  these everyday orange poppies into something special?

Fire

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Double Play Gold spirea opens orange before transitioning to gold tipped with red.

Many spirea have foliage in shades of gold with orange-red new growth at this time of year e.g. Magic Carpet, Goldflame, Double Play Gold.

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Coppertina ninebark glows in the sunshine

Coppertina, Center Glow and Amber Jubilee ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious) all boast warm colors of amber through mahogany in spring.

Ice

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The new growth on Old Fashioned smoke bush

I love the Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’) with its soft blue-green leaves. The new growth and stems are usually rosy pink that only adds to the charm

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Silver Brocade wormwood  could be used as a groundcover under the orange poppies.

There are many silver leaved shrubs and perennials that could substitute for the weeping pear from the old fashioned daisy bush (Brachyglottis greyi) and silverbush (Convolvulus cneorum) to wormwood (Artemisia) varieties e.g. Silver Mound   and dusty miller (Senecio cineraria).

How have you paired your poppies with foliage to really make them POP? Leave us a comment below or post a photo to our Facebook page. We’d love to see and hear your ideas!

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Cool Color on Fresh Foliage

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage

 

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage, White Ornamental Kale

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

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

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

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Dappled Willow, Variegated Comfrey

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

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

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Design Lessons from a Desert

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We have just returned from an exciting trip to Pasadena, CA where we visited some fabulous private and public gardens. A highlight of our trip was an evening photo shoot in the Huntingdon Botanical Gardens and we both found ourselves drawn to the Desert Garden as the low angle of the setting sun and soft shadows emphasized the silhouettes and cast a warm blush on the landscape.

I was especially drawn to the use of the Silver Torch cactus (Cleistocactus strausii), also called the woolly cactus. Native to Bolivia and Argentina it is hardy to at least 20′ (colder if protected by a structure or tree), appreciates regular irrigation in summer but needs to be kept dry in winter to avoid root rot. (Not much chance here in Seattle then!)

Slender columns rise up to 8 feet tall and are covered in thick white spines which almost completely cover the stem. in late winter/early spring tubular deep red flowers appear near the top of the stems, attracting hummingbirds and undoubtedly photographers. Sadly we didn’t get to enjoy that feature but as a designer I was interested to see the different ways these silvery cacti has been used as an architectural element in the landscape.

Creating a backdrop 

Silver Torch cactus (Cleistocactus strausii) as a vertical backdrop to a carpet of ice blue Echeveria

When packed tightly together, the slender cacti remind me of a majestic pipe organ

Using these silver cacti as a backdrop for a carpet of ice blue echeveria is genius. The muted colors play off one another in a delicious monochromatic scene while the contrast in form and texture is emphasized.

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A wonderful counterpoint of vertical and mounding elements

A similar idea was employed here with the cacti forming a dense curtain behind the bold spiny foliage of an agave, the shape of each highlighted by the contrast.

As a vertical accent

Silver Torch cactus pierces the tapestry of agave and barrel cactus in the Desert Garden at the Huntingdon Botanical Gardens

Silver Torch cactus pierces the landscape of agave and barrel cactus

These slender columns are also used effectively as single exclamation points, breaking up the rhythm of barrel cactus and blue agave while echoing the color of the latter.  In the fading light they shone like ghostly lanterns.

Ideas for cold climate gardeners

If like us you live in an area that is too cold or wet to grow these, there are still some great design lessons we can apply to our own plant pallet.

There are several narrow, columnar shrubs that we can use in a similar way such as the evergreen Sky Pencil Japanese holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’) with its small dark green leaves, or the deciduous purple foliage of Helmond’s Pillar barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond’s Pillar) if it is not invasive in your area. To get the silvery-blue tones you may be better with a grass such as Northwind switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’) which is herbaceous but holds up well over winter. Or be creative and employ lengths of bamboo inserted into the soil. These could even be  painted fun colors such as cobalt blue, orange or lime green.

Can you grow Silver Torch cactus where you live? What have you paired it with? If like us you need to interpret the idea do share your thoughts here in the comments or on our Facebook page. We love to hear from you!

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Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden

You might guess that Team Fine Foliage is NOT talking about heavy metal music. But, just in case this headline threw you off and you were Googling something on an altogether different topic, be warned that the heavy metal we’re referring to here is foliage. 🙂
The classy hues that bronze, copper and silver bring to the garden, unlike screaming heavy metal music, are subtle, rich and diverse. Whether foliage in these tones are used in sun or in shade, there are a million and one design uses. This time we focus on a combination in the shade on a container design that is on the smaller side, sitting on a side table for up-close viewing of the amazing textures represented.
Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden
This bromeliad or Vriesea fosteriana rubra is the anchor plant for the combination giving a backbone of stiff upright foliage for the other more soft and cascading plants to sit around. The nice thing about using a tough plant like this for a tabletop combination is that this shallow dish of plants won’t need a lot of pampering. The other bonus that you get when using this admittedly pricy collectors plant is that it makes a wonderful houseplant at the end of the season if you wish to winter over your investment for next year.
The feature colors here are the metallics, such as bronze, copper and silvery whites, which may seem much too subtle for a spot where there is low light. But, it works when paired with the crisp whites, fresh green as well as rose tones.
Heavy Metal in the Shade GardenThe next layer is the crinkled, texturally abundant Pilea spruceana which is another houseplant used outside in this combination and it worked beautifully! These plants are super easy and gratifying to grow as they also need very little love. Take note of how the metallic tones along with the shades of rose work in perfect unison with the Bromeliad here! Same tones, totally different textures, but the similar needs in the way of light and water.
Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden

This is what happens when you truly look at ALL the varied departments in the nursery for your summer container design choices. Sometimes a combination of colors, forms and textures meet on your cart and work as if you planned it! At least that’s what this designer is claiming if anyone asks. 🙂
Heavy Metal in the ShadeNow to re-enforce with flower color! YES- flowers indeed! Have you seen this one before? It’s one trailing shade, part sun flowering annual that I can’t live without. Its called Mimulus or Monkey Flower and comes in a wide variety of colors that include intense yellow, orange, reds, white and other shades too. This particular cultivar is just one of the “Magic Spring Blossoms Mix” of Mimulus cousins, so be sure to ask for it at your local independent garden center.
The rose color in this particular plant works brilliantly well here! You can also see the wispy Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ here as well as a crisp contrast to the rest of the subtle and muted tones.
Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden

TA-DA!!! You can clearly see how it all came together here with the addition of the very crisp white Lobelia ‘Techno-Heat’ white as well as the leafy green asparagus fern. What do you think? Did I do these plants justice?

Use heavy metal in YOUR garden and let us know what foliage plants YOU chose and how they all work together. Share your images on our Fine Foliage Facebook page.

 

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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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Late Summers Groovy Grasses

Late Summers Groovy GrassesWhether your intention is to create a nod to the meadows of grasses and flowers designed by the legendary Piet Oudolf  or to simply add some soft billowy texture to the landscape, adding a little zing with grasses is gratifying and much easier than most people believe.

Chanticleer
You have hundreds of amazing options no matter what your design goals. Some gardeners may just want a little textural difference from the standard variety of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and the low maintenance benefits of ornamental grasses are hard to resist.

Late Summer's Groovy GrassesRefined and elegant, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ has a thin white margin on the center of the blade giving it the advantage over other more plain grasses and where you may want a lighter color to a space. Topping out at only 5ft. tall it also has a quite narrow base so that getting other plants right in up close in tight spaces is not difficult as you can see above.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses

Certain grasses are out and showing off long before the first week of August, but many are just beginning to hit their stride for the late months of the gardening year. This week, we’re focusing  on those later grasses.

Above is a VERY fun grass with and equally fun name to say- Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blond Ambition’,  which is airy and light and needs to be either mass planted or to have a nice bold leaf to set against and be able to shine as a specimen.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses
The award-winning Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a designers dream as it tall and narrow so it can be used not only in tight spaces, but in repetition in rows and give a modern, elegant look as well as above in a casual easy breezy way. The wheat-like blooms are both sturdy and showy from a distance.

LAte Summers Groovy GrassesStipa tenuissima ‘Mexican Feather Grass’ is a lovely option for a small growth habit in a grass, and one that has a fun personality. It comes out a fresh spring green and then in summer it begins to turn a sandy light beige. Team Fine Foliage is aware that in some locations across the count try it can be invasive, so be sure to check with your local independent garden center or horticulturist if this is one you should be avoiding. But if it’s one for you, you will have a hard time not petting it and feeling the silky softness as you walk by it.

Late Summers Groovy GrassesPennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is a fountain grass and if low maintenance is your thing, try it with an amazing lavender with impeccable performance like Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ and you will see this combo check off many of your design boxes. This is a very tough grass that can be quite drought tolerant once established. It blooms with these “bunny-tail” blooms that are delightful to touch and when paired with the lavender blooms that come on earlier the duo it showy for months on end. In fall the grass will take on some elegant golden and apricot highlights and hold tight without falling apart for the majority of winter. It gets cut back in spring and you are off the races again.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses
As the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Angel Blush’ or ‘Tardiva’ change to their deeper rose tones in late summer and autumn, you can rely on Eulalia grass or Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’  for a taller, elegant option for pairing up with this large-scale shrub. The glittering blooms on this grass shine in the sunlight and give sparkle to whatever they are near.

For more information, garden writer Nancy Ondra wrote a beautiful book on grasses and designing with them, I highly recommend it! She is a masterful designer and it was my first go-to resource on grasses in my own hort-library.

What groovy grasses have you planted this summer? Leave us a comment below or tell us on Facebook!

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Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Is your zeal for gardening hampered by the heat of summer sizzling your foliage?  We’re not even at the “Dog Days” of summer yet when “real” heat can set in and yet you may already be tired of hauling the watering can and hose around to pamper certain plants.
This week, let’s take a look at foliage that won’t shrivel when the thermometer gets a fever.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Pinterest has taken the popularity of succulents and all of the vast array of plants that behave like succulents to a whole new level of intrigue. There are as many types of succulents to fall in love with as there are ways to design with them.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Chanticleer
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Agave, Aloe, Sedum, Sempervivum, the collection possibilities are endless when you start looking for ways to have a sophisticated and water saving garden. Shopping for textures that go together, or setting your garden art about to accentuate your plants is much more fun that fussing with that hose anyway!

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

The drought tolerant landscape can be contemporary and architectural but, it can also be a soft and casual garden as well. The sky’s the limit when designing to save water and beat the heat.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
You may have to put tender things in containers in your climate and have a plan for keeping them warm in winter, but for many collectors, it’s worth it.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
If you are going to keep little containers of low maintenance foliage around, why not use them as focal points on the patio table rather than flowers that only bloom a short amount of time and need ALL of that H20?

Colorful drought tolerant plants that you can pair with succulents are a never-ending source of design inspiration.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageWither-Proof Hot weather Foliage
Blue Elymus grass can take the high temperatures with ease, so can the ‘Black Pearl’ Pepper and they look great with the ‘Blue Chalk Fingers’ succulent.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageSages and Salvia’s are a drought tolerant dream. Paired here with Limonium in a matching purple hue, you have color from the voluminous blooms and a water saving pairing.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Parahebe (like the one above) and Hebe are tough and heat loving small shrubs.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Euphorbia like ‘Glacier Blue’ with ‘Quicksilver’ Hebe and ‘Tri-Color’ Sage makes a lovely combination for tough and drought tolerant plants. The Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ is a bonus foliage that will need a wee little more water.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Silver foliage is almost certainly a great choice is you are looking for ways to save water in the garden. Artemisia is a family of plants with LOTS of choices and styles to choose from. But, there is a plethora of silver foliage to choose from for tough and dry conditions.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageG
lowing silver Astelia is a sophisticated option for a drought tolerant grass.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageZauchneria is not only great fun to say, but it blooms with bright orange flowers that hummingbirds begin turf wars over.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageBlue conifers of all types can be quite drought tolerant once established in the garden.

The bottom line is that there are FAR FAR too many drought tolerant and water saving options available to you these days to not try at least a few new ones every year. Your foliage palette will thank you and so will your water bill!

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Vibrant Color, Bold Design

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

Want vibrant colors in cool shady locations? If you’re focusing on the flowers first, it can be hard to come by. But I would defy anyone to try to tell me that it’s not possible to create BOLD and colorful combinations when you begin with foliage in lower light conditions. Though you need to fully understand the particular quality of light or lack of light you have in your situation, you CAN find options for foliage combinations in the shade in both containers and landscapes.

Morning shade has an entirely different light quality than afternoon shade. Dappled light all day is going to be a totally different challenge as would full deep shade. So, watch what your light does at different times of the day, as well as how many hours you have total and that will go a long way to helping you understand what your options are for plant choices. One tip: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. You would be shocked at how many people don’t think about where the light on their property actually comes from. 🙂

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
(In this combination: Coleus ‘Sedona’, Heuchera ‘Spellbound’, ‘Gartenmeister’ Fuchsia, Oxalis ‘Iron Cross’, Golden Feverfew, Fuchsia ‘Autumnale’, ‘Purple Heart’ Setcresea, Blue Anagalis, Blue ‘Techno Heat’ Lobelia, Violet New Guinea Impatien.)
The combination above sits in a cool location on the north side of the house where it gets bright morning light for a few hours, then a little bit of bright light for a bit right before sundown. It has a cool side that features the mainstay foliage and then a warm side that features the flowers. This container was newly planted not long ago and is just now powering up for the summer color show.

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
Vibrant Color, Bold Design

This portion of the container combination is in bright but very indirect light on the west side of the house where it is blocked by large hedges and trees from the warmth of the afternoon. This triad of foliage is exciting in its level of detail and texture as it stands on the side of other more fine textured foliage. (Rex begonia, Persian Shield, Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’).

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

This container rests on a mostly shaded, covered patio, although it’s not terribly bright it is very warm and dry. The warmth allows for a little bit of play with certain plants that typically want more sun, so we’re capitalizing on that in less light. Pictured here: Cordyline fruticosa, ‘Black Heart’ Potato Vine, Coleus, Persian Shield, Rex begonia, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
This foliage based shade combination has few flowers, but boasts some BOLD elements in a dappled light location. High contrast colors and textures, not to mention unusual plant selections make for a fun and architectural container design. This one is also newly planted and will “fluff out” quite a bit as summer progresses. Pictured here: Cordyline fruticosa, African Mask Alocasia, Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’, bright pink Bromeliad, Pink ‘Non-Stop’ Begonia, Golden Pothos.

As you have now witnessed, you CAN have amazing, mouth-watering color and texture from foliage in shade. If you can dream it, you can do it! Think out of the box, try shopping in the houseplant section, ground covers, etc. and for heaven’s sake, get to know your shade conditions first!! Now get out there and do some designing!

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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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Garden Designer’s TOP SECRET Plant Picks!

Garden designers REALLY don’t want just anybody to be able to do what we do. We want there to be some mystique, some fascination, some magic to what we create for our clients. But we DO have secret weapons in our design arsenal that ANYONE can try out affordably and dramatically. Ready? FERNS! Yes, you heard us FERNS!

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksFerns are often low on the shopping order of excitement for nursery customers and often overlooked because they need to utilized WELL in order for them to shine. And if they aren’t sited or paired up with the right companions, they can be down right boring. However, designers know that ferns can be THE MOST dramatic and showy plants in the entire landscape if you allow them to be the super-stars that they can be.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksWhether you are wanting evergreen or perennial ferns, the design options are incredible and this little secret is one of many in a GOOD garden designers vast arsenal of tricks. Ferns are available for every type of location from full shade to sun, dry shade to moist, from tall to ground cover, from evergreen to perennial and everything in between. And this makes them a valuable plant option for many types of locations.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

For THE absolute experts in the world of ferns, my go-to professionals are at Fancy Fronds Nursery here in the NW. The amazing ladies who own this nursery know their ferns and can provide you with everything from collectors ferns to the more common.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Designers know that a fern can often do what other plants can’t, and that is being able to play a supporting OR a string role in the display at any given time during the season. This spectacular display by designer Riz Reyes  (above) shows the important supporting actor role that ferns are playing when other plants NEED to have a starring role.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksDesigners also know that ferns are not simply one shot wonders in the fluffy summer landscape, they are critical players in the year round landscape. In the shot above, the ‘Autumn Fern’ shows off-color in early fall with a ‘Cappuccino’ Sedge.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Another way to think of using ferns to their highest and best purpose is to know that they can be both bold AND delicate depending on how you pair them. In this shot above, the trio of the ‘Maidenhair’ fern with Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ and ‘Mugho’ pine are a texture lovers dream! But, it is in quite a powerful and strong way.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

In this photo, the delicate new growth in spring has lovely blushing color and comes across as incredibly feminine and lush.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksSometimes the green on green of ferns layered together is an elegant way to fill an area with hardy and showy textures, this is a common trick that designers employ in those hard to plant low-light spots. But, WOW! Who needs more color when you have this ‘Hart’s Tongue’ fern with a carpet of ‘Oak’ fern underneath?!

Garden designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Talk about luscious green on green! WOWZA! This ‘Paris’ Polyphylla truly shines as it stands up tall over a bed of ‘Maidenhair’ fern and glossy ginger foliage.

 

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Even in a fairly bright spot you have amazing ferny options, such as the leathery, deep green ‘Tassle’ fern.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Or use the incredibly beautiful ‘Ghost’ fern as a way to up-light these white allium flowers! This is a vastly under-utilized foliage color in the fern world, there are way too many great ways for this amazingly silver foliage to light up a dark corner or give just the right zing to a darker leaved companion.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Used in the foreground of this larger blue-green hosta in the rear, who needs more? The purplish-black stems are an incredibly lovely contrast to the ‘Ghost’ fern’s silver luminescence. But, if you wanted to play up those dark stems even more, pair this combination with the glossy bronze foliage of Beesia (see the photo below for Beesia in action) where it’s heart shaped leaves and white fairy-wand type flowers would bring even more wow-factor to this combination!

Obviously there are so many more ferns than we have room to show off here in one blog post, like the ever-present ‘Sword’ fern that is like a mascot in the NW garden, other than slugs possibly. 🙂 But, even a seemingly pedestrian plant like a ‘Sword’ fern shines with the right plants around it. So, the main take-away this week is that, we designers have this little design secret that may seem to many gardeners like a ho-hum addition to the landscape, but if you know the secret handshake and password, we’re happy to share ideas with you.

 

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksOh! Did we NOT mention the secret password??????? Next week……….

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