Tag Archives: spring

Deer Resistant Spring Bloomers – with GREAT foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

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

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

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

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Gold Heart in front of Mountain Fire andromeda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Terra Nova Nurseries Inc display garden

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

Mercifully it is ignored by deer and rabbits too.

3. Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) varieties

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Jack Frost Siberian bugloss

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

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

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Sea Heart Siberian bugloss in a late summer container display

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

Bonus points for deer and rabbit resistance.

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

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

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

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

5. Lungwort (Pulmonaria varieties)

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Believed to be Mrs. Moon (P. saccharata)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Combination Ideas

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

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

And there’s more….

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

Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ – new and fabulous!

Mukdenia ‘Crimson Fans’ – gorgeous for the shade garden

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

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

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

 

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Simple, Straightforward and Serene Foliage

Sweet, Simple and Serene FoliageAs Team Fine Foliage recovers from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show week, the official launch to the local gardening public of Gardening with Foliage First and as of today Karen Chapman is officially a “Nana”, we’re truly in recovery. So this post about “simplicity” seemed SO appropriate right now. 🙂

This shot above from the show last week was taken from the garden designed by Nature Perfect Landscape and Design, it was a crowd favorite for sure! But, for our purposes today, I’m only showing you this small portion of it even though there was MUCH more to it.

So why DOES this work so beautifully? It was SIMPLE! Groundcover plants were strategically used in this geometric patio design along with polished river rock and pavers. Small ‘Gold Moss’ stonecrop positively glows in this setting and having the black mondo grass as a contrast along with one of the many shades of Club Moss lining the wood pile/boulder seating space make it almost a magical detail that drew many many raves.

Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageThis small section from a garden design at the show also provided a great lesson in simplicity. Using golden sweet flag grass in multiples as a groundcover in this space looked sophisticated and would stay low around the spheres and dwarf rhododendrons. Designed by Jefferson Sustainable Landscape Management and Avid Landscape Design, the other elements in this display were fantastic as well!
Simple, Straightforward and Serene FoliageLast but certainly NOT least is “Mid-Mod-Mad….It’s Cocktail Hour in the Garden” another of my very favorite award-winning designs at the show from creator Father Nature Landscapes and designer Sue Goetz. Though I’m not showing you all of the display here, to further our point on simplicity, this one is a very good showing!

Proving the point that you don’t need 800 different types of plant material to have an excellent design. Sue chose to use lots and lots of Orange Sedge to surround and fill this space and bring your eye to the fire bowl, seating area and water feature in the background. Water loving umbrella grass sits in the water giving a nice vertical look on the colorful wall.

There you have a quick look at simple and serene ideas for using foliage repetition with a small palette of plants. Hope you enjoyed a few photos from the show, I’m sure you will see MANY more in future posts.

Cheers to catching our breath!

If you liked this post and want to see more ideas in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First that’s burning up the charts 🙂 Click here! 

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings

Team Fine Foliage is ever forward thinking, and today we’re considering all of the ways we can use coleus this spring. Seize the day and start your dreaming now so that you can hit the ground running when it’s time to shop.

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusWith a coleus (Solenostemon scutellaroides) for every design need imaginable, it’s hard to fathom a spot where this fantastic group of plants doesn’t make any combination better. What’s not love? When the color range, leaf shape and multitude of growth habits available are SO vast, it can make your head spin. I know I have landed on a few that have turned out to be my own “go-to” selections, but each year I try to break out and try new ones.

There are coleus selections available for BOTH morning and afternoon sun AND shade, so don’t assume that you might have too much or too little of either situation because the breeders are working overtime to bring new ones to market that are tougher than ever. But, to be safe, be sure to make an assessment of the time of day and how many hours of sun your spot will get to make sure you get the right plant for the right place.

**Plant tags are notoriously difficult in regard to sun/shade needs when it comes to coleus. Be sure to ask your local Independent Garden Center salesperson which are best for YOUR needs if you aren’t quite sure. Telling them apart can get a bit tricky and some plants can easily thrive in BOTH exposures, which is another reason why we love them so!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusThe incredible glowing burnt orange of this one called ‘Campfire’ by Ball Horticulture is a large scaled one that features this incredible purple shadow that is very subtle but really shows when you put anything purple next to it. A new favorite one for sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusOne fo the interesting things about coleus is that there are so many that are seemingly the same yet are different and so it’s a challenge to know for certain if you have the same one as last year without seeing the tag for yourself. I have often seen to that look identical at different garden centers, and they will have different names, so bear with me if you see one that I name as X, but that you know as Y. It happens ALL the time!

The one above is one that I happen to know as ‘Wedding Train’, fabulously colorful trailing option for showy, colorful foliage when a potato vine would be overwhelming in a container design. It can take more sun than you might imagine too!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusBlack potato vine makes a really neat groundcover at the front of this bed with hot pink Angelonia sandwiched in between another coleus from Ball Horticulture called ‘French Quarter’.  A significant thing to note here, if this coleus stands up to the same heat as Angelonia which wants to roast in the HOT summer sun, then you know this coleus is a toughy!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Craving for ColeusNeed a desktop sized coleus? A terrarium sized coleus? A mini-gardening sized coleus? I found it! Hort Couture has created this incredible line of new coleus called Under the Sea ‘Sea Monkey’ and they come in a few colors. This one is ‘Sea Monkey Apricot’ and I ADORE it!

http://www.hortcoutureplants.com/product-detail/coleus-under-the-sea®-sea-monkey-rustHort Couture also created this one that I love called Under the Sea ‘Bonefish’As you can see, I let this one go to flower, and there are two philosophical camps regarding this idea, here’s my two cents on the topic; let them bloom if you enjoy it OR don’t let them bloom if you don’t. Some gardeners seem to think there is a real right or wrong on this and I think it totally depends on the plant, the combination and the time of year. I tend to let all of them bloom by the time September/October rolls around, why the heck not? However, I DO keep all of my coleus pinched for tidy growth especially the larger upright ones until then. But, you should do whatever floats your leafy boat!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsPersonally, these ones with the striking veins like ‘Fishnet Stockings’ seriously rev my foliage design engines!!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis one also from Ball Horticulture called ‘Vino’ was new to me this last year. But I tell ya, this dark, moody devil was one of the most hardcore TOUGH plants in my entire garden last summer! It held up in pretty extreme heat like a champ!!!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThe rich black of ‘Vino’ creates such an excellent tonal effect with the other plants in this container design, it quickly became a favorite for me. 

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus Cravings
Team Fine Foliage is positively green with jealousy over parts of the country where caladium thrive, it is a much tougher proposition up here in the Great Northwet. But, to combine them with coleus……that’s just salt in the wound of our jealous leafy hearts. 🙂 YOWZA!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsFrom the files of the weird and wonderful, the giant leaves of Solanum quitoense has wonderfully sensuous leaves until those big scary thorns grow in. Paired here with the silver lace of Senecio leuchostachys, Coleus (possibly) ‘Black Beauty’ is a dramatic combination to be sure!

Limitless Ways to Satisfy Your Coleus CravingsThis last shot strikes at the heart of all that Team Fine Foliage stands for, BODACIOUS foliage at its very best! Sexy sexy bromeliad combined with other foliage to create this dreamy scene, all topped off with ‘Sedona’ coleus to mark the sunrise/sunset tones of this wonderful composition shot at the Chanticleer Garden a few years back. This one never gets old!

So there you have it- a teeny tiny overview of some incredible ways to get your coleus craving fix. Drop us a note and tell us about YOUR plans for coleus this year. Need more ideas? Click here to peek at our newest book Gardening with Foliage First. And if you already ordered, we would be honored if you wrote a review too.

Cheers to the coming spring! 

Design Goals in the Garden for 2017

RHS Wisley 2016

RHS Wisley 2016

After looking over my photos of gardens that I visited in 2016 as well as my own, I am feeling the need to review some design choices I have made in the last few years. When you’re inside on a 25-degree day in Seattle, sunny though it may be, there’s no better time to start thinking ahead. The garden show season, garden tours and nursery hopping will be upon all of us hort-nerds soon enough and I want to have at least a minor plan of attack.

Maybe you need more bold colors of foliage in your spring and summer garden like the energetic heuchera above that provides a wonderful color echo to the elegant Japanese maple in the background.

Color echo with Hydrangea and Japanese maple

Or for the late summer and early fall, maybe you need to consider the color echo that this incredible hydrangea and maple duo bring in deep plum tones!

Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Chelsea Flower Show 2016

OR if you are a flower person in your heart of hearts but you are here with Team Fine Foliage because you need a leafy nudge to balance your impulses, then maybe adding more repetition is in order. The floriferous notes in any garden stand out better when you pick one color and texture in a foliage plant and use it to its fullest with repetition. This could just as easily have been boxwood and have a very traditional look, but the use of the silver foliage of this Senecio is much more interesting!

Paperbark maple

Paperbark maple

Maybe you are craving more interesting details in your landscape such as fascinating bark, berries, rock or art. Well, Team Fine Foliage certainly will have you covered there for 2017 when “Gardening with Foliage First” becomes available SOON!!! 

A sumptuous feast of fall color here!

A sumptuous feast of fall color here!

Our tendency as trapped winter garden designers is to load up the landscape with all things spring when we’re first let out of the house and released into the wilds of the garden center. But, it’s so important to make sure that you’re also thinking about the important and colorful transformation of color that happens in late summer and early fall. So, keep that in mind when you’re planning!

Foliage BONANZA! :-)

Foliage BONANZA! 🙂

Here is a snippet from one of my favorite little sections in my own garden that I am considering revamping a tad this year. I welcome your thoughts about what you might do. It’s jammed packed I know, but that my style and that likely won’t change, but other than that, bring it on. Give me some ideas designers! 

Let us know what YOUR leafy goals are for your landscape in 2017. Post a comment, we would love to hear from all of you in this upcoming and exciting year of the “Foliage First” garden! 

 

Spring Shopportunity

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We know you love to buy plants – you are our sort of people after all! So when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom we want you to feel empowered, encouraged and inspired to purchase with intention. And the way to do that of course is to know what stellar foliage plants you already have – or also need to take home – to show off your floral floozies. Because let’s face it, in August you will wonder why you purchased the said rhodie.

This delightful combination was designed by the talented Mitch Evans, a WA state designer who has recently sold this remarkable garden. In fact he warned the new owners that he may find either Christina or I taking photographs underneath his prize Japanese maples at sunrise on any given day…..

Here’s why this works

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Succumb to your floral fantasy knowing we have your back. In this case we have Rhododendron sargentianum ‘Liz Ann’, a dwarf that grows to just 1′ high in 10 years or so and is hardy to -5’F. The daphne-like flowers open very pale pink but fade quickly to white. Keep those two colors in mind as they are your design cues.

Highlight with foliage

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Since you have a white flower look for white in a neighboring foliage plant to highlight it – or two. We refer to this as a color echo.

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In this case Mitch chose a variegated hosta and a specimen floating cloud Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’). You NEED this tree – yes you do. Just look at the delicate variegated leaves and pink stems……

Now add some contrast 

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A simple burgundy leaved Japanese maple works perfectly. In this case the weeping form and finely dissected leaves of a cultivar such as Crimson Queen or the slightly smaller Red Dragon will give a design nod to the pink flush of the newly emerged rhodie flowers while also adding depth to the combination and introducing a new form and leaf shape.

How easy is that? Now show us what you do.Leave us a comment here or on Facebook. We love to glean ideas from you too! (Don’t be alarmed if you find us in your garden at odd hours will you?)

Happy Spring Container Designs with Friendly Foliage Color

Happy Spring Container Designs with Friendly Foliage Color

This weeks quick post is purely about inspiration from COLOR! As you think about your spring container design ideas, give some thought to energetic colors that lift your spirit and bring energy to the landscape. 

Happy Spring Container Designs with Friendly Foliage Color

Yellow is the brightest color to the human eye. It represents youth, fun, happiness, sunshine and other light playful feelings. It is a cheerful, energetic and perhaps the most energetic of the warm colors. It is associated with laughter, hope and sunshine. Whether you choose little sparks of bright color or BIG splashes like the layers of gold and chartreuse below, there are more fabulous foliage shade choices than ever for bringing energy to your landscape. 

It is also said to be a color that mentally grounds us, helping us tap into our innate inner wisdom and enhancing our ability to perceive and comprehend the meaning of things and new information. (Think busses and traffic signs) Most notably, tones of yellow are perceived as being a “friendly” color, so when you want an inviting space for entertaining or just looking neighborly, it’s a wonderful choice! 

Though gold and yellow tones can be jarring to the eye and you want to be mindful of how you use them, the sun is generally lower in the sky during spring and the quality of light is still cool, so you can get away with going a little brighter than when we move into the high sun of summer. 

Happy Spring Container Designs with Friendly Foliage Color

All three of these container designs just happen to feature the Coral Bells (Heuchera and Heucherella) that we are SO fortunate to have in abundance here the Pacific Northwest, but there are MANY other foliage plants that you can use in your own climate zone to create energetic high notes in your garden. 

Happy Spring Container Designs with Friendly Foliage Color

Warm colors often evoke feelings of happiness and optimism. We need as much of THAT in our gray climate as we can get!

Shades of orange are the anti-depressant of colors. It represents fire, the sun, fun, warmth and tropical images. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain and stimulates mental activity. It supports youthful and easy-going ideas and helps us in getting through difficult life challenges, instills a sense of hope and an appetite for life. By boosting feelings of motivation, orange can help us move forward in life after tragedies. 

So what energetic SPRING colors are you going to try this year? Here’s an interesting link to give you more ideas. 

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HAPPY SPRING FINE FOLIAGE FANS!  

 

Fine Foliage for Clay Soils

Anyone who has ever broken a pick axe or had to use a digging bar to plant even the smallest plant knows the torture of gardening in clay soils. Whether your clay is a sculptors sort of muck or more like rock and sometimes even both, spending your gardening hours chipping, scraping and banging your way to your dream landscape in clay takes patience and fortitude.

Fortunately, there are secret weapons that can turn you hours of sweaty labor into less of a dreadful return on investment. First weapon of choice is using the right tool for working in clay so that you aren’t working harder than is really necessary. I won’t go through the myriad of available tools, but I’ll just mention my favorite here, and it is indeed a “digging bar”. This is what mine looks like, but there are a number of types and my neighbors borrow it constantly. 🙂

The second weapon is ironically, improving your soil. The old adage “Never put a five dollar plant in a ten cent hole.” By adding compost, and other high quality soil amendments to your clay soil, you help the beneficial organisms in your soil to literally grow MORE good soil. If you continue to do this over time, you will end up with the deepest and dreamiest soil. Here is the name of one of my very favorite soil amendments by Kellogg Garden Products- Soil Building Conditioner, made specifically for helping to break up and add nutrient density to heavy clay soils.

Fine Foliage for Clay Soils
The other, and MUCH more important tool in your arsenal for saving money, time and labor when landscaping in clay soil is, wait for it….., “RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE”! Choosing the best possible plant options to thrive in your soil type from the very beginning makes for lazy gardening in the best possible way!

So to that end, Team Fine Foliage presents you with just a handful of extra yummy foliage based options to consider for your landscape if you suffer with clay soil like we do!

Switchgrass or Panicum v. 'Shenandoah' or 'North Wind' are some handsome medium sized grass for the middle of the border.

Switchgrass or Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘North Wind’ are handsome choices for medium-sized grasses in the middle of a border.

Pennisetum 'Hameln' or 'Burgundy Bunny' are long time favorites of ours!

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ or ‘Burgundy Bunny’ are long time favorites of ours!

'Little Blue Stem' is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

‘Little Blue Stem’ is a favorite yet little known option for many parts of the country.

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus sinensis in all of its late summer glory!

Miscanthus saneness left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Miscanthus sinensis left to stand over winter so that the soft blooms shine when not much else is in the spotlight.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for it's spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Amsonia is a wonderful staple plant for many landscapes for its spring blooms and incredible fall color, not to mention soft billowy texture.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Bergenia is a wonderfully easy plant in clay soils and comes in SO many varieties from flower to leaf.

Hellebores are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options!

Helleborus are an exceptional option for winter flowering in clay soils, not to mention fantastic foliage options! This is one of the lesser known types, the Bearsfoot Hellebore.

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore 'Silver Lace'

Take one perennial with showy evergreen foliage and add unique late winter/early spring blooms and BOOM! You get a clay tolerant super star! Hellebore ‘Silver Lace’

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is 'Samobor' featuring distinctive black markings.

Hardy geranium are a wonderful group of clay tolerant flowering perennials with a wide variety of style options. This one is ‘Samobor’ featuring distinctive black markings.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Coral bells or Heuchera are plants that come in a wide variety of colors and growth habits for clay soils. They do particularly well in containers if you have any deer and rabbit problems too.

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Another glamor shot of Coral Bells for you!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Good old Hosta has roots practically made of cast iron for clay soils!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Who but Team Fine Foliage is going to give you Coral Bells, Hardy Geranium AND Hosta foliage all in one shot?!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It's a champ! This one is 'Neon' with its exh uberant pink flowers!

Would you ever imagine Sedum spectacle to be happy in clay soils? It’s a champ! This one is ‘Neon’ with its exuberant pink flowers!

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap root that they put out that helps them survive.

Yucca are wonderful in clay soils for the giant tap-root that they put out that helps them survive.

Soft Leaved Yucca

Soft Leaved Yucca

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

From the simple to sublime, there are conifers for clay soil as well! This Juniper is a classic.

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

Pines are a typically clay soil tolerant plant category too! This one is flanked by a pair of Japanese maples that are also clay tolerant!

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spirea! This is 'Magic Carpet'.

A Team Fine Foliage favorite- Spiraea! This is ‘Magic Carpet’.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called 'My Monet', a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

This little know hybrid of Weigela is called ‘My Monet’, a fabulous dwarf cultivar that blooms fabulously as well as having this great foliage color combo AND tolerates clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

Birch is a wonderful tree option for clay soils.

The notoriously long lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

The notoriously long-lived Ginkgo tree can attain much of its longevity because of its tolerance to heavy soils.

So now you have a SMALL taste for what you can choose for everything from perennials to ground covers and shrubs to trees, we expect to hear about all of the Fine Foliage that YOU discover at your local garden center to try in your clay soil. Toil no more!

Here are two great resources for a MUCH more expanded list; 1) Royal Horticulture Society, Plants for Clay Soils 2) The Missouri Botanical Garden’s list and additional tips. 

Want even more ideas to feed your Fine Foliage addiction?
Come over to our Facebook page and meet us there!

Calendar Girls – Foliage Style

Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

Well that got your attention didn’t it?! What we’re really going to show off here are our top foliage plants by season. You may notice that gardening calendars often showcase flowers which are at their peak during a particular month. Well the beauty of a garden that is designed around foliage is that we are truly talking extended seasonal interest with many months of glory, not just a quick ruffle of petals in June.

Winter; Gold and Blue Conifers

Towering fir and cedars may create the backdrop for this winter scene but the weeping form of a Feelin' Blue deodar cedar really sets the scene as it harmonizes with the cabin door yet adds contrast to the orange pot.

Towering fir and cedars may create the backdrop for this winter scene but the weeping form of a Feelin’ Blue deodar cedar really focuses our attention as it harmonizes with the cabin door while adding contrast to the orange pot.

Yes I also like the rich green Thunderhead pines and silver tipped  Hortsmann’s Korean fir but the blues and golds give me the most pleasure in winter. Whether seen against a brooding grey sky or dusted with snow they always add bold color and interest to the landscape. Their visual weight acts as a perfect backdrop to bare branches, winter flowers and bright berries.

We will have some gorgeous combinations featuring conifers in our new book  (it is SO hard not to give you a sneak peek….) but here are a few favorites that I’ve photographed recently

Golden Spreader fir

Golden Spreader fir – garden of Mary Palmer, Snohomish WA

I really must add this stocky little Golden Spreader fir to my shopping list. I’ve seen it in all four seasons and it never fails to impress me.

Chief Joseph pine

Chief Joseph pine – garden of Mary Palmer, Snohomish WA

Chief Joseph can be bright to the point of gaudy in winter but rather ho-hum the rest of the year. Try placing it in a pot and moving it center stage for its moment of glory.

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae; don’t crowd it in summer and the foliage will be much brighter (I learned the hard way…)                                                                                                                                 

Blue Star juniper - a favorite in all seasons

Blue Star juniper – a favorite in all seasons

This low growing Blue Star juniper is a true work horse in the garden. Fabulous ground cover but not too big.

Feelin' Blue deodar cedar - possibly my all time favorite blue conifer.

Feelin’ Blue deodar cedar – possibly my all time favorite blue conifer.

I purchased this Feelin’ Blue specimen as a short standard. Give it room to show off its form.

Other favorites? Blue Shag pine (PInus strobus ‘Blue Shag’) with its silvery blue fluffy needles, Louie pine (Pinus strobus ‘Louie’) that resembles a golden teddy bear and Sekkan-sugi Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-sugi) if you have plenty of space although I think this looks its best in spring with the bright, fresh color on growing tips.

Conifers can be pricey so buy them small and enjoy in a pot until they reach landscape size.

Spring; Double Play All Gold spirea 

A sweep of spirea near the cabin marries the orange pot and blue cedar perfectly

A sweep of Double Play All Gold spirea near the cabin marries the orange pot and weeping cedar perfectly (the cabin door looks so much better now it is painted a soft teal blue!! ) Notice the repetition of spirea further down the border.

This was hard to narrow down! Many Japanese maples and barberries have striking colors in spring, often maturing to more muted tones. However the foliage I most look forward to in my own garden are undoubtedly the spirea, especially the variety Double Play All Gold which I  often use in my designs having tested it over several years.

Seen with blue star juniper and doublefile viburnum

Seen with blue star juniper and doublefile viburnum

Gold foliage is enhanced by rosy-orange new growth that lights up the garden for months!

Set off against a Thunderhead pine

Set off against a deep green such as this Thunderhead pine

And this is just the spring show! Summer flowers and fall color keeps the interest going. Most years I have found this to be drought tolerant in my garden. However the summer of 2015 was exceptionally hot and dry so these shrubs did look rather the worse for wear by mid August. Deep watering every two weeks should help me overcome that.

Summer; Orange Rocket barberry

Exploding from a pot - great contrast with the surrounding golds and greens

Exploding from a pot – great contrast with the surrounding golds and greens

While there are certainly summer annuals whose foliage I look forward to (e.g. coleus, croton and caladium) I wanted to select a plant that was hardy in my garden. The aforementioned conifers and spirea still make me smile and I enjoy my five golden locust trees. But choosing just one plant or genus for its summer foliage? That’s tough! I’m going to settle on Orange Rocket barberry  (Berberis t. ‘Orange Rocket). No matter where I put it, the burgundy foliage seem to create the perfect contrast with summer flowers, wispy grasses, sturdy conifers and more. The color may be far more vibrant in spring and fall but it is during the summer that I most appreciate the contrast it gives against the dominant green foliage palette.

A simple trio with Blue Shag pine and weeping silverleaf pear

A simple trio with Blue Shag pine and weeping silverleaf pear

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Imagine the above scene without the orange pot and bold barberry. Pretty but not as visually exciting. Relying on flowers for this sort of contrast would only be a short term solution.

Fall; Arkansas blue star 

I look forward to this display all year

I look forward to this display all year

Japanese maples or grasses would perhaps be more obvious choices for this season and certainly I have hundreds of photos of both. Yet it is the broad swathe of the perennial Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii) that has me grabbing for my camera daily as it changes from green to gold and finally orange. I was ridiculously excited when friends and family sent me photos of this scene while I was in England this past autumn, especially as I was then able to share the unfolding beauty with my Mum as she lay in her hospital bed.

Dark foliage such as this Grace smoke bush make great planting partners

Dark foliage such as this Grace smoke bush makes a great planting partner

The soft feathery foliage emerges in spring, so I interplant with daffodils to make the most of the space. Pale blue flowers in early summer are a bonus but not as important to me as the foliage texture which contrasts well with big boulders or broad leaved plants. It is the star of the border in fall, however. Be patient as it takes three years to become established but after that it is drought tolerant, deer resistant and fabulous!

 

Late season glory; mingling with silver licorice plant. Photo by Katie Pond

Late season glory; mingling with silver licorice plant and backed by Grace smoke bush. Photo by Katie Pond

Incidentally most of these photos are from my own garden which has to be deer and rabbit resistant as well as drought tolerant and low maintenance. 

So what are your favorite foliage plants for each season? Do tell us – either a comment here or on our Facebook page. We love it when you tempt us out into the nurseries again!

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Iris for Foliage Lovers

Planted just one year ago these iris are thriving and growing into large, healthy clumps

Planted just one year ago these iris are thriving and growing into large, healthy clumps

Early fall is a great time to re-evaluate your spring-blooming perennials. Yes you read that right! Christina and I expect double duty from those early season flowers with exceptional foliage that still adds color, structure and interest at least through until the end of fall. That is especially important in small gardens where there is nowhere to hide and every mediocre leaf is right there in front of you.

A traditional favorite for the spring garden is the iris, grown primarily for cut flowers. There are many species  to choose from from the large bearded varieties available in a rainbow of colors to tightly packed clumps of cobalt blue Japanese iris and dwarf forms suitable for the rockery but my go-to is the variegated sweet iris. There are two forms available with either a creamy-white (Iris pallida ‘Alba-variegata’) or a soft yellow variegation (Iris pallida Aureo-variegata’) – and they look stunning right now.

Stiff fans of striped foliage multiple steadily into clumps 2′ tall and wide making it a perfect addition to the front of the border while the soft color lends itself to many different combinations.

Playing with Yellow

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Beautiful design by Lily Maxwell (Victoria BC)

In the stunning border above, the iris has been used to add contrast to the chocolate leaves of Bishop of York dahlia while echoing the sunny yellow flowers. Yellow toned variegated purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’) and a golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ) add fine texture while an overhead canopy of a variegated aralia (Aralia elata ‘Aureo-variegata’) emphasizes the theme and frames the vignette. Taken in August, the iris have long since finished blooming but their foliage clearly continues to add drama. You can see more from this garden in our new book due out fall 2016 with Timber Press.

Crisp and White

IMG_5437For a different look use the long-blooming Rozanne cranesbill (Geranium ‘Rozanne) to weave through a green and white variegated  iris, adding a dwarf dark leaved weigela (e.g. Weigela florida ‘Midnight Wine’) for contrast.

I have also used the green and white variegated form to create a pretty monochromatic scheme with green and white hosta or the silver/green Jack Frost Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’).

Flowers – the Icing on the Foliage

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In May and June dozens of exquisite papery periwinkle-blue flowers appear on stiff stalks 2′ above the foliage, filling the air with a delicate scent. Consider this color when selecting companion plants. In the examples shown above these flowers will repeat or enhance the color scheme of the surrounding shrubs and perennials.

Cultural Conditions & Care

Full sun or part sun/part shade (blooms best in full sun)

Average, well drained soil

Hardy in USDA zones 4-9

Deer resistant

Drought tolerant once established

Divide in fall or early spring if needed

Evergreen in mild winters; trim old leaves at an angle to tidy them up.

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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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