Tag Archives: Trees

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! 

 

One Special Tree – Four Stunning Seasons

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We all want instant gratification in our gardens; plant today – lush tomorrow. At some point most of us have learned the hard way that plants just don’t work to our schedule and we have to wait for the plants to fill in and mature before they really fulfill our vision.

Occasionally I come across something that exceeds my expectations and such is the case with the deciduous tree Ruby Vase Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica ‘Ruby Vase’).

Purchased and planted in 2012, I was attracted by the slender silhouette (as compared to the typical Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), that spreads up to 30′ wide) as well as the promise of fall color and winter flowers. I did not expect to be grabbing my camera every few weeks during spring and summer to capture the remarkable kaleidoscopic display of foliage colors, however.

Through the Seasons

Early Spring

Opening a bright, fresh green the leaves are often edged with purple or burgundy

Summer

Incredible variation with each passing week and seemingly from one year to the next! Click on the images, or hover over them, to see the month/year each one was taken

Fall

All I can say is thank goodness for digital photography or this tree would cost me a fortune in film! Again different weather patterns from one year to the next seems to affect the coloration. Since today’s (August 15th 2016) foliage is already rich purple I wonder if it will turn orange at all?

Winter

I may have purchased this tree for the foliage but the silhouette, bark and winter flowers add to its ornamental value. I believe that as the tree gets older the bark will start to peel and reveal interesting colors.

Design ideas

In my own garden I have it combined with tall burgundy tipped grasses and black eyed Susan for a meadow-inspired look. Large mossy boulders and a rusted arbor complete the scene that overlooks an open grassy area and rough meadow beyond.

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Seen from the front the framing is slightly different with a snag playing into the vignette together with golden spirea and many other foliage colors and textures.

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For a completely different look you might prefer to add silver; perhaps giant lambs ears (Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’), or a wormwood (Artemisia).

Vital statistics

Mature size: 28’h x 12- 16’w

Shape: upright, vase shape

Full sun – part shade (best color in full sen)

Average, moisture retentive soil

Average-low water (I do not have irrigation and rarely give this supplemental water)

USDA 4-9

Ready to go shopping?

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August 2016

Ask for this at your local nurseries! I have not found it available to purchase online but it is becoming more widely grown and therefore accessible to landscapers and garden centers.

Want more ideas?

Well you may want to pre-order our new book Gardening with Foliage First because we have featured this tree in two different seasons and great combination ideas just for you!

Don’t forget to join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

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

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

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

Fine Foliage Salutes Orange!

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

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

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Shop for Collectors Conifers for the Landscape Today!

Who doesn’t love to shop? Not to mention when its your fall landscape assignment from Team Fine Foliage! One of the topics that we get asked about constantly is how to get more color and interest in the fall and winter landscape. And since everyone’s climate challenges are slightly different conifers remain one of the category of plants that seems to cross all of the USDA hardiness lines for the plants that everyone can appreciate in some form or another.

I will readily admit that plant names in general are never my strength for memory retention, and trees are at the top of that list. So, as you peruse the photos below hang with me, if I know the name of a tree, I will list it. If not, I won’t but that is where YOU come in; if YOU know the name and its not listed here, drop us a note in the comments and I will add it. Sometimes in the world of working 2or 3 jobs at a time, I don’t always have the time to properly ID some plants before posting- sorry FF Gang!

The idea with this post is to get you thinking about what conifers would look great in your landscape and to get your little landscaping rear-end to your nearest Independent Garden Center to get them as soon as possible before it gets too cold and the selection has dwindled. This is a fine time for digging and planting as the weather is still fairly mild in most locations and the work weather is divine!

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

This uber blue cypress is a columnar one that looks gorgeous in spring with this Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn’ planted below.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

The same blue cypress as above, but this time, showing you the incredibly pretty hydrangea paniculata ‘Quick Fire’ foliage with it in fall.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

My own beloved Weeping Larch in spring. Don’t you just want to pet those baby soft needles???

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

The incredible warm gold of the needles just before they drop in late fall.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

You may have seen Team Fine Foliage refer to this one as “Mr. Wissel”, he is officially ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ cypress. 🙂 A Columnar standout for the landscape in all four seasons.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

A lovely example of delicate gold details on this cedar, the red twig dogwood makes it even better!

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

Another favorite that makes you just want to reach out and feel the feathery soft needles- the Cryptomeria elegans ‘Aurea’. Paired with this Ilex, a textural feast for the eyes.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

A Cryptomeria elegans showing off its famous winter color!

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

Cryptomeria elegans paired with this gold cypress is eye-catching here in winter.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

Possibly more pedestrian for some folks, but for many Italian Cypress feels quite decadent and exotic. The larger scale pine in the foreground is a good dark contrast.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

This columnar blue cypress paired with the broad leaves of magnolia and the delicate grass in the foreground are a wonderful compliment to one another.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

The cones of the weeping ‘Blue Atlas’ cedar are worth it for the winter interest alone, not to mention the color of the blue needles against that red maple in the background!

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

Arizona cypress has been a favorite of mine for over 20 years. That BLUE and columnar growth habit are hard to beat!!

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Feeling fancy? Then maybe this truly collectors ‘Wollemi’ pine is right up your alley. The story about how this tree was discovered is VERY cool via National Geographic- Google it! 🙂

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

Other than the INCREDIBLE blue of the sky in Denver, this columnar pine tree is pretty spectacular too!!

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

An affordable way to collect small conifers is to buy the one made for container gardens and miniature gardens and grow them on in containers until they are sized up for the landscape.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

Crazy cool and unusual is the Cryptomeria ‘Cristata’. Remind me to tell you all a very funny story about this tree one day. LOL

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

One of my clients picked out this gold pine to go into a container in her landscape. Its gorgeous against this red leaved Japanese maple.

Start Shopping for Collectors Conifers Now for the Landscape!

A ‘Chief Joseph’ pine is good one for the small garden and provides a wonderful accent to the winter garden as it lights up dark days!

What conifers are you shopping for in your landscape this year? Let us know, drop us a comment below! 

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Naked and Loving It!

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

1. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)

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

2. Lions Mane maple (Acer shishigashira)

lions mane collage

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

3.  Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius varieties)

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

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

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

4. River birch (Betula nigra)

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

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

 

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The Color Spectrum of Thanks

Rainbow Leucothoe in Winter
As we writers furiously work on our forthcoming book (Working title “Foliage First” from Timber Press out in 2016), the blog is a particularly nice place for us to take a quiet moment during this Thanksgiving week and reflect on the abundance in our lives in all of its glorious colors.
Not only do we want to convey the vast amount of grace and joy we experience in bringing Fine Foliage to YOU every day and every week, but we wanted to take time to look at the number of ways that our thankfulness is manifested from large to small, from subtle to bold, from public to private and all the ways in between.
The lovely rainbow of colors on the Leucothoe foliage above reminded me of this today. Obviously, it is called ‘Rainbow’ for it’s multitude of colors but it represents so much more when you really think about it. This plant begins with such subtle maneuvers with its spring tones of cream and green and gradually builds excitement as the temperatures rise. I NEVER tire of admiring this in spring as the quiet marbling begins to roll. I begin the growing season thankful for the elegant and understated display.
Then summer brings on the WOW factor of the most divine coral-colored new growth. It is a whole new reason to appreciate what Mother Nature created in the small space of a shrub like this one. When paired with the sassy new growth on a ‘Magic Carpet’ Spirea, it is incredible! I adore the opportunity to ogle this combination and the energy it brings to the garden in summer with hardy, easy-going shrubs.
As fall and winter approach the color deepens. It begins to get richer and warmer as is the case with so many wonderful plants that color up with the cold. Though this shrub stays evergreen here in our mild northwest climate rather than the multitude of deciduous shrubs and trees that draw our attention during this time, we tend to forget the ones that stay with us and still change color anyway. They don’t ask us for the bold adoration of tourists coming to visit for the short burst of the season, they slowly deepen their colors and enrich all those around it.
Kind of like those people in all of our lives who remain steadfast and true. The ones that you might take for granted on a daily basis when your attention is on some dazzling shooting star for the moment.
I like to believe that I endeavor to take notice of ALL the changes in my garden and my loved ones in all of the seasons of the year and not just when they have a shining moment. Those day-to-day moments of appreciating the love, abundance and beauty all around us are worth remembering this week of thanks, no matter what color it is that they present themselves.
This week, take a breath, pause to enjoy your families, friends and all of the blessings that the colors in your world bring.
Warmest wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving foliage fanatics!
Christina & Karen

Six Ways to Make the Most of Fall Foliage

IMG_6759There is no doubt about it – we have left summer behind. Instead of waking up to clear blue skies we are more likely to see grey storm clouds rolling in. The good news is that just because the sky is changing color doesn’t mean our gardens  have to. In fact if we focus on FOLIAGE fall can be one of the most vibrant seasons in the garden.

The key, however, is knowing how to create vignettes in the landscape to make the most of our fall foliage. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Create a vignette around a sculpture, container or other focal point in your garden.

Use a beautiful container

Use a beautiful container as a focal point

In summer this grass is a delicate teal-blue, a perfect complement to the rustic container. In fall, as the grass takes on warm earth tones, the partnership changes. Now the grass echoes the brown pot rim as well as playing into the deeper shades of the container glaze.

Look behind the container and note the fall color of a Japanese maple. This repeats the colors found in the grass, adding depth to the scene.

One pot, two seasonal vignettes – it’s all about the foliage.

2. Focus on textures

IMG_1284This is a Japanese maple of unknown heritage. It was given to me by a friend as a 6″ cutting and after several years is still only a petite 5′ tall, yet its fall color is remarkable and deserves to be showcased. How to do that without overwhelming this small tree?

Rather than adding bold contrasting color nearby I elected instead to use  wispy tan grasses. Thieir delicate texture allows the small maple foliage to be the star in this garden scene.

3. Use existing structures as a backdrop for exciting foliageIMG_1217The paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is a year round, five star tree known primarily for its cinnamon colored peeling bark – a highlight of the winter garden. However its fall foliage is also outstanding, turning fiery shades of coral, rose and amber over a period of several weeks. The warm brown cedar shingles of the nearby cabin are a perfect foil for such bright leaves.

4. Take advantage of a borrowed landscape

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The beautiful maple in the foreground is Acer palmatum Koto-no-ito which means ‘harp strings’; a very apt name for the fine, thread-like foliage. The tree is so delicate, however, that I was unsure how to plant around it. I wanted to showcase its fall color yet not compete with its shape. The answer was to become a virtual-thief!

Our property boundary lies just behind the two red leaved American sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) seen above – beyond that is a neighboring parcel of land. From this perspective my beautiful maple tree is framed initially by the sweetgums and then by the glorious yellow and gold of the distant alders and cottonwoods. I’ve ‘borrowed’ them to use in my own fall foliage vignette. Shhhh

5. Create windows to reveal smaller beautiesIMG_1354In my large garden it is easy for small trees to get ‘lost’ no matter how beautiful their fall color. One solution has been to limb up this row of ornamental pear trees to create windows into the woodland beyond. Notice the vivid orange Lions Head maple (Acer shishigashira) and crimson Purple Ghost maple (Acer p. ‘Purple Ghost’) are revealed as specimens by doing this.

6. Go for all out COLOR!IMG_4150Don’t be bashful – go for high contrast! This Grace smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’)  is fabulous no matter where you put it, but look how striking the early fall foliage is when combined with the sunny yellow ash trees. No apologies needed – just have FUN.

And that’s what our fall gardens should be – an all out  FOLIAGE PARTY. As you visit the nursery for your new foliage treasure ask yourself how best to showcase it? Maybe you need to buy a few more plants to keep it company???

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Focal Points with Foliage

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Trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and container designs with foliage as the focus is a design paradigm that is finally gaining the attention it deserves. This lovely Weeping Willow planted at the Bloedel Reserve outside of Seattle is a great example of how much forethought went into this view many years ago.

May 2011 Kerry Oldenberg 005

However, a focal point created with foliage doesn’t have to be something planned out 50 years ago. You can have a sophisticated foliage combination by your front door that adds drama to a shady entryway and provides a transitional and versatile, season to season container.

November 2011 Sue Richards Containers 009-001

A showy fall container on your back deck or patio to brighten up a gray autumn or winter day is an appreciated focal point element in many climates.

August 2012 Foliage and Bloom 570 copy

A path designed with lush foliage and texture as the focus might just be leading you to a WOW factor, view or vignette at the end of the path.

August 2012 Foliage and Bloom 527

September 2011 Scott & Dina Ferris Balcony 026-001

Or maybe that foliage focal point IS your entire design. 🙂 So, how do you use foliage in YOUR focal point designs?

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