Tag Archives: variegation

The Foliage Backstory

Savvy Solution – as featured in Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017)

We’re delighted to hear that you have been enjoying our new book Gardening with Foliage First – thank you for all your encouraging messages telling us how  inspiring the combinations have been!

Behind every published combination there were typically several dozen images taken from unique perspectives or framed in different ways. You see even when we knew we had found an exciting vignette, it often took a few attempts to  discover the best way to present it to you. With that in mind, we thought you might enjoy this ‘behind the scenes’ peek at the evolution of  Savvy Solution  discovered in Mary Palmer’s  garden in Snohomish, WA.

Initial inspiration

Walking down one of several intriguing pathways, this scene is what initially caught my eye:

Stopped in my tracks by this Foliage First combo

I was struck by the color echo between the variegated Color Guard yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’), golden juniper and acid-yellow blooms of the spurge (Euphorbia), all contrasting with the dark red barberry and framing a triumphant explosion of blue sea holly (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’). Yet this angle seemed a little too busy, the horizontal roof line was distracting, the bare tree-trunks were rather too dominant, plus I was tantalized by glimpses of a large, silver leaf hiding behind the spurge, so I continued a little farther down the path.

Hidden Treasures

Soft and spiky – a great textural treat just waiting to be discovered

Now I could see what I’d been missing and fell in love with the steroidal, silvery foliage of yellow mullein (Verbasum epixanthinum). What fun to see the sea holly valiantly poking through those velvety leaves!

However this was just one part of a much wider scene that now opened up.

Too much of a good thing?

This is where this member of Team Fine Foliage had to be resuscitated with a recuperative glass of wine – WOW! Where to begin? From this perspective I could still appreciate the relationship between the yucca, spurge, sea holly, barberry and mullein but now there was a tall dark-leaved daphne (Daphne houtteana) and a golden incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens Berrima Gold), joining in the fun. Success? Not quite – I could live with the glimpse of the home’s roofline – but not the landscapers red truck visible through the stems. There also seemed to be too many vertical lines confusing the story in the upper left quadrant

The final cut

So a slight angle change and a final re-framing was called for, to focus the story on the key plants – and Savvy Solution was born.

As we tell you in our book “If you want drama without the dramatics, this may be your answer. Thriving in poor, dry soil and a sun-drenched site, this trio will reward you with color, fragrance, foliage and flowers. The juxtaposition of soft and spiky textures with the alluring color scheme of silver, blue and yellow creates a memorable combination. All three plants are deer resistant and drought tolerant, making them a wise choice for many landscapes.

To get information on how this design will evolve over time as well as full plant profiles just turn to pages 24-25. Then enjoy the other 126 combinations we found for you!

Did you know?

The Royal Horticultural Society recommended Gardening with Foliage First in their latest RHS Garden magazine (May issue) ? They also included it in their spring books promotion throughout their shops and mail-order service! A huge honor and one that the British half of Team Fine Foliage is especially appreciative of 🙂

Meanwhile it continues to rock the Amazon charts on this side of the Pond – have you got YOUR copy yet?

 

 

 

Luscious Layers with Foliage First

We have earned the right to whine a bit about our weather here in the Seattle area lately with record-setting rains the likes of which have not been seen since records were kept in this area. The gardens are all in quite a state of shock and disorientation, so when I went to look back at this date last year, it was quite amazing to fathom the variance!
Hostas and Saxifrage are Luscious Layers with Foliage FirstI found this shot in last years file for this same week in 2016 photographed in an amazing garden called PowellsWood. This garden is very close to my heart as they spoil me SO much as a designer and a photographer. But, also because it’s an exquisite gem of a garden.

Just look at those layers of hosta fern, grass and ‘Variegata’ saxifrage in full blooming glory for spring! So what’s the design recipe here? Add one white variegated hosta, one solid blue hosta, and marbled golden saxifrage WITH the graceful show of spring flowers. Following those saxifrage blooms will be the hosta flowers and now you have a recipe that Team Fine Foliage and Foliage First would say is a BIG winner for demonstrating how to have luscious layers in the shade garden this year. The ferns and grass are bonus elements!

With some luck and possibly a drought we may be slightly less damp in July than we are today. But, I still have to shave the moss on my legs this week! 😉

Is it time for you to tackle that less-than-stellar shade garden? You’ll get lots more ideas for plant combinations that put Foliage First in our two books.

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Fine Foliage Dusted with Snow

My front sidewalk lined with alternating dwarf barberry and euonymus and powdered sugar like snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had our first little snow event in the Seattle area this morning, so I just wanted to share a few shots of the lovely foliage. Well, the foliage close enough to while still in my jammies. 🙂

Nandina 'Gulf Stream' peeking up through the snow and showing her jaunty red in the white landscape this morning.

Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’ peeking up through the snow and showing her jaunty red in the white landscape this morning.

The tips on this little half-high blueberry in the pots that mark my front entry walk are beautiful in every month of the year. AND you get fruit!

The tips on this little half-high blueberry in the pots that mark my front entry walk are beautiful in every month of the year. AND you get fruit!

The foliage of sedum 'Angelina' go from gold to lime in winter. I LOVE how it looks in the lavender pot against the coral bells truly purple foliage ('Forever Purple').

The foliage of sedum ‘Angelina’ go from gold to lime in winter. I LOVE how it looks in the lavender pot against the coral bells grape- purple foliage (‘Forever Purple’).

Euonymous 'Silver King' holds up like a champ in all kinds of weather and the gold shows up so well too!

Euonymus ‘Silver King’ holds up like a champ in all kinds of weather and the gold shows up so well too!

Fine Foliage Dusted with Snow

Certain textures like this hebe are quite exaggerated with the snowy backdrop.

THIS is why I planted a variegated holly!

THIS is why I planted a variegated holly!

This 'Threadleaf' nandina looked SO pretty in the melting snow.

This ‘Threadleaf’ nandina looked SO lovely in the melting snow.

The stems where once intensely colored blue berries on this viburnum 'Davidii' reveal a rosy pink in the snow.

The stems where once intensely colored blue berries on this viburnum ‘Davidii’ reveal a rosy pink in the snow.

One of my favorite plants, Euphorbia 'Silver Swan' looks great in the snow too. I love that blue!

One of my favorite plants, Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ looks great in the snow too. I love that blue!

Speaking of BLUE! This chamaecyperis is one of the bluest blues year round and looks great against the hydrangeas for most of the year, even with the dried flowers.

Speaking of BLUE! This chamaecyperis is one of the bluest blues year round and looks great against the hydrangeas for most of the year, even with the dried flowers.

The snow capped seed heads in black and brown of the Ninebark look neat weeping over under the weight of snow.

The snow capped seed heads in black and brown of the Ninebark look neat weeping over under the weight of snow.

Mexican Orange is not feeling like summer right now, but the golden glow of this evergreen foliage still brings us a bit of sun.

This Mexican Orange is not feeling like summer right now, but the golden glow of this evergreen foliage still brings us a bit of sun.

Since our new book "Gardening with Foliage First" is due out very soon, we feature berries, bark and all of the wonderful things that partner WITH great foliage. These bright red wintergreen berries are a wonderful example for winter.

Since our new book “Gardening with Foliage First” is due out very soon, we feature berries, bark and all of the beautiful things that partner WITH great foliage. These bright red wintergreen berries are an excellent example for winter.

 

Ready for winter now? This is a good time to be inside and taking stock of your winter landscape to see how everything looks in the colder months and where you can tweak or add some more interest to your garden of foliage.

If you’re still doing some holiday shopping, consider (click the link) pre-ordering “Gardening with Foliage First” for the gardeners on your list and they will get it just after the New Year to begin planning their landscape for 2017!

Happy Holidays, CHEERS!

 

 

Easy Window Box Display

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Why make things complicated?

This window box is one of the few  spots that deer seem to ignore. Maybe they consider it isn’t worth the effort to bushwhack through the abelia, step over the fountain or navigate the narrow path? Whatever the reason I’m happy to have the opportunity to use colorful foliage that would get eaten elsewhere.

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Receiving only three hours of indirect light in the afternoon, this window box sits beneath the front window of my garden cabin, looking onto a 4 foot  deep porch. It isn’t truly dark on the porch but between the eaves and the surrounding plants it is most definitely only suitable for shade loving plants.

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It would be easy to design an over the top display with lots of different plants and colors but this window box is merely one part of a much larger vignette so I prefer to keep things simple. I add enough color to pull the eye back onto the porch but have the planting become just one more element within the broader picture of sunset shades. Even in September, as the perennial Zagreb tickseed (Coreopsis v. ‘Zagreb’) are pushing out their last few flowers this foliage focused window box packs a colorful punch.

The foliage framework

Lava Rose coleus

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This Lava Rose trailing coleus is similar in habit to Burgundy Wedding Train but  the addition of hot pink and creamy white really help this to be seen in the shade.

The “I know I’ll find the tag somewhere” coleus

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I remember putting the tag somewhere safe….. Regardless of its name, it was included in the window box because it had a tidy mounding habit and the colors were perfect.That gold really popped against the cedar siding

Illumination periwinkle

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Illumination has a distinct yellow variegation (Wojo’s Gem is more cream). Perfect to trail over the edge

The Finishing Touch

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Many tropical house plants are suitable for a summer vacation on a shady porch; Dakota Anthurium is one of them. When frost threatens I’ll bring this indoors and see if I can keep it alive (I’m not very successful when it comes to indoor plants unless they thrive on benign neglect).

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Easy Peasy – Foliage First! Now I do believe there is an exciting new book with that title…..

Want more ideas?

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New Introductions – New Favorites

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

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

Summer Ruffle Hibiscus

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Hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

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

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

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hibiscus ‘Summer Ruffle’

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

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Lots of blooms on this young shrub

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

Purple Preference Euphorbia

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Euphorbia ‘Purple Preference’

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

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

Quicksilver artemisia

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Quicksilver artemisia

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

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

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

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

Cool Splash Diervilla (Bush honeysuckle)

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Cool Splash foliage in full sun

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

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Northern bush honeysuckle grown in full sun

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

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

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Cool Splash grown in dry shade

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

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

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Gentsch White Canadian hemlock

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

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Wildeve rose

Pearl Glam beautyberry

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White flower buds on Pearl Glam beautyberry

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

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

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

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Pearl Glam beautyberry

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

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

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

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Garden Tour Gems

I had the opportunity to attend the Woodinville Garden Club annual garden tour this past weekend. This is always a highlight of the garden tour season for me and over the years I have made many new friends and discovered several outstanding gardens that we have been able to share with you through the pages of Fine Foliage as well as our upcoming new book Gardening with Foliage First.

These are just a few of the artistic, foliage-focused  combinations that had me reaching for my camera.

All about the foliage

Starting in true Fine Foliage style, the first group are a selection that rely fully on leafy goodness for their good looks. Since the homeowners and volunteers were extremely busy I was unable to get some plant names but will add them as I can.

Japanese maples are always a favorite – I thought this was a lovely way to highlight the delicate layers.

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Love the way the deep rosy leaf of the Japanese maple (Shaina??) picks up on the vein detail of the Heuchera leaf (Solar Power?) and stems of the dwarf Rhododendron. Design by Victoria Gilleland.

Hardy impatiens is a stellar groundcover for the shade. Loved how it was allowed to mingle with this golden false cypress (Chamaecyparis)

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The yellow central vein of a hardy impatiens assumes greater importance when adjacent to a golden conifer. Design by Victoria Gilleland

One of my favorite conifers is the Rheingold arborvitae so this trio captured my imagination.

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A silver leaved daisy bush, a bronze sedge and Rheingold arborvitae all thrive in full sun. Design by Joe Abken

And then there were plant combinations that were as unique as they were colorful…. Fabulous layers of foliage including a variegated cherry laurel (I think this is Prunus laurocerasus ‘Marble White’) and a new purple leaved hydrangea called Plum Passion had us all swooning. Mmmm.

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LOVE this hydrangea!!! Design by Victoria Gilleland

Of course no garden tour is complete without getting on my hands and knees to photograph hidden treasures such as this container.

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Loved the light shining through the Trusty Rusty coleus and onto the Sparks May Fly begonia. Design by Joe Abken

Talking of coleus, I must find out the name of this variety with the twisted leaves and toothed edges.

IMG_8125Loved how designer and homeowner Joe Abken had paired it with a hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) – which had me on my knees again so I could show you the burgundy veins underneath the leaf…..

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Design by Joe Abken

Adding layers

Our new book will show you how to layer additional elements onto  a foliage framework . Flowers, buds, bark, art – all are possible! This selection of images shows you how it’s done.

This scene, again by Joe Abken shows how the cinnamon colored buds of a leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum)  play off the bronze foliage of a nearby Japanese maple.

When combined the visual strength of both is augmented;

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Design by Joe Abken

Likewise the soft blue-grey tones of a spruce and snowberry (Symphoricarpos) make for a monochromatic backdrop to show off the delicate pink flowers, that in turn echo the color of the stems.

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Design by Joe Abken

And then there are flowers that have equally eye catching foliage so you can’t possibly go wrong! See what happens when you combine Golden Lanterns Himalayan honeysuckle and Fuchsia speciosa .

Add Little Heath andromeda (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) and you get MAGIC

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Which is your favorite?

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One Leaf – Oodles of Options

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Sometimes you need something different to liven up the shade tapestry of ferns, hostas and hellebores. Painter’s Palette knotweed (Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’) might be just the answer. This isn’t the highly invasive knotweed that threatens to engulf both ornamental and native plantings, but a better-behaved relative. Having said that, it is still quite vigorous and spreads by underground rhizomes as well as seed, especially in moist soil. I have found that in drier conditions it spreads very little, so choose your site wisely and consult your local Extension office if in doubt.

Why we like it

Mottled green and cream foliage is splashed irregularly with raspberry shades, and most leaves have a burgundy chevron. Painter’s Palette forms a mound of foliage, and an abundance of wiry stems of unusual red flowers rises above in midsummer. As an herbaceous perennial, it will die down in winter, which allows ephemeral spring-blooming bulbs to be tucked in underneath.

While suffering mild slug damage it is mostly ignored by deer and rabbits and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. It copes with clay soil and thrives in moist conditions but never gets watered in my woodland gardens and does just fine so appears to be reasonably drought tolerant providing the soil holds adequate moisture.

Recommended for partial sun it will take more sun if kept well watered,

How to use it

Of course the question is, what other plants can we combine with it to really show it off? Well there are plenty of options to choose from. Seeking out other foliage plants that echo the creamy tone is a good way to start then highlight the rose chevron detail with an accent flower or leaf.

In the example below the green and cream are repeated by two other adjacent plants while the raspberry chevron is picked up by a planting of magenta phlox in the distance

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Clearly defined form helps distinguish these three variegated plants together with a carpet of solid green . Design by Daniel Mount, Seattle WA

Seattle designer Daniel Mount has got a remarkable eye for color and detail,  weaving plants together into  luxuriant tapestries that seduce the unwary visitor. How can you resist running your fingers through the cascading waterfall of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) or testing the springiness of the perfectly clipped variegated boxwood? This artistic combination is discussed in more detail here and we have several more of Daniel’s designs to share with you in our upcoming book Gardening with FOLIAGE FIRST (Timber Press, January 2017).

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland, OR

Thomas Vetter is another Pacific Northwest gardener with  an uncanny ability to shoehorn an abundance of plants into a relatively small space yet do so in a  strategic way to create layers of contrasting and complementary foliage with floral and other artistic accents added as precisely placed punctuation points.

Painter’s Palette knotweed brightens up a corner of his front garden, illuminating a purple smoke bush while adding a stage upon which the pineapple lily (Eucomis ) can truly show off her shapely form and flowers. See how those burgundy stems draw the eye to the chevron detail on the knotweed? The faded allium seedheads add a delightful  softness to the composition, juxtaposed with the bronze succulent foliage of the pineapple lily and mimicking its star shaped flowers.

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland OR

Nearby  this knotweed variety is given a new twist by introducing the red bell-shaped blooms of a flowering maple (Abutilon) and flirty Hot Lips sage (Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’) both of which serve to really pull out its rosy foliage markings. Balancing the wispiness of the Hot Lips sage, a variegated agave adds bold texture and form while Fire Power heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica ‘Fire Power’) transitions the color palette into more golden hues.

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Design by Thomas Vetter, Portland, OR

When viewed from a different angle, one can better appreciate the clever use of contrasting leaf texture while repeating the key colors in this vignette.

What would YOU pair this with? Do leave a comment here or post a photo to our Facebook page! And stand by for a truly STUNNING combination using Painter’s Palette knotweed in our new book, designed by Daniel Mount. It’s one of my personal favorites.

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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?)

Oh MY Iris!!!

There are grasses and all manner of spiky plants to add colorful texture in the garden, but its extraordinary to find iris with phenomenal foliage used to great effect. It used to be something rare and unique, but now iris of all kinds are being favored for the personality they bring to the landscape with leaves and not just flouncy flowers. 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Paired here with a lavender Japanese primrose (Primula sieboldii), these variegated yellow flag iris make a classy color combination for spring at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Now look at how different that same iris looks with the emerging new foliage of this astilbe. Red and yellow are so vibrant together! 

Oh MY Iris!!!The the same iris again in front of this deep green ilex….. I don’t think fans of foliage would have hurt feelings if I said that I wouldn’t feel bad if this never bloomed would you? 

Oh MY Iris!!!
This beautiful German style iris is perfectly suited to this spring display with Forget-Me-Nots, Iceland poppy, pale yellow carex grass and moonlight toned wallflower. I have to hand it to the designers at Chanticleer, they know how to make a fashion statement all right! 

Oh MY Iris!!!

Another Siberian iris ‘Gerald Darby’ makes you stop in your tracks to get down and check out the marvelous legs on this plant! Blue-purple and not even a flower yet. Imagine the design possibilities! 

For more information on the amazing world of iris, see “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts” from our good friend of Fine Foliage Kelly Norris. And a good companion option for all of the other amazing iris selections out there is this one, “Bearless Irises: A Plant for every Garden Situation” by Kevin C. Vaughn.

In the mean time, join us over on our Facebook page for more daily doses of leafy inspiration by clicking HERE!

When You Need FIERCE Foliage

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Do you need to get TOUGH? Warm climate gardeners can use this vicious Euphorbia x ambohipotsiensis to keep curious animals out of their garden; I need a solution for Seattle.

I’m working on re-designing a clients suburban front garden with a primary heartfelt plea to “please stop the neighbors  dogs  using this as a bathroom”.

I totally understand their frustration. They love dogs  although they don’t currently have any pups of their own. However you wouldn’t know that from the amount of time they spend cleaning up after everybody else’s dogs!  I remember watching one lady casually standing by, her little dog on its leash, watching and waiting as the dog did its business in my own front garden many years ago.  I rushed out to confront her, incensed that she thought this was perfectly acceptable behavior! (She never did that again).

While I can’t train the dog owners, one thing I can do for these homeowners is make the garden less desirable and harder to access for canines while still maintaining an aesthetically pleasing outlook that works with the neighborhood. Local regulations prevent me from adding a fence so I will mound up the soil creating a berm and add a number of chunky boulders. Between these I will plant some thorny, low growing barberries. This is where dogs have better judgement than some owners as they will quickly recognize this as a ‘no go’ zone. It’s just no fun  to sniff around in between prickly bushes!

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Concorde barberry retains its luscious deep grape color all season

Barberries are not invasive in our area so I am using the burgundy Concorde (Berberis thunbergii ‘Concorde’) that will grow into tidy 3′ mounds as well as the low growing dwarf coral hedge barberry (Berberis x stenophylla ‘Corallina Compacta’) which has evergreen dark green leaves and vivid orange flowers.

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Aloe are interspersed with less prickly companions on this rocky hillside at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens

In warmer climates you may consider agave, aloe and other super-spiny succulents and cacti. Remember to deter dogs, something low growing and/or wide spreading is the most effective.

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Now THIS could work – but sadly not where I live. Huntingdon Botanical Garden, CA

Other options might include groundcover type roses e.g. the Flower Carpet series.

Deterring Larger Intruders

Whether two footed or four, there are times when one might need to deter larger visitors from trampling your garden – or gaining access to a window. This is when we need super-sized, thorny shrubs.

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Pretty marbled colors of Rose Glow barberry

My first call is still for barberries which I use to send deer on a detour around the outer perimeter of our large island border. Rose Glow (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’) is inexpensive, easy to find and the burgundy foliage splashed with cream and pink works well as a backdrop for most plants. With each deciduous shrub forming a 4′ x 4′ fountain a hedge of these creates a formidable barrier.

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Gorgeous spring flowers on an evergreen barberry; UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens

The larger evergreen barberries typically have orange flowers which look stunning against the glossy dark green leaves. Darwin barberry (Berberis darwinii) and William Penn (Berberis x gladwynensis ‘William Penn’) are two popular varieties but there are many others.

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Love the pincushion of extra spines on this hedgehog holly

Hollies are also a great option; specifically those that are sterile. I have just purchased a nice big hedgehog holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ ). Love the bright variegation and extra cream-colored spikes on some of those leaves!

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Goshiki Japanese holly is a great choice for barrier planting

Japanese holly (Osmanthus h. ‘Goshiki’) has similar spiny leaves to true hollies without the concern for invasive tendencies . For some reason mine have not done well over the past few winters, even though last year was quite mild. They have lost almost all their leaves so I am slowly replacing them with other shrubs. Still a great choice for many gardeners, however, and they can easily be sheared to keep to a smaller size.

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Charity Oregon grape is a favorite of mine – and hummingbirds

There are many varieties of Oregon grape (Mahonia species) that you could turn to. The taller varieties such as Winter Sun, Arthur Menzies and Charity will all work well as deterrents in areas that get afternoon shade and the yellow flowers attract hummingbirds and bees.

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Those stiff spines on the stems and leaves are SHARP!

Gunnera might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of thorny plants but the stems on these giants are definitely wicked. If you have moist soil and lots of space this could be an option, making a great visual statement from spring-fall. Sadly it won’t help much in winter as this is a perennial and will be dormant during that time.

Going All Out

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Part of Loree Bohl’s garden in Portland, OR

One notable gardener has created the infamous Danger Garden. Loree Bohl has turned her Portland lot into a remarkable showcase for all things fierce. You can re-read the article we wrote on her unique garden here.

We know you all have great ideas so do share! What plants do you use for fierce foliage – and what are you trying to deter? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

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