Tag Archives: Winter

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! 

 

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 Combinations for Winter

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Get ideas from your winter containers – here colorful conifers are paired with blooming winter heather and a humble pansy

The secret to adding winter interest to the garden is to create mini vignettes using just two or three elements. These colorful clusters will draw your eye and hold attention better than dotting individual evergreens around the landscape. By limiting the number of plants in each winter combination it also allows room for your other seasonal favorites such as  deciduous shrubs, herbaceous perennials and ephemeral spring bulbs.

As always, build that foliage framework first then layer in the finishing touch.

Here are some easy ideas for you to copy or use as a springboard for your own combinations.

Ruby and Amethyst Shades

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Snow Queen hydrangea photo credit; Monrovia

The eye catching foliage here is a Snow Queen oak leaf hydrangea – the leaves will typically remain on this shrub for much of the winter although the peeling bark of any exposed branches will only add to the textural feast. Paired with Goshiki Japanese holly, and Pink Frost hellebore the suffused pink tones are repeated and highlighted.

A perfect trio for dappled shade although the Japanese holly would be equally at home in full sun.

Using a Colorful Pot

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The bare bones foliage are all fairly pedestrian – a Silver King euonymus, blue star juniper and Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo. Add a rustic pot that marries all those colors together and BAM! – suddenly this is transformed into a year round vignette. Use this as a focal point near the front door and it will always say ‘welcome home.’

Sunshine in the Shade

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Three evergreens – a columnar yew, Sundance Mexican orange blossom and beesia. With varying leaf shapes and form this trio could be used to establish a bright spot in an otherwise shady corner of the garden. Perhaps add in some golden bleeding heart for pink spring flowers to play next to those of the beesia and you’re set.

Monochromatic Elegance

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The key to having this Gentsch White Canadian hemlock look its best is tip pruning in spring. This stimulates the beautiful white new growth that really makes this  conifer a star for the shade. Create that shade with a river birch tree and you will get to enjoy the peeling bark while adding a sweep of Monte Cristo hellebore at the base will introduce those welcome winter flowers

Hummingbird Favorite

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My Charity Oregon grape is in full bloom right now and the hummingbirds are fighting over the yellow flowers! If I can ward off the rabbits I’m going to try adding some Everillo carex to the base to repeat the golden color. Unlike Japanese forest grass this is evergreen so the foliage and flowers will appear together. The shiny purple Spellbound heuchera would be great for contrast as well as giving the birds a spring time treat with the abundant flowering spires.

Berry Beauty

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Holiday colors here! The clusters of berries on the Parney cotoneaster look festive and echo the colorful red twig dogwood stems. The foliage framework is provided by the deeply veined cotoneaster leaves which have a silvery white underside as well as the bright foliage of Winter Chocolate heather which will go through several color changes during the year. (Check to see if this cotoneaster is invasive in your area before planting)

Caramel Deliciousness

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Autumn fern, Teddy Bear rhododendron (with its fuzzy orange indumentum), Creme Brulee heuchera and orange hair sedge – swoon worthy…….sigh

Delicate Details

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From the cinnamon colored peeling bark of the paperbark maple that echoes the burnished copper foliage of Robert Chapman heather and stems of the dwarf Ramapo rhododendron to the exquisite shade of blue-green that the rhodie contributes to be joined in spring by purple flowers – this is all about the details.

Got you thinking? Tell us YOUR favorite winter trio – you always inspire us. For more ideas be sure to get our NEW BOOK Gardening with Foliage First. It is available to pre-order on Amazon NOW, shipping in January. There are oodles of new ideas for winter interest in there just for YOU.

Five Reasons Why We’re in Love with Fall Foliage

Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThere are all of the text book, expected reasons to love fall foliage of course. But, we like to keep you on your toes with ideas and combinations that might stretch your design muscles. Even friendly partners of fall foliage counts!

Five Reason Why We We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 1:  The awe-inspiring world of conifers for fall. No matter where you live there are incredible options to feature conifers in the landscape year round. From diminutive to giant, there is an incredible conifer option to fill every situation. Whether a Lemon Cypress or the Italian Cypress as above, exclamation points are helpful when making design points.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageGold is something that we often talk about in this blog. When it comes to conifers, gold can be a stylish and showy option in a cold climate for fall. It stands out beautifully against anything you show it against. Many gardeners don’t realize that there are even conifers that change color in the fall and winter. Cryptomeria is one of our favorites that turns a lovely burnished red in autumn.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage Number 2: Now add grasses to your conifers and fall landscapes and you get even more design inspiration options! This Little Bluestem grass is the MOST divine color in fall against the blue of the Weeping blue Atlas Cedar.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThese golden arborvitae are another way to show off the extraordinary color of the Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) grass in autumn.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage We also love the tall blond amazingness that is Karl Foerster grass that brings such a strict verticality to the lateral structure of this pine.
Five Reasons We're in Love with Fall Foliage The fluffy puffiness of this stipa is an interesting echo of shapes against the weeping Japanese maple in the background.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 3: When late season perennials show off great seed heads that are SO perfect against fall foliage, it’s an easy win-win. Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia) are a natural choice for a prolific and easy flowering perennial.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageAstilbe seed heads are one of Team Fine Foliage favorites, shown here against the incredible coral toned bark of the ‘Pacific Fire’ Vine Maple.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 4: Evergreen plants that change color! WHAAATTTTT? Yes indeed there are many hardy, evergreen plants that DO change color in fall and winter and the Calluna vulgaris above is  just one of those options. These fall into the group of plants many of you might know as heath’s and heathers. They come in a rainbow of colors and many change dramatically in fall and winter.
Five reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageThe heaths and heathers that change color SO well in fall and winter are also late season bloomers. One more reason to love them!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageOrange and blue are an unexpected fall and winter combo to be sure!
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageSedum ‘Angelina’ is a top performer, possibly even a little “too easy” at times, but for all of her potential flaws she has some excellent qualities too. We adore her burnished apricot tones in fall and winter and rely on them after she is done with her audacious chartreuse performance in spring and summer.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageNumber 5: Try the not-so-obvious choices for fall and winter interest! This soft leaf yucca lends a tropical feeling and a green-blue color that pairs so well with the traditional fall colors.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall Foliage Speaking of blue! This Donkey-tail Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) is an amazing blue textural interest. Mixed here with Sedum ‘Angelina’ before she shows off her russet tones in the cold weather to come, we can still get a taste of that soon to be color when we focus on the INCREDIBLE peeling bark of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in this combo.
Five Reasosn Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageWant to have some function to your fall fashion? Well then grapes might be an excellent way for you to get your fall color and eat it too! These happen to be an ornamental form of the typical edible vine, but you can still eat these grapes though they are smaller.
Five Reasons Why We're in Love with Fall FoliageLayer, layer layer! Whether evergreen, grassy, seeded or for the sheer personality of it all, get out there and fall in love with some new ideas for autumn!

Want to know about what Team Fine Foliage thinks about designing with foliage though all four seasons? Then you came to the right place! Click here for more info on our upcoming book coming out in early 2017 from Timber Press titled “Gardening with Foliage First”. 

If you aren’t already enjoying our weekly wit and design wisdom then you NEED to click that button over there >>>>>>>>> to get Fine Foliage delivered to your email easy-peasy like! 🙂

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?
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Cool Color on Fresh Foliage

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage

 

Cool Color on Fresh Foliage, White Ornamental Kale

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

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

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

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage

Cool Color for Fresh Foliage, Dappled Willow, Variegated Comfrey

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

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

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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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End of the Year Fine Foliage HOT List

As we wrap up 2015, lets take a speedy peek at what is looking fantastic in foliage and twig for the rest of winter. If cabin fever is starting to hit you, dreaming and planning for how you can add these amazing winter details to your landscape and containers is a good idea!

Contorted Filbert takes center stage in this large container for winter interest in the front garden landscape.

Contorted Filbert takes center stage in this large container for winter interest in the front garden landscape.

Hellebore foliage is ALWAYS the height of fashion!

Hellebore foliage is ALWAYS the height of fashion!

Need a classy, hardy tree for your landscape to replace troublesome disease mongers who don't perform well? The Paperbark Maple has it ALL!

Need a classy, hardy tree for your landscape to replace troublesome disease mongers who don’t perform well? The Paperbark maple has it ALL!

This young Paperbark maple shows off the famous reddish peeling bark.

This young Paperbark maple shows off the famous reddish peeling bark.

Grasses may be frozen where you are, but even cold grasses are beautiful when the low winter light shines through.

Grasses may be frozen where you are, but even cold grasses are beautiful when the low winter light shines through. Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ is a wonderful one for it’s “Bunny Tails” that wave their fuzzy little tops in winter wind.

Are you collecting amazing dwarf conifers yet? Team Fine Foliage hopes so! When you add a fabulous grass like Carex 'Everest' you just doubled down on your landscape investment by adding a light and airy variegated plant too.

Are you collecting amazing dwarf conifers yet? Team Fine Foliage hopes so! When you add a fabulous grass like Carex ‘Everest’ you just doubled down on your landscape investment by adding a light and airy variegated plant too.

I am FULLY obsessed with this winter combo pot near my front entry; A half-high blueberry and 'Midget' ivy in full on winter color finery!

I am FULLY obsessed with this winter combo pot near my front entry; A half-high blueberry and ‘Midget’ ivy in full on winter color finery!

Who says winter containers have to be bland and boring?! Amp up the color with light foliage like Heuchera 'Lime Rickey', one of our favorite shrubs, Pieris 'Little Heath', a handsome white tipped Hemlock shrub named 'Gentsch White' and just a peekaboo of white variegated Acorus grass.

Who says winter containers have to be bland and boring?! Amp up the design energy with light foliage like Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’, one of our favorite shrubs, Pieris ‘Little Heath’, a handsome white tipped Hemlock shrub named ‘Gentsch White’ and just a peekaboo of white variegated Acorus grass.

Last but NOT least is the UBER drama that this amazing foliage brings to a mild climate landscape or container! This is 'Camouflage' Variegated Japanese Aralia up against the amazing color of azaleas showing off their red winter foliage. What a combo!!

Last but NOT least is the UBER drama that this amazing foliage brings to a mild climate landscape or container! This is ‘Camouflage’ Variegated Japanese Aralia up against the amazing color of azaleas showing off their red winter foliage. What a combo!!

Team Fine Foliage wishes you a happy, healthy and super LEAFY 2016!!!

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