Garden Designers Roundtable – Finer Points of Details in the Garden September 25, 2012
As the sign of the Virgo, my detail-oriented nature is ruled by the mind. Virgos are always analyzing everything, with a penchant for working with very precise and detailed designs on a more focused scale than many signs. I notice everything- when it comes to the garden. In that way, I’m the classic definition of a Virgo, the love of fine points, minutiae, particulars, specifics and technicalities.
I think that’s one reason why I love photographing the garden so much. To me it’s really all about the details. It allows another type of focus that you don’t get when you’re purely experiencing the garden with touch, smell, taste and sounds.
Today, I’ve rounded up a group of fabulous recent pictures that help you understand how I see the details at this late summer/early autumn season. ENJOY!
Be sure to visit the other Lords and Ladies of the Garden Designers Roundtable for September to see how they interpret the details.
Grand November Day In The Garden November 10, 2011
THIS is one day in the garden that I am thrilled to be able to document today. The quality of the light made the fall colors quite extraordinary.
Today is one of those stunning fall days that we all have to make note of when we have unending rain, snow or dreary gray skies that will be here very soon. Or technically already should be here.
I’m home sick today with some kind of crud that has had me down for 5 days now. But, NOTHING was going to stop me from going out in my jammies to get pics of the garden today. NOTHING!
As I sit here at my desk writing this, the sun is hitting my back, it’s a little hot. Maybe that’s a fever talking.
I wanted you to be able to see what I saw this morning. It was glorious, I hope you think so too!
Choosing Winter Foliage That Says WOW! October 31, 2011
How do you choose your foliage palette for your garden? Does it vary from season to season or do you keep it a tight color scheme of just a couple of colors year round?
When I’m shopping and designing for a client in the Fall and Winter, it takes on a completely different feeling than in the abundant and effervescent summer when you can nearly throw a dart out in the nursery and hit combinations of plants that will play well together.
This time of the year I have to think much more about the textural effects and the vivid or subtle nature of foliage colors together. This raises my passion for this process to a whole new level. The challenge and yet sometimes the utter simplicity of this task when all is said and done are among my highest highs.
Recently, I had the fun opportunity to put together a couple of custom containers for a client to sell at a charity auction. I was short on time and even more short on plants at the ready. I made a special shopping trip to get a bunch of colorful options to go with the particular color of pots I had in mind.
The client’s only request was that they look very fall’ish. I was very pleased with the result, but even more so with the ease with which they went together. I based it on what I call my “Garanimals of Fall/Winter Plant List”. You can read more about this here.
Now I’m onto another Fall and Winter design using foliage as the focus. I picked up a whole bunch of plants the other day and as I unloaded them from my car, I was tickled at what a great start I had from just the plants sitting in the driveway in boxes!
Tomorrow I go to get another load to go with them, since I have to get enough large-scale plants for three large containers. I’ll be looking for Nandina, Leucothoe, Choisya and maybe an Aucuba if I can find a good one. I have some great colors and textures to riff on. The flowers from the Hellebore will be fantastic in late winter. I love how they’re happily spitting out a few blooms now too!
Of course you know I’ll get some good shots of the pots when I’m done so you can see how they turn out. :-) I would love to hear how you see foliage in the garden working for you and how you choose them for various areas and focal points.
Smashing Autumn Foliage Combination October 6, 2010
Over the years I have created my “go-to” list of plants that have a bounty of the personality traits that I require for them to make it on to my special list. As designers, I’ve noticed that many of us tend to repeat using the plants on our “go-to” list over and over, because THEY make US look like we’re genius’!
A plant that makes it on THE list for me has these points going for them:
1) Great foliage- Seemingly obvious I know, but not everyone appreciates this when they are in the throes of passion for flowers at the nursery and garden center in Spring and Summer.
2) Flowers- This one is tricky because I don’t require the flowers to be ostentatious or bold and showy, but if they are – BONUS points!!
3) Plays well with others- If it’s an evergreen, it had better be an awesome tone, hue, shade or texture that I can marry well with others. I can think of a few “overused plants” that fit that category and need to be divorced from one another – think of the children!
4) Fall color- If it’s deciduous, it had better have great flowers AND fall color, those two are simply non-negotiable. Is that really So much to ask?
Now that you have a familiarity with what turns me on in a horticultural way, you will now understand why I have chosen to profile these two fantastic plants!
This shrub could have me waxing poetic about it for days. Graceful and hardy with insanely beautiful panicle flowers bigger than my head! Not poetic, but you feel my passion, right?
The oak leaf shaped foliage lends itself to so many plant combinations that I can’t imagine why every garden with a shady corner does not have one! Every plant space, every school, every mall, every home in america. Except the desert ones of course. They have other beauties that I’m sure to love. But, every mortgage should require one like insurance for a beautiful garden in most of the country!
Watch out for the Hydrangea clause in your next mortgage contract!
Those blooms!! Through every stage of growth and all of the various colors as they morph, oh the bliss of those cool and elegant blossoms! Every time I look at these flowers it reminds me of fluffy white weddings. Or nougat candy, I’m not sure which is better.
Single flowers as well as double flowers are equally apt to cast a spell over you once you try this shrub! Then you might be inspired to deeper levels of exhilaration with a ‘Pee-Wee’ dwarf cultivar in a container or ‘Little Honey’ that glows a glorious chartreuse in the shade.
Yet, I am very comfortable with the clean and sophisticated look of these shrubs in a contemporary design setting as well. The ultra elegant fall color on the deep burgundy foliage as winter approaches is downright handsome! The blooms and foliage may both persist with strength and fortitude almost in a macho way, well into early winter here in my zone 7 area if they are sheltered from fall winds.
And now for something you’ll REALLY love: Sarcococca !! I can equally divide my enchantment between the nearly twin common forms of this fantastic little shrub/ground cover. I will love them in a separate but equal maternal way of course!
The fabulous ground cover form has long leaves of glossy, deep green that are reminiscent of the way a concert pianist holds their hands while they play a gentle note. OR writers who delicately tap on a computer keyboard blogging for hours at a time.
As a shade evergreen shrub this plant has many admirable attributes. However, none rival, surpass or even come close to equaling the fragrance that this tiny powerhouse of a flower can muster! Did I mention that it does this in January? I repeat, this flowering shrub will bloom in winter with a fragrance that is next to impossible to compare. It’s flowers are SO tiny, that if you do not marvel at how much perfume they generate in a small area, your gardening license may be revoked and your neighbors will have rights to come and sniff it ALL up!
I once took small cuttings for bud vases I made for party tables, trust me it didn’t take much more than a 6 inch piece to make a big impact in a room full of people! Passers by will walk up and down your block like zombies looking for the scent of flowers they can’t see. It’s pretty funny to watch this play out until they are almost rooting around in a garden and pop up wide-eyed to find the sweet smell coming from such a demure and refined source! I like to think of Sarcococca kind of like my Pug- “A lot of plant (dog) in a small space!”
The other common form of Sarcococca is the more upright form that creates a lovely boxwood feeling shrub in a part shade space too. With all the same attributes as it’s smaller cousin, ‘Ruscifolia’ has class and a myriad of fashionable uses. As a container plant in a shady entryway- can you imagine it in January???? Swoon….
Here’s the “Plays well with others” part of the Sarcococca story.
But wait- there’s more! I managed to get both of my picks for “Underused Plants” in one picture.
If you learned something new about these two wonderful plants, I’m thrilled. If you just voyeuristically enjoyed my pictures and goofy writing that’s all good too. But, if you had a horticultural epiphany about why you haven’t used these two plants more, then I am over the moon with joy!
Be certain to go and read all of this months posts on the topic of “Underused Plants” here at the Garden Designer’s Roundtable page and meet other Garden Designers who are just as passionate about their choices as I am!
Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA »
Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicago, IL »
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA »
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN »
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA »
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO »
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK »
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX »
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA »
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »
Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ »
Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold: Garden Life Home : Atlanta, GA »
Plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order” November 17, 2009
When I work with my Personal Garden Coaching clients, I am usually there to help correct one or more of these four problems:
- Correcting old outdated landscape designs installed by a builder who did not care much about plant selection.
- Even more common these days NEW landscapes that are over planted for quick sale on a new construction home. Then the poor client’s landscape reaches that magical age of about 4-5 years old and they are really in a world of hurt when it comes to expensive refurbishment.
- A former homeowner who did not have access to good plant selections back when the original landscape was installed 30-40 years ago.
- A homeowner who has been choosing plants when in the throes of Spring Fever, the garden has a fast blast of interest and then landscape the rest of the year is drab at best.
When you add-on top of that our climate being predominantly gray for a potential 10 months of the year, it can take some time to teach the reasoning behind choosing certain plants or more likely why NOT to choose certain plants.
The plant palette in a short season, gray climate has to work much harder than in a milder climate or even a harsher climate where a clear blue winter sky or loads of snow can create a wondrous complexity of colors and textures. (This is where my college Color Theory class serves me well!) Under our skies, colors can look very drab and muted here. Foliage, textures and combination’s need to be viewed under the auspices of a close up lens not a wide-angle lens.
Placing a plant or multiples of plants with a one-dimensional performance or personality is possible, but it takes a larger area to pull that off, so that other plants have room to contrast against them from a distance. Not to mention the investment factor, if a certain plant is going to make it home from the nursery, it better be a solid performer, for what we pay for these beauties nowadays. I think of it as real estate agent would, dollars per square foot in design performance!
In today’s generally smaller lots, most people will be viewing a design or particular plant much closer from the street, patio, or window than they may have seen them in years past. Therefore, each plant that I recommend has to have more than one reason to make it on to my list of “Go To” or “Best in Show” plants. In every plant category, evergreens, deciduous shrubs, perennials, ground covers, there are choices that I have relied on for the last 20 years or more to execute more than one distinct trait and to collaborate with others to create a consistent WOW factor over the changing seasons. I call those plants, plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order.”
For example, a Viburnum Bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’ with its lovely growth habit, early blooms before the exquisite foliage and last but definitely not least, the fall color. Now THAT is a home run example of a plant with all of the personality qualities that I would love to see in a top performer in the Northwest climate.
Another example would be a simple little evergreen shrublet that comes in many varying colors of foliage called Euonymous Fortunei. (Shown here with Sedum ‘October’ with its own personality that color changes through the season as well.) This plant has SO many options for sun and shade, as well as a wide variety of color mixes on the foliage to make a comfortable union in a white garden or a bold tropical inspired design. Even better though is that almost every cultivar turns a lovely rusty pink in the winter and then reverts to its former foliage color in spring. How cool is that?
Another great plant that has made its way on to my list of plants with multiple personality characteristics is the Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’. The show begins in early spring with the new foliage opening an intense hot coral color, then fading to a soft salmon just before it blooms with its dripping white clusters of sweet-scented bell-shaped flowers. In early summer it fades back to its original white variegated foliage, which is no slouch either!
Even though my “Go To” plant palette remains fairly consistent over the years, there has been a great shift in how they are used, by varying the combination’s, heights, drifts, textural mixes and matches, I have devised ways to design groupings that can fit many design styles and personalities.
My “Go-To” List also includes:
2. Any Heuchera, but today’s favorite is ‘Berry Smoothie’
How many plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order” are in your design “Go-To” list?
Winterhazel, Buttery Garden Goodness October 30, 2009
Resisting a good plant rescue is very hard for me. When I cam across a severed chunk of buttery Corylopsis Pauciflora a few years ago, it was about to go into the trash pile. Too good to pass up, I thought. And my gamble has rewarded me richly with pastry rich, butter colored, fragrant flowers in the spring and elegantly textured foliage.
Deciding whether I like it more in bloom, paired with deep pink Hellebore in April or with deep pink Chrysanthemums in fall is a tough challenge. Someone putting me up to a decision like that would very likely have to provide some sort of decision make pastry to sway me one way or the other.
Corylopsis is a spectacularly elegant alternative to Forsythia. When placed where you can appreciate the bloom and foliage up close, this plant earns it’s keep and gets better with every season. Pair it with darker foliage plants to really make her shine. I have it in a bed with Sambucus ‘Black Beauty’. Today, the Sambucus foliage has warmed from deep burgundy to a coppery bronze tone. Next to the Corylopsis it’s transcendent.
The most alluring point of interest about this plant to me is not the bloom, it’s the lovely foliage. Delicate, and deeply textured leaves are each a work of art unto themselves. And when they reach fall, the colors of butter yellow turn to ocher yellows and rich rustic amber.
Star of the Fall Show Needs Backup Singers October 28, 2009
The focus on all of the glorious color of fall is righteous indeed. After a spring and summer of sumptuous floral displays and vegetable tableau’s that can rival any formal shrub border, it’s only natural to get a bit more introspective about the use of the giant color wheel of fall and delve into the details. I also think it’s important to take a good, long step back and see who else is out there helping to make that color sing.
Top performers know there is a bevy of behind the scenes action that lifts up and supports the lead. They are all of the names that are rarely on the fronts of magazines or books. They dazzle in a more understated way. I like to think of them as the back up singers of the plant world. Silver and grey are the back-up singers that I regularly look for in most plant combination’s that I design. They are reliable, show up consistently, and are rarely demanding of the limelight.
Sometimes the melody under the song is even lovelier when you listen close. You could even think of it as an up light on the stage. The bold and bawdy red lead singer out in the front of the house always looks better with a little supportive light from underneath, from the side, or in the back. Who sings back up in your garden designs?
The Last Gasp of Fall Color October 23, 2009
Rhus Typhina or Sumac is in all her glory right now. I saw this in my E-Mail today http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/2009/10/rhus_typhina.php and thought about the ones in my neighborhood with such glorious color on them I had to run out and take some pictures to share.
In some areas of the country this small tree might seem ubiquitous as we sometimes feel about some of our common trees here in the green Northwest. But, you have to hand it to Mother Nature on this one- she out did herself!
After chatting with neighbors on this lovely fall evening, I found a couple of other fall color shots that stood out too. Enjoy!