Snippets of Foliage and Winter Garden Art

Making good use of January indoor time is important to me as a gardener. I like the creative momentum that builds up after the fall garden clean up is over, the holiday distractions are finished and I’m really ready to get going on something nature oriented. Ogling the seed catalogs and various juicy pictorial based websites are the creative outlets I rely when digging or designing are not a palatable option. But, it’s still not actively DOING something, or CREATING and THAT is what energizes me.

So, I went out into the garden and took little snippets and bits of plants that were looking lovely and decided to have fun with them. I played Portrait Studio! I did this once a few years back when I entered the Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest and learned an invaluable little photo trick from David Perry, one of my photography idols.

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I had loads of fun creating these foliage based shots (no blooms here just yet). I hope YOU enjoy them too! 🙂

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This was a sampling of one style of the artwork I created over the weekend, I’m saving the rest for later. Now, to figure out what  else is going to keep me busy for a while…. Oh ya, I have a book coming out soon!!! 🙂

Celebrating One Season at a Time

Each spring I find that my wonder and exaltation of natures capacity to renew me after a long winter seems greater and greater. Once I’m able to be outside for any length of time without getting either soaked or numb is a wonderful day to be outside enjoying the garden.

In the Northwest we live with a constant paradox, our winter seems longer than a truly cold climate season due to our gray skies that seems to last for 6 months. Well, now that I actually think about it, it really is almost a 6 month winter. So, when we do get let out of the house we get a little nutty and want to plant tomatoes in March. Not that I would actually do it, but when we are pining for those lazy warm summer days that never seem to arrive soon enough, it’s a tempting thought.

While I can commiserate with my damp, often pale and possibly pruney gardening compatriots, I do firmly believe in celebrating one season at a time. Enjoy spring, people. It’s the lovely, bursting with juicy color season. It’s the time to wind your spring for summer. Exercise those gardening muscles in the slow warm-up to balmy weather madness. Don’t pass up the wonders right in front of your eyes in favor of the lure of Impatiens and Peaches. Seize the SPRING day and discover all of the shrubs, perennials and edibles that deserve to have that level of adoration too.

Here is a small taste of the spring delights that I have been able to capture so far in April. So, get out there and beat the drum, blow off steam, carouse a bit, exalt, extol, fete, and glorify. Have a ball, jubilate, kick up your heels, let loose, live it up, make merry, make whoopee, mark with a red letter, memorialize, observe, paint the town red, party, proclaim, publicize, raise hell, raise a glass, revel, rejoice, revere, ritualize, solemnize all that is spring rather than skipping it and moving right on to summer.

Plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order”

When I work with my Personal Garden Coaching clients, I am usually there to help correct one or more of these four problems:

  1. Correcting old, outdated landscape designs installed by a builder who did not care much about plant selection.
  2. 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.
  3.  A former homeowner who did not have access to good plant selections back when the original landscape was installed 30-40 years ago.
  4. 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 Daphne’ 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:

  1. Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’

2. Any Heuchera, but today’s favorite is ‘Berry Smoothie’

3. Nandina, ‘Firepower’, ‘Gulf Stream’ or ‘Sienna Sunset’

4. Arbutus Unedo, Strawberry Tree

5. Tri-Color Sage

How many plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order” are in your design “Go-To” list?
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