Because of our passion for plants, we tend to focus on gardens that feature collections of specimens and stretch our imaginations devising pleasing and provocative combinations of colors, textures and shapes. Sometimes, however, the strongest statements come from the deft use of massed plantings and fundamental color and design principles. Paul and Paula’s garden is a beautiful example of keeping it simple without sacrificing interest or sophistication. And in best form and foliage fashion, this garden shines through the fall and winter months as well as spring and summer!
Despite the unfettered design, much care went into its conception and the selection of the plantings. Paula, who has an artist’s training and sensibilities, chose the Loropetalum to border the path because she wanted to echo the tones of the brick with a complementary plant that was appropriately sized and attractive year-round. The decision to use deep reddish-purple against the brick was daring; most of us think ‘red’ when we think of brick, but the purple brings out the rosy tones. Also, most of us would have not been able to resist the urge to plant a jumble of different colors and textures; Paula’s confidence in the essential design principles of repetition, scale and color harmony allowed her to resist that temptation!
The distinctive purple of the Loropetalums is repeated in the carpet of Sedum ‘Voodoo’ around the foundation plantings of Chamaecyparis obtusa cultivars. This is horticultural ‘color blocking’ with rich, deep tones, and the repetition of the purple and green makes for a unified design. While respecting the formal lines of the brick house, these plantings also soften, enrich and complement it.
On the side of the house, Paula used more mass plantings of evergreen shrubbery and chose two Cedrus libani var. atlantica (Atlantic cedars) as focal points. Those of you that read our post on Color Scheming will recognize that the purple/brick combination represents an analogous color pair, while the blue/brick is a complementary combination. That’s why the cedars are edgier and demand more attention, and their skirt of shrubs is correspondingly subdued. The brick borrows tones from the adjacent plants, appearing rosier next to the purple-leaved Loropetalum and more orange next to the blue cedar.
Note the crisp edging and the clean lines of the multi-trunked trees (an Acer palmatum cultivar on the left, Arbutus ‘Marina on the right). The planted are sited to ‘let the shapes show’ and their structure is as important as their colors and textures. In this bed the Loropetalums function as punctuation and connect it to the walkway and foundation plantings.
The rich jewel tones are repeated throughout the garden, with different plant combinations. The Japanese maples and ferns adorn the wooded side yard that is shaded by towering Atlantic cedars and oaks. By varying the plant materials but sticking to the color scheme, the different areas of the garden are connected and unified. The overall sensation is one of serenity; the simplicity of the design is in itself relaxing and the choice of colors reinforces the calmness.
We like to say that sometimes the best plant for a particular spot is a stone…and Paula repeats the blue of the cedars with specimen stones. The combination of purple, icy blue and rich green now has many textural components that continue to be unified by color and simplicity. The stones also echo the structural lines of the woody plants and provide interest throughout the year.
The latest project is a rock garden at the back of the property with newly planted roses, succulents and a few specimen conifers, anchored by a pair of mature Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauder’s walking stick, one of which can be seen on the right side of the photo). Here purple gives way to accents of brilliant gold and chartreuse, and when the plantings spill over the rocks this will be the spot in the garden where the formality eases a bit, as it is away from the house and can set its own tone.
We look forward to visiting the garden again when the plantings around the rocks have matured and provided the cohesiveness that Paula intends. Although this spot is across the back lawn from the house, the brilliant Caucasian fir ‘Golden Spreader’ shines like a beacon and calls the eye. Another design principle that Paula has employed: light, bright colors project, dark colors recede. The strategic placement of one golden plant draws attention to the entire bed.
While Paula works with plant selection and design, Paul tends the Koi pond that not only provides pleasing sound and interest, but reflects the branches of the specimen trees. We came away from Paul and Paula’s garden feeling relaxed and as if our blood pressure had dropped a notch. Isn’t that a wonderful gift for a garden to bestow?
When we went out into the garden this week we couldn’t help seeing Easter eggs everywhere….delightfully dyed in pastel Pascal colors. Pinus parviflora ‘Cleary’ caught our eye immediately, with its clutches of tiny, vivid magenta ovoid cones.
Sunny yellow eggs are sprinkled over the branches of the Korean fir Abies koreana ’Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ – those cute little things couldn’t really be cones, could they?
Tall, hulking Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’ has some of the most delicate cones, which are small-sized even when mature. They make up for lack of stature in sheer number; this ‘egg basket’ of a tree, which is only about 6′ tall, has hundreds of cones on it this spring.
Pinus densiflora ‘Golden Ghost’ is all decked out for Easter in a yellow spring coat, and holds a brace of deeply etched eggs in this clutch. It’s hard for anything to compete with that incredible, dramatic foliage!
Normally a subdued and dignified shrub, Abies arnoldiana ‘Poulsen’ indulges in attention-getting behavior by producing cones in the most outrageous shade of deep raspberry imaginable. It’s hard to believe that the Easter Bunny was willing to part with these!
And what’s an Easter Basket without jelly beans? Sedum rubrotinctum sure fits the bill. In warm weather the ‘jelly beans’ turn green with just a few hints of red, but cool winter and early spring temps bring out the bold red. Perhaps cinnamon-flavored? Now the only thing that we’re left wondering is if that huge jackrabbit we startled this morning was really the Easter Bunny…
Form and Foliage went to the opening of the 2013 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show today and we were greeted by a display garden that was a lovely execution of the F&F principles: lots of structural plants that relied on foliage for interest, good range of colors, shapes and textures and, even in the mass plantings, enough spacing to let the shapes show.
The garden was titled ‘Inside Out’ and used inspiration from urban Mexican culture and architects such as Ricardo Legorreta & Luis Barragan. Designed by the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Arizona State University, this garden was evidently appreciated by many others, as it was the winner of numerous awards.
The garden used several Agave cultivars, including the relatively newly introduced ‘Kara’s Stripes’, which has broad softly striped leaves that form a graceful rosette, and which lack that lethal terminal spine.
The lighting was designed to let shadows play on the boldly colored walls, bringing movement and drama to the garden. The row of Fouqueria splendens (ocotillo; desert coral) on the right forms a living fence, attractive even with bare branches.
The garden captured the spirit of Mexico with its vibrant colors, which worked well with the strong lines of the plantings. There were some flowering plants, but in F&F style, they were not expected to carry the garden or the mood, but rather act as accents that could easily be changed seasonally.
We liked the designers’ use of pedestrian materials such as concrete blocks and repurposed metal piping. The aluminum caps on the walls in the above photo were a nice touch and an example of the attention to detail in this garden.
Finally, we loved the fact that this garden took the F&F theme into the art! This playful representation of an Agave is also evocative of the sun, and it shone cheekily over the seating area.
The SF Flower and Garden Show runs through March 24th and there is an extensive trade fair as well as seminars, demos, etc. Just make sure that you include a trip to ‘Mexico’ so that you can see this wonderful garden for yourself.
A Destination Resort is one whose location and amenities make the resort itself an attraction for tourists, rather than just a spot to stay while visiting the region. For Form and Foliage, The Oregon Garden Resort provided the best amenity of all: The Oregon Garden! And an unexpected bonus was that The Garden is open before/after hours to those staying at The Resort. Thus, we were able to wander at will before the crowds arrived and after they had gone home, and catch the best light of the day.
We spent most of our time in the Conifer Collection, which features not just conifers tastefully planted but also a nice selection of companion plants. The Garden was the brainchild of the Oregon Association of Nurseries as a way to showcase the State’s rich horticultural heritage. Groundbreaking was in 1997 and the Conifer Garden was dedicated in 2000, although the plantings feel like they have been in the ground longer than the intervening 12 years (our visit was in September 2012).
The Conifer Garden has one of the largest collections of dwarf and miniature conifers in the U.S. and was created in partnership with the American Conifer Society, which provides ongoing consultation. We hear that there are plans to double the Conifer Garden’s size so we’re calendaring a return trip!
We used The Resort as our home base while we were visiting nearby nurseries and private gardens and thus were able to see the gardens over several days. There was no shortage of plantings to observe, and we were particularly taken with the mix of conifers and companion plants, which showcased the best attributes of both, such as the juxtaposition of the blue spruce and orange heather in the above photo.
The same blue/orange combination (which we’ve written about before in We’ve Got the Blues) works with softer tints as well, as you can see in the above photo. Clearly this garden was planned with an eye to both color and seasonality.
The planners were attentive to shape, as well, as tall weepers flow into upright ground-huggers with staccato bursts of bright foliage keeping things lively. This garden provides many take-aways for the home gardener in design, plant selection, and plant combinations.
We couldn’t resist one last artsy shot of the power that the blue/orange combination provides! The color combinations in the garden go way beyond that pairing, however. The palette encompasses many shades of greens, yellows and reds and maroon.
In the above photo the maple in the foreground tries for drama while the conifers provide a range of color, even in autumn when they are not flush with new growth. Everyone that thinks that conifers are boring should take a long look at this scene, and remember that they will look like this all winter, too…
The above scene shows another side of conifer color – the ‘pop’ that yellow and gold can provide in a dreary winter landscape (see Bleak Midwinter). The lemony yellow of the billowy weeping Chamaecyparis is picked up by the tips of the spruce on the left. While the maroon Berberis in front and the fiery Viburnum in the rear are still in leaf there is even more garden color – in autumn.
One of the things that makes this garden such a pleasure to visit is the use of such a broad selection of plant material. The fairly pedestrian peony in the above photo, which most people plant simply for the sumptuous spring flower, has raspberry-stained leaves in autumn and provides a subtle accent to the many shades – and shapes – of the surrounding conifers.
The conifers are interplanted lavishly with beautiful specimen trees, chosen for their form and foliage (see why we liked it?) The weeping purple beech above shows off the cedar in front with lovely contrast of color, shape and texture. The tree trunks will continue to provide structure and contrast when the leaves have fallen.
We loved staying here at The Garden and would recommend it as a relaxing spot for anyone wanting to see a superb – and beautifully planted – conifer collection. Even non-gardeners will find much to admire and enjoy at The Garden, and the ability to wander freely when it is closed to day visitors makes this garden experience more like staying at a private country manor than visiting a public installation.
From here we visited a private garden that has some breathtaking plantings, so stay tuned…in the meantime, take a look at The Oregon Garden and start planning your visit!
When we set out to tour the iconic nurseries of the Pacific Northwest, we confess to having been a bit nervous that they would not live up to the folklore that has been created and nurtured by the conifer cognoscenti. Our third stop, Buchholz & Buchholz, continued the theme of exceeding our expectations! Talon Buchholz, whose eponymous nursery is responsible for almost as many plant introductions as the Garden of Eden, met us upon our arrival and gave us a personal tour. His affection for the plants and their histories made this one of our favorite stops on our road trip.
Talon’s nursery includes a wonderful, quasi-naturalized display garden, the Flora Wonder Arboretum, which exudes more personality than most commercial settings. A number of the plantings have clearly been in the ground for many years, and elements of whimsy and creativity abound. Conifers, maples and other woody specimen plants are Buchholz’s specialty, which is one of the reasons that we were eager to visit.
It’s clear that Talon has a sense of humor; the weeping larch in the above photo looks like some kind of mythical creature and there is even a weeping Douglas fir that has been pruned in the shape of an elephant. The interplantings of conifers, maples and other deciduous specimen trees and shrubs is both artful and natural. There is no pretension here–the plants speak for themselves.
It was a joy to see specimens in the ground, obviously carefully placed and planted. Talon knows each plant–each specimen, actually–and tells the story of how it came to be – and be included in the Buchholz & Buchholz repertory. His nursery covers many, many acres and yet he speaks of the plantings with more personal connection than do most gardeners with infinitesimally smaller lots.
The Japanese maples in the gardens were amazing–a wild array of colors, shapes and textures. It was instructive to see so many mature specimens in the ground; so often we are reduced to seeing small plants in pots or recent garden plantings. The maples were beginning to take on fall color when we visited, we can only imagine what they look like in spring with new growth.
As the border above illustrates, the Flora Wonder Arboretum is an homage to the concepts of form and foliage; Talon interplants conifers, maples, ginkgos, natives and grasses with an easy hand. The plants are given enough space to demonstrate their shapes and architectures.
Many of the Flora Wonder plantings have been in the ground for decades – it is a great spot to see specimens that have attained some size, such as this Ginkgo.
The greenhouses abound with specimen plantings beautifully displayed in cedar boxes – Japanese maples, conifers, etc were arrayed in soldierly rows. We were particularly taken with the pumice planters, in which single plants or combinations were attractively nestled. It was at about this point that we tried to figure out if they would fit in our luggage.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and took our leave only because the staff was trying to close for the day. Talon’s website has hundreds of beautiful images and if our review of our visit piqued your interest, go on a virtual tour with Talon at Buchholz & Buchholz Nursery. You won’t be disappointed!
Next stop: The Oregon Garden’s Conifer Collection, Silverton, OR
Conifer lovers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the display gardens at Iseli Nursery in Boring, Oregon, which are immortalized on the company’s website and annual calendars and regularly featured in at least one blog. As part of our trek to the conifer nirvana that is the Pacific Northwest, we clearly had to pay both a call and our respects. We were curious as to whether we would find the gardens even more awe-inspiring ‘in the fresh’ than on the page.
Indeed, we were struck with such a degree of sensory overload that we had trouble focusing at first (our eyes, that is, not the camera!) As we began to take stock of the richness that surrounded us, we realized that there were two ways to view the garden, as indeed there are any garden–by sharpening our focus to pick out the detail of each discreet specimen, a goal already ably achieved by other chroniclers, or by letting our lens go wider and take in the enormous range of textures, colors and sizes with which the gardens abound.
In the photograph above we showcase three common selections in deep hues readily available across a range of genus, species and cultivars. Skip the taxonomy for a bit and focus on how richly satisfying this simple combination is.
In the next shot, we stick with rich colors but vary the texture of the green specimen. In this case it’s a spiky, starburst shape, but it could be weepy, spreading, lacy or bristly.
If you shy from the bold and prefer your colors softer, there are copious choices. Like the master color mixer who adds a drop of black to a gallon can of paint to produce a smokier hue, plant breeders have combined with nature to create velvety gray-greens, muted yellows and olive tints to satisfy those who seek more subtle statements.
In fact, as the photo above demonstrates, a border of mixed foliage need not be strident or harsh.
Adding deciduous plants such as Japanese maples or dogwoods softens the look still more and expands the range of colors, shapes and textures. The grouping above adds a formal note with the sculpted Chamaecyparis in the center.
If you are not a fan of colored foliage, you can stick with conventional green and vary the shape. Think of yourself as a sculptor, rather than a painter, and go for a dramatic weeper flanked by a shag carpet. Admittedly, that bronze foliage in the background does a great job of highlighting the green.
Note how the Cornus contriversa ‘Variegata’ adds a shape, texture and color beyond that displayed by the conifers. We love the way this ‘living room’ is decorated with a lemon-yellow carpet and a fuzzy green hassock.
We will close with one of our favorite shots – a limited palette but a wide variety of shapes, sizes and textures, including the dramatically pendulous Picea abies ‘Cobra’, on the right, one of Iseli’s newest introductions.
Next stop: Buchholz & Buchholz!
Bob Fincham has a worldwide reputation as an conifer expert, with a list of introductions and publications to his name of which any plantsman would be proud. Coenosium Gardens, the 5.6 acre property that he and his wife, Dianne, have developed in Eatonville, WA over the last few decades, is a virtual laboratory of conifer grafting, breeding and experimentation. Their website explains that that they focus on plant introductions and that they are the ‘go to’ site for those wanting to locate rare conifers, read articles about conifers or just generally find out what is going on in the conifer world.
When Form and Foliage made the pilgrimage to Coenosium in September, we found all that we had been expecting…and more. What the articles and the Fincham website don’t convey is what a beautiful spot the couple has created, by having an eye for color, shape and texture combined with deft plant combinations. The word ‘Coenosium’ comes from ancient Greek and means ‘plant community’. Plant community, indeed! A virtual wonderland of the principles that F&F holds dear: interesting plant material, combined to enhance the attributes of each plant, not detract from them, planted with regard to the shapes and sizes so that each plant can do its part and not get lost in a shapeless mass.
Bob and Dianne run a successful mail-order nursery from their home, but the majority of the acreage is given over to expertly landscaped plantings, with a focus on pleasing combinations of foliage. Deciduous trees and shrubs (especially beeches and maples) are interplanted with the beloved conifers to provide contrast of both color and texture.
Our visit coincided with peak fall color, but the huge variety of plant specimens at Coenosium guarantees a show at any time of year. As the photo above illustrates, conifers come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and textures.
The grounds range from more mature plantings around the house to newer gardens that focus more on dwarf varieties. Bob has written a book about dwarf conifers, entitled ‘Small Conifers for Small Gardens’, that is a must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about incorporating conifers into the home garden.
Many of the gardens have an Asian feel, with plants such as Ginkgos and pines that are associated with Asian gardens and statuary and hardscape distinctly Asian in design. The dwarf Ginkgo above is suitable for even the smallest gardens, and contrasts beautifully with its conifer cousins.
Bob has made somewhat of a specialty of gold-foliage conifers, perhaps because the Seattle area is known for its share of overcast winter days. The sunny foliage of the spruce in the photo above shines like a beacon even when the sun is nowhere to be seen. It also contrasts beautifully with the maroon and blue foliage in the background.
Bob also uses conifers in containers – a practice that those with small gardens (or even those limited to terrace gardening) can adopt. Many of the dwarf and miniature varieties are so slow-growing that they can exist happily for years in containers, sometimes even sharing space with others.
Bob and Dianne’s mail order nursery is the place to go to find rare varieties and a good selection of garden-worthy dwarfs and miniatures. Their stock is healthy and well-cared for and we confess to falling victim to the wide array of choices available and picking out a boxful for shipping. Needless to say, the plants arrived in perfect condition.
Finally, the following photos show that the ‘mad scientist’ is at work in the ‘laboratory’! Bob is continually fascinated with what he can do using his grafting skills and his imagination. Whether the gardening world is ready for some of his creations remains to be seen, but no one can accuse him of not pushing the envelope!
Check out Coenosium Gardens on line, with information about ordering plants – and the book! Meanwhile, stay tuned for our next stop: the demonstration gardens at Iseli Nursery in Oregon.