form and foliage

Year round garden interest with minimal care


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Hooray for the Red, White and Blue!

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Acer tataricum Hot Wings (‘GarAnn’) lights up the garden with explosions of red!

Today the Internet teems with photos of red, white and blue flowers, and there are many lovely combinations. We find Old Glory’s colors in the foliage garden, too. Reds abound in seed pods and new leaves.

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New leaves on Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Pendula’ are bright red.

The weeping purple beech above is getting in on the act with a few late new leaves, which are red as can be and belie its otherwise dignified appearance.

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Gunnera prorepens has firecracker flowers and a martial-sounding name.

We admit that the red from Gunnera prorepens is from its flowers, not its leaves, but we use it for its chocolatey leaves and consider the flowers a bonus.

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Cortadera selloana ‘Silver Comet’ has white stripes down its long leaves and is sterile, so not invasive.

White is easy to find, too! The pampas grass in the photo above lights up the garden with its largely white foliage.

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Sorbaria sorbifolia buds and blossoms

False spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia), an Asian member of the Rose family, graces the foliage garden with lovely new foliage, decent fall color, and a riotous display of crackling white flowers in mid-summer.

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White can be subtle, too, as in this Zelkova serrata ‘Green Mansions’

Blues abound, especially in succulents and conifers.

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Agave ‘Blue Glow’ up close – it even has red edges!

Picea pungens 'Lucretia'

Colorado blue spruce is blue blue blue!

Picea pungens (Colorado blue spruce) has so many cultivars that it is hard to keep track. ‘Lucretia’, pictured above, is one of the smaller, slower-growing introductions that is easy to keep to a manageable size.

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Blue weeping Atlantic cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’

Lots of blue cedars, too.

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Pinus maximartinezii, the bluest of the pines.

There’s even a blue pine. It’s from Mexico, but happy to take part in the July 4th festivities.

We even found some firecrackers in the garden!

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Aloe flowers look like firecrackers about to explode

You can almost hear this one sizzle:

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Most aloes have orange flowers borne well above their leaves

And then, after the fireworks are over, the smoke drifts through the air…

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Artemisia versicolor ‘Sea Foam’ has a smoky look to it

 

Happy 4th of July to all!

 


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The Oregon Garden – A Destination Resort

conifers, mixed foliage border, evergreen shrubs

The Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon

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.

evergreen foliage, mixed evergreen foliage border

A beautiful array of conifers at The Oregon Garden

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).

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Sara is dwarfed by the Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendulum’

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!

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Mixed foliage border at The Oregon Garden

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.

conifers, the oregon garden, Abies amabilis 'Spreading Star'

The soft blue needles of the fir contrast beautifully with the peachy tones of the nearby plants

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.

Weeping blue and upright orange combine with starry mint green for a rich combination of colors and shapes

Weeping blue and upright orange combine with starry mint green for a rich combination of colors and shapes

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.

The Oregon Garden, conifers

This blue spruce is highlighted by the dazzling orange heather in the background

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.

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Orange and blue broaden into a plethora of greens and chartreuse

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…

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Yellows dominate in this scene from The Oregon Garden’s conifer collection

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.

Soft color from conifers and a peony in fall foliage

Soft color from conifers and a peony in fall foliage

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.

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The conifer garden makes generous use of deciduous specimen trees

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.

The weeping purple beech dominates this scene and its form is echoed by the group of Cupressus nootkatensis behind

The weeping purple beech dominates this scene and its form is echoed by the group of Cupressus nootkatensis behind

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.

Sunset at The Oregon Garden

We lingered in The Garden as long as it was still light enough to see!

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!


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Worshipping at the Iseli Altar

conifers, winter garden, colored foliage, evergreens, Iseli Nursery

The display gardens at Iseli Nursery showcase a wide variety of conifers and companion plantings.

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.

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We elected to focus on contrasting colors, shapes and textures, rather than specimens.

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.

Rich green, Carolina blue and citrine - color-blocking is VERY 2013!

Rich green, Carolina blue and citrine – color-blocking is VERY 2013!

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.

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Add a dimension to the color by varying the textures.

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.

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Color-blocking with pastels.

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.

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Soft colors create a calmer mood.

In fact, as the photo above demonstrates, a border of mixed foliage need not be strident or harsh.

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Deciduous plantings add an even wider range of textures and colors to the conifers.

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.

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Monochromatic doesn’t mean boring!

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.

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Once again, we add some deciduous foliage to mix it up even more.

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.

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A velvety swath of turf grass soothes the eye and sets off the rich colors of the specimen plantings.

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!


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We’ve got the blues…and they really make those autumn colors sing

When most of us envision autumn colors, they are invariably the hot hues uncovered by waning chlorophyll production: the reds, oranges and yellows of the anthocyanins, carotenoids and xanthophylls.  These, indeed, are the archetypal autumnal hues from both art and life that precede the descent into drab winter that befalls many climates.  However, if you want to get the biggest burst of fall color in your garden, the deepest, fieriest show that the turning leaves can stage, plant something blue to showcase the heat.

Include blue in your planning for a colorful autumn garden

Blue and orange are color wheel opposites, and opposing hues complement each other in dramatic but satisfying ways.  Red and green; purple and yellow; blue and orange, as we move around the wheel, are classic combinations that gardeners put to good effect when designing perennial borders.  Generally composed of one ‘hot’ and one ‘cold’ color, these combinations are pleasing but also provide ‘oomph’.

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The color wheel is a must-have tool for garden planning

Oddly, when designing foliage gardens, this simple trick of the color wheel is overlooked.  Gardeners seeking an autumn show plant deciduous selections that admittedly turn brilliant colors when the days shorten: Viburnums, Fothergillas, maples, smoke bushes, etc., all of which have stunning fall color.  However, their color is significantly enriched when their garden companions are blue-hued evergreens.  (There are great blue-hued deciduous foliage plants, too, but they turn color in fall along with the rest of the deciduous gang, so they don’t provide contrast in autumn.)

What are some choice candidates for best blue-leaved evergreen in a supporting role?  There are conifers, broad-leaved evergreens, grasses and succulents available; what you choose will depend on your zone, your space and your taste.

Physocarpus ‘Coppertina’ and Picea engelmannii ‘Blue Harbor’

We’ll start with the all-around winner: blue spruces.  They can be grown in most of the U.S., are available in dwarf varieties, come in weeping and upright forms to suit different garden requirements and moods and many have needles the color of the blue in a box of crayons.  This is not ‘blue’ as envisioned by a hybridizer who sees the world through wishful rose (er, blue) colored glasses.  These needles are BLUE!  Try one out against a fiery viburnum and see what we mean.  Which to plant?  The classic Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) gets quite large and has the dubious distinction of outgrowing more locations than perhaps any other suburban landscape plant in American history.  So, go with a dwarf variety such as ‘Lucretia’ or ‘Fat Albert’, or try another species, such as P. engelmanii, P. glauca or P. abies, all of which have dwarf varieties that work better in most gardens than the straight species.

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ with Picea pungens ‘Thomsens’ and Euphorbia ‘Portuguese Velvet”

Staying in the conifer world, there is almost nothing as blue from a distance as an Arizona cypress (Cupressus glabra), var ‘Blue Ice’.  This one only works if you have the space for it, as it will grow to about 30’, but if you do, try it next to a smoke bush like Cotinus ‘Grace’.  She never looked so stunning as she does in full fall color, with ‘Blue Ice’ backing her up.

There are many other blue-needled conifers to suit almost any size, shape, texture and climatic zone – a few choice varieties are Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Curly Tops’, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca pendula’ and many of the Abies concolor varieties.

Acer palmatum ‘Pung kil’, Hebes pimeloides ‘Quicksilver’ and Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca pendula”

If conifers are not your cup of compost tea and you live in zones 8-10, try Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’.  This low-growing, well-behaved hebe is silvery blue and makes a great skirt around a deciduous tree as in the photo above.  Podocarpus ‘Monmal’, (also sold as ‘Icee Blue’), is another choice blue shrub (it’s a conifer, but doesn’t look like one!)  Its broad evergreen leaves mimic flattened needles and it is reliably dusty blue year-round, doing its most important job in autumn when it moves from supernumerary to supporting role.

Acer campestre ‘compacta’ with Helictotrichon sempervirens; Berberis thunbergii and Nyssa sylvatica turning colors in the background

Also for warmer zones are the evergreen ornamental grasses Helictotrichon and Festuca; both have true-blue color and work well with deciduous shrubs such as Fothergilla and Spirea. Both grasses provide wonderful structural and textural contrast with the autumnal palette.

The list goes on, from Agaves like ‘Blue Haze’ to Eucalyptus (charming dwarf varieties such as ‘Moon Lagoon’, not the awful, messy behemoths), and the blue that you choose depends on your own garden’s particulars and your own taste.  There are blue groundcovers (junipers, mostly, and don’t turn up your nose – there are some lovely varieties, you just need to overcome your prejudices and seek them out), grasses, shrubs and trees, so you really have no excuse.

So if you’re looking to add some intensity to next year’s autumn garden, get the blues.  You’ll have the added benefit that since they are evergreen, they’ll continue to add interest to your garden long after the deciduous leaves have dropped.

Note to our subscribers: we are working on setting up plant lists and a photo gallery that are not part of the main blog post.  We hope to have them up and running within the next couple of months, and we’ll try to make them retroactive.  Thanks!

Copyright 2011 by Form and Foliage