form and foliage

Year round garden interest with minimal care


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Summertime Blues

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Chamaerops humilis var. argentea, Atlas mountain palm

When the weather is hot, we look to cool blues for relief. We’ve written about blues in autumn, when they contrast strikingly with the fiery colors of the changing foliage, but in summer, especially late summer when we are tired of the heat, we like a splash of blue almost anywhere. The palm pictured above is hardy to about 10 degrees fahrenheit, so it is not a tropical. It’s short and clump-forming, so easy to mix with other kinds of plants.

Chamerops humilis var argentea, Brahea armata

Blue repeats through the border from the Picea pungens ‘Blue Stoplight’ to the Atlas mountain palm and finally the blue hesper palm in back

There are lots of blue palms, many of which are cold-hardy. For a bigger plant with specimen status, try the Mexican Brahea armata.

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Brahea armata, blue hesper palm, from Baja California

Palms provide a very different texture and structure than other plants. Because we think of them as tropical, we hesitate to mix them with temperate species. But many palms are also temperate and grow happily among conifers and succulents in their native ranges.

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This silvery blue Puya cools down the heat from the Japanese maple in front of it.

There are lots of succulents and succulent-like plants in shades of blue. You can also add blue with pots or other ceramics.

succulents

The glossy ceramic globe matches the aqua of the Echeveria

Many rocks have blue tones and can help keep the apparent temperature down. In this garden in Roseville, Oregon, the stonework gets outdone by the spruce, though!

Picea pungens

Colorado blue spruce might just be the bluest foliage plant there is

There are many blue conifers, beginning with Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens). There is probably not a more maligned suburban landscape tree, due to the enormous size the species attains. Happily, there are many cultivars that are slow-growing and garden-friendly. In the shot above the spruce cools down the entire garden.

Cedrus deodara 'Feelin' Blue', Cedrus atlantica 'Sahara Ice'

PInus maximartinezii is another very blue conifer, as is the Cedrus ‘Feelin’ Blue’ to the right

The blue comes from waxes that the plant carries outside its leaf cuticles, which retard absorption of certain wavelengths of light.

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Podocarpus elongata ‘Monmal’ (Icee Blue) has a turquoise cast

For those that can grow it (it’s tender), Podocarpus Icee Blue is the ultimate summer cooler.  A blade-leaved conifer (instead of needles), it works with a multitude of shrubs to bring down the hot summer temps.

So plant blue to cool down your summer and heat up your fall!

 

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Private Spaces: The Jordan Garden

foliage garden, evergreen shrubs, conifers

Ken and Elena Jordan’s garden in Roseburg, OR is one of the loveliest we’ve seen.

Visits to botanical gardens and nurseries allow us to revel in the scope and breadth of their plantings or to view imposing and impressive mature specimens.  Visits to such places can be educational and inspiring, but they can also be daunting, for few if any of us can hope to replicate their grandeur and scale.

conifers, American Conifer Society, pine trees

Ken and Elena show us around their garden.

That’s why we also like to visit private gardens, such as that of Ken and Elena Jordan in Roseburg, OR.  Their garden, while enormous and ambitious by most standards, is constructed on a more intimate scale, and demonstrates the owners’ personality and connection to their residence that is characteristic of the most successful private efforts.

conifers, foliage plants, evergreen shrubs

The Jordans use a mix of conifers, Japanese maples and other interesting foliage plants, and use different kinds of stone for accent.

The Jordans sited their house on a bluff overlooking the Umpqua River.  Ken designed and built the Craftsman style home himself, and the couple made their garden on the wooded slope facing away from the river, under the remnants of the native forest.

conifer garden, foliage garden, pine trees

A few old oaks provide a high canopy that shelters and shades the garden below.

The steeply sloping lot posed design and circulation challenges which the Jordans met by making switchbacked paths and stone retaining walls.  Native stone is also incorporated into the garden in the form of boulders and pathways.  Both Ken and Elena have design and horticultural talents, and a sense of humor that has caused them to name the property ‘Stonehedge’.

conifer garden, foliage garden, pine trees, evergreen shrubs

The Jordans use different kinds of stone to add interest, structure – and support! – to the garden.

The steep slope could prove tiring to navigate if it were not for the many seating opportunities along the paths.  Each spot provides a different aspect, with different vistas and plants to enjoy.  Ken’s mastery of both the wood shop and the forge are evident everywhere.

Ken designed and built this structure - the perfect place to sit and enjoy the view and the plantings.

Ken designed and built this structure – the perfect place to sit and enjoy the view and the plantings.

Despite the structures, stone and art, in this garden the plants rule.  The Jordans were bitten early on by the conifer bug and with encouragement from Larry Stanley of Stanley & Sons Nursery, made their garden around their large conifer collection.  They are active members of the American Conifer Society and travel all over the world to view–and acquire–choice specimens.

foliage gardens, evergreen border, American Conifer Society

A weeping pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) frames this grouping of conifers, grasses and Japanese maples.

Although the Jordans like all manner of conifers (and many foliage plants such as Japanese maples), their property really showcases the large, contorted cultivars such as Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ and Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ and they have several choice specimens of each.

conifers, foliage garden, blue foliage, blue needles

Weeping blue Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’) has room to show itself off.

The contorted trunks of the weeping specimens are beautiful in their own right, and provide ‘small moments’ to enjoy that balance the scale of the sweeping beds and pathways.

pine trees, conifers

The trunk of Pinus densiflora ‘Pendula’ – weeping Japanese red pine – is textural and sinuous.

As much as they love conifers, both Ken and Elena know that good design requires contrasting colors, textures and forms, and have interplanted the conifers liberally with deciduous trees such as Japanese maples and beech.  Fall is a particularly beautiful time in this garden as the fiery colors of the maples are dramatically set off by the greens and blues of the conifers.

conifers, foliage garden, evergreen border

Japanese maples, an ornamental cherry and a European beech add diversity and interest.

Autumn’s low sun shines through the maples and casts a glow over the entire garden, lighting the chartreuse, green, blue and teal conifers.

conifer gardens, foliage gardens, mixed foliage

The setting sun catches the autumn leaves of a Japanese maple.

In fact, that sunset drew us right up the slope and around to the back of the house, where we turned from looking at the beauty that the Jordans had created to enjoying the natural view over the river. What a paradise Ken and Elena found when they chose this spot, and what a masterpiece they have created! We look forward to visiting again soon.

Japanese maples, conifers, fall foliage

The view from the Jordan’s back porch over the Umpqua River.