form and foliage

Year round garden interest with minimal care


13 Comments

Jan Takes the Wheel

conifers, garden photography, foliage gardening

Every time I go through Sara’s garden I see new vistas with mind-boggling color and texture

Our posts have always had their inspiration in Sara’s garden. The concept of ‘form and foliage’ comes from her particular gardening focus. Jan attempts to capture this concept and as she has become more familiar with both the garden and her craft, she has had more of a tendency to go rogue and resist direction. Thus, we bring you some of her favorite images, unrestrained by Sara’s prejudices or guidance. Her comments follow.

Every photographer interprets light and color in their own way, and photographers develop a style or a ‘way of seeing’ that they present in their photographs. Sara wants the photographs to ‘look real’, i.e. the way SHE sees the scene. My reality is not always the same as hers.

succulents, garden photography

Agave ‘Blue Glow’ beginning to flower

The phenomenon of ‘digital darkroom’ technology provides so many tempting opportunities to play with images and take them beyond what the eye sees. The Agave above is a good example, tuned up with Trey Ratcliffe’s Aurora HDR (Macphun) and Adobe Lightroom software.

Senecio 'Staghorn', Pinus contorta 'Spaan's Dwarf', Spirea 'Goldmound', garden photography

I’m always fascinated by color repetition, which leads the viewer’s eye through the scene.

One of the photographers who has inspired me is Dewitt Jones. He doesn’t go out capturing images, he waits for the images to capture him. The above shot caught me due to the wonderful repetition of the steely blues in the Mexican pebbles, the succulent, the copper top of the lamp and the spruce in the distance, all complemented by the vivid red and green.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans Compacta', garden photography

This is an exquisite plant with soft colors, enhanced by the bejeweling water droplets.

Close-up photography is challenging, because composing an image with the right “depth of field”  (how sharp the image is throughout) is very challenging.  In this case, I want to capture the delicate shape and coloration of the foliage while keeping it in the context of the overall characteristic of the plant: an explosion of clouds of needles in shades of burgundy, mauve and pink.  I strive to have just enough background to give context without overpowering the delicate subject.

LeCocq_20160127_0527

When I take close-ups of plants, I am aware of the life that exists in a garden

Our objective on this day was to photograph yellows and blues, both in landscape shots and close ups. I am always attracted to spider webs, because they demonstrate that the garden is teeming with life, much of it hidden. This ladder-like structure is particularly distinctive.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula', conifers, garden photography

I love the structure of the blue Atlas cedar, but it was the combination of colors and shapes on the ground that caught my eye

I concentrate on our focus, which is woody foliage plants, but I can’t control how my eye is drawn to other aspects of the garden. Just as with the spider web, the garden is home to many other forms of life, which ebb and flow with the seasons. The cedar’s bristly, blue needles interact with the fragile mushroom and the rusty leaves to create a completely different perspective. Dewitt Jones has always counseled ‘the first image that you see may not be the one that is most distinctive. You need to move around and look at the subject from different perspectives, and maybe change your lens. In doing that, you may discover something more beautiful than you thought you saw originally.’

Brahea armata, garden photography

Sara wanted a photo of her favorite palm tree. She was startled when this is what I produced.

Sara expected a shot of the graceful blue-gray fronds that fan out over the succulent garden. When I went out to shoot the plant, I found myself fascinated with the yellow teeth along the stems and the fibrous trunk. I ignored the fronds and focused on what spoke to me. It took her a while to understand what I saw. This image now hangs in her home, because the plant took on an additional dimension for her once she understood my perspective.

garden photography, Brahea armata

The Mexican blue fan palm provides a fantastic opportunity for a classic graphic image.

I threw Sara a bone and focused on the leaves. Once again, I produced a different image than the one she expected. I was struck by the color and the steely structure. The pleats emanate from the stem dynamically, creating a sense of movement that I could not ignore. The imperfections make it more interesting.

Mangave 'Macho Mocha', succulents, foliage gardening, garden photography

I’m fascinated by this plant; it’s an amazing combination of reptilian marking and metallic texture, complemented by beautiful colors

I’m really drawn to agaves because of their structure and their prehistoric aspects. This agave hybrid is particularly compelling, and I love the explosion of the lime green from the center to the mottled leaves. If you’re any good at photography, you’ve learned early that you need to go beyond what first captured your attention and seek alternative views.

Mangave 'Macho Mocha', succulents, foliage gardening, garden photography

Complementary colors and contrasting textures make for a pleasing combination

The colors of the mangave are echoed in the colors of the restio, giving the image integrity and continuity. The image is strengthened by the contrast between the broad, strappy leaves of the mangave and the wispy, threadlike stems of the restio, capped with the burgundy seedheads.

Phormium 'Dusky Chief', garden photography

Sometimes I just can’t help myself

I recently got an ‘infrared kit’. I love the way shooting in infrared reveals aspects of the image that conventional photography does not. If the palm shot nonplussed Sara, what do you think this one will do? Stay tuned….

 


11 Comments

Color Riot

foliage gardening

Acer palmatum ‘Iijima Sunago’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Mindia’ and Spirea japonica ‘Goldflame’

The garden blogs and magazines are full of photographs of spring flowers as much of the country says farewell to a brutal winter. It’s no coincidence that many of these are macro shots, as the flowers are often a small part of the overall landscape this early in the season. If you’re a foliage gardener, however, you can get out your wide-angle lens and snap away, almost indiscriminately. The colors assail you from every part of the spectrum: yellows, blues, maroon, orange, red, bronze and of course, green. In the photo above, the Spirea does look like it is on fire, giving credence to its name of ‘Goldflame’.

conifers, foliage gardening

The landscape is rich with jewel tones of maples, spruce and ginkgo

At this time of year, texture and form take a back seat, as the colors are bright enough to leave afterimages on the retina. The fiery yellows and oranges are complemented by the richness of the greens and reds, while blue strikes a soothing note.

foliage gardening, evergreens

Coprosma repens ‘Plum Hussey’, Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’ and Arctostaphylus densiflora ‘Emerald Carpet’

The spring colors are also borne by evergreen shrubs, which perk up and shine with the stronger sunlight and longer days. The trio in the photo above are all evergreen; they carried the garden interest through the winter and now aren’t about to be outshined by their deciduous neighbors.

foliage gardening, conifers

Cupressus cashmeriana, Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’ and Pinus ponderosa ‘Big Boomer’, with Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’ and Quercus robur ‘Butterbee’

Some of the evergreens seem to spring to life as the deciduous shrubs and trees nearby leaf out. The soft, deep green conifers provide the perfect backdrop for the red and yellow of the barberry and oak.

conifers, foliage gardening

Pinus mugo ‘Ambergold’, Leptospermum ‘Dark Shadows’, Coprosma ‘County Park Red’, Juniperus x-media ‘Daub’s Frosted’, Cordyline ‘Design a Line Burgundy’, Libertia peregrins and Cupressus glabra ‘Blue Pyramid’

Even the dark foliage has a richness in spring, especially when repeated throughout the border. The Leptospermum, Coprosma and Cordyline are drenched in the same deep burgundy, which provides the perfect anchor for the yellow, blue and orange. Green, as always, is the unifying theme.

foliage gardening, maples, conifers

Acer palmatum ‘Mizuho Beni’, Juniperus communis ‘Kalebab’ and Loropetalum chinensis ‘Chang Nian Hong’

The burgundy of the Loropetalum in the photo above provides the same contrast to the greens and yellows and the orange of the maple (Acer palmatum ‘Villa Taranto)  just leafing out on the right.

redbuds, maples, foliage gardening

Even the seed pods of the Cercis chinensis are playing along with the theme

In the photo above we see the Spirea, Physocarpus and Acer ‘Iijima Sunago’ again from another angle. The oranges and reds are made even brighter when contrasted with the blue of the cedars over the door and the seed pods of the redbud in the foreground pay homage to the maples’ fiery tones.

conifers, foliage gardening

Ginkgo biloba ‘Mariken’ and Berberis thunbergii ‘Admiration’

Green and red are color wheel opposites and make dramatic combinations. This pair of deciduous hardwoods slumbered through the winter unnoticed until they burst into attention-grabbing foliage in spring.

conifers, foliage gardening

The same Berberis, flanked on the other side by evergreens

The ‘Admiration’ barberry has evergreen neighbors on its other side, and when it leafs out in its red glory it brings out the crimson stems of the Drimys lanceolata on the right and the bronze tones of the Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’ and Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Compacta behind.

foliage gardening, conifers

The dogwood is late to leaf out but the maple in front obliged, providing more red/green contrast with many yellow accents

Yellows, like all light colors, draw the eye and liven the landscape. Yellows are represented above by Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’, Euonymus ‘Emerald ‘n Gold’, Yucca ‘Walbristar, Acer palmatum ‘Mizuho Beni’ and even the light green foliage of the Banksia in the foreground. A softer blue note is provided by Cedrus deodara ‘Prostrate Beauty’.

conifers, foliage gardening

Variations on a theme: the same colors with different plants

The other side of the path has a similar theme, but the Euonymus is joined by Phormium ‘Golden Ray’ and the blue is provided by Picea pungens ‘Lucretia’ and Agave ‘Blue Glow’.

conifers, foliage gardening

A rich tapestry of color

From the other angle, burgundy plays a much more significant role, and the blue of the plants is echoed in the ceramic pots around the folly.

conifers, foliage gardening

Softer combinations can be achieved by using analogous colors, those next to each other on the color wheel

The brighter colors draw the eye, but there is also beauty in the softness of groupings of colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, termed analogous combinations. The CedrusArctostaphylos and Banksia provide repose from the incendiary foliage around them.

conifers, succulents, agave vilmoriniana

While structure is not as obvious when bold color abounds, it can’t be ignored!

Even though we are overwhelmed with the spring colors, we can’t ignore structure and form completely. A trio of young Agave vilmoriniana, aptly named ‘octopus’, anchor a corner and provide textural as well as color contrast. We’re using more and more succulents in the foliage garden, interplanting among the conifers, maples and other woody plants. Stay tuned…


6 Comments

Slow for the Cone Zone

Bruns weeping spruce (Picea omorika 'Pendula Bruns') has gorgeous purple cones

Bruns weeping spruce (Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’) has gorgeous purple cones

There are lots of reasons to add a few conifers to your landscape, and one of the most compelling is the decorative cones that many bear.  Fir, or Abies, have the reputation for having the dressiest cones, but as you’ll see, even the under-appreciated pines put on some stylish decoration that lasts all year. So slow down and observe when you pass a conifer and enter the ‘cone zone’!

Wine red female cones drip off the branches of Picea orientalis 'Early Gold' in spring.

Wine red female cones drip off the branches of Picea orientalis ‘Early Gold’ in spring.

The following series of three images depicts the cones of Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ through the seasons. This tree wears gorgeous foliage even without its ‘jewelry’, and together with its cones makes one of the most decorative specimens in the garden, even giving floriferous angiosperms a run for their money.

The cones of Abies koreana (Korean fir) 'Horstmann's Silberlocke' in early spring

The cones of Abies koreana (Korean fir) ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ in early spring

The cones start out as small, chartreuse gumdrops and then become lavender and celadon eggs with a texture and design that would make Faberge proud.

Korean fir, Abies koreana 'Horstmann's Silberlocke'

These cones decorate a tree that is already stunning, with its curved silver-lined needles.

By autumn they have dried out and matured  to rich rusty brown, resembling intricately woven baskets.

The autumn cones of 'Horstmann's Silberlocke' Korean fir shatter when touched, leaving their spindles.

The autumn cones of ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ Korean fir shatter when touched, leaving their spindles.

The spruces (genus Picea) in the next two photos, taken at Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen, CA, have similarly shaped cones but with dramatically different colors.  Well, some of us like emeralds and others prefer rubies – it’s the same with cones.

The limey elongated cones of Wison's spruce (Picea wilsonii) complement the turquoise needles on this specimen at Quarryhill Botanical Garden.

The limey elongated cones of Wison’s spruce (Picea wilsonii) complement its turquoise needles

Both Picea wilsonii and Picea likiangensis hail from China, and both get too big for most gardens, but we love to seek them out and enjoy their lovely ornaments.  Both of these specimens are large and laden with cones.

spruce

A cone-studded Picea likiangensis specimen at Quarryhill Botanical Garden.

As a general rule, firs hold their cones upright and spruces, as in the two examples above, have pendulous cones. The quite, unassuming ‘Poulsen’ fir (Abies x. arnoldiana ‘Poulsen’ doesn’t put out a huge display of cones every year, but when it does, it’s a showstopper.

firs, conifers, cones

The black-raspberry cones on Abies x arnoliana ‘Poulsen’ sit pertly atop the branches

They start out in spring a rosy black-raspberry, then deepen to grapey purple.

pine cones

Poulsen fir (Abies x arnoldiana ‘Poulsen’) cones in early summer

By late summer/autumn they have faded to a soft lilac.

Poulsen's fir with

Soft lilac cones of Abies x arnoldiana ‘Poulsen’, a shrubby conifer with a dignified habit

Even though most of us call the cones of all conifers ‘pine cones’, the cones borne by pines look very different from those of the firs and spruces.  Many of true pine cones look like they are carved out of wood when they are young, as with the new cones of one of the mugo pines (Pinus mugo var. mugho).

Like wooden scrimshaw, a baby cone of a mugo pine looks as if it is carved from one solid piece

Like wooden scrimshaw, a baby cone of a mugo pine looks as if it is carved from one solid piece

With its yellow cone in early summer, this branch of ‘Golden Ghost’ red pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Golden Ghost’) resembles a bird with flamboyant plumage. The two-toned needles put on even more of a display than the cones!

Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) 'Golden Ghost' in spring with new needles and cone

Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) ‘Golden Ghost’ in spring with new needles and cones

In this photo of ‘Golden Ghost’ we see both this year’s cone (the tiny ‘carved’ one on the left) and last year’s mature cone (on the right).

pine cone, pine cones

Two years of cones on Japanese red pine ‘Golden Ghost’

This Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’) is a prolific coner, with lovely green, sculptural cones.

Japanese black pine 'Thunderhead'

Even the ladybugs seem to like ‘Thunderhead’s apple green cones

Since we’re moving through the colors, white pines have great cones, too!  They are much more fragile than those of the red or black pines, and often have a sap glacee that makes them glitter in the sunlight.

pine cones

Sap-glazed cones of Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’

We mentioned emeralds and rubies earlier, but some cones are aquamarines. The cones of this Oriental arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis) don’t even look like cones.

pine cones

These Platycladus cones look more like gems sprinkled along the branches

All of the cones that we’ve shown you so far are females – they contain the ovaries and ultimately the fertilized seeds. But let’s not forget the boys! Unlike much of nature, where the male of the species gets the elegant plumage and fine feathers, in plants the male’s display is generally less showy.  But we think that this crowd of pollen cones on the ‘Golden Ghost’ pine are one of the trustiest signs of spring!

pine cones

Pollen cones on Pinus densiflora ‘Golden Ghost’

So whether you’re walking in your own garden or a botanical preserve such as Quarryhill, when you see a conifer, stop and take a look.  If more people don’t start slowing for the Cone Zone, Form and Foliage is going to begin issuing citations!


30 Comments

Easter Egg Hunt

pink cones, pines, year-round interest

Are those brand new cones on Pinus parviflora ‘Cleary’ or did the Easter Bunny stop by?

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.

Korean fir, conifers

Little yellow eggs decorate the branches of Abies koreana ‘Hortsmann’s Silberlocke’

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?

conifers, colorful cones

Raspberry colored egg-like cones grace the branches of Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’

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.

PIne trees, colored foliage

Pinus densiflora ‘Golden Ghost’ has two eggs in the nest – demurely colored next to the flamboyant needles

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!

firs, conifers, cones

The black-raspberry ‘eggs’ on Abies arnoliana ‘Poulsen’ sit pertly atop the branches

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!

Jelly Bean succulent, pork and beans succulent

The Easter Bunny left jelly beans along with dyed eggs…

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…


6 Comments

‘Down Mexico Way’ at the 2013 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

Arizona State University display garden SF  Flower and Garden Show 2013

The Mexico display garden at the 2013 SF Flower and Garden Show

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.

Foliage plants 'decorate' an outdoor room in the Mexico display garden at the SF Flower & Garden Show

Foliage plants ‘decorate’ an outdoor room in the Mexico display garden at the SF Flower & Garden 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.

2013 SF Flower and Garden Show

Drifts of Agave attenuata ‘Kara’s Stripes’ make a strong structural statement

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.

Ocotillo, Fouqueria splendens

The bold entry planting is dominated by a majestic Yucca filifera and its shadow

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.

Mexico display garden at 2013 SF Flower & Garden Show

A close up of the entry planting: Agave salmiana, a group of A. ‘Kara’s Stripes’ and the trunk of Yucca filimentosa

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.

ASU display garden 2013 SF Flower and Garden Show

Colorful concrete sections staggered diagonally are interplanted with decorative grasses for wonderful textural contrast

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.

Mexico garden, ASU display garden

The garden art echoed the plantings perfectly!

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.


10 Comments

Touring with Talon: Buchholz & Buchholz Up Close and Personal

evergreen plants, conifers, foliage plants

We were greeted by Talon Buchholz – and a riot of foliage color!

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.

conifers, evergreen plants, Buchholz & Buchholz

Cupressus nootkatensis stand guard over the display plantings in the Flora Wonder Arboretum

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.

Weeping larch

Larix deciduosa ‘Pendula’

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.

conifers, evergreens, foliage plants

Mixed conifer border at Buchholz & Buchholz

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.

Japanese maples at Buchholz & Buchholz

Japanese maples at Buchholz & Buchholz

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.

mixed foliage, evergreen shrubs, conifers

Mixed foliage border at Buchholz & Buchholz

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.

Ginkgo biloba, Buchholz & Buchholz

Ginkgo are some of our favorite trees

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.

maples in containers, Buchholz & Buchholz

Flora Wonder pumice planters

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.

Weeping purple beech, fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Pendula'

Weeping purple beech

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


19 Comments

Private Spaces: The LeCocq Garden

gunnera, Japanese maples

Foliage combines with sculptural trunks to provide year-round interest in the LeCocq garden.

When Frances and Irwin LeCocq built their home overlooking Puget Sound almost 30 years ago, their steep front yard was a tangled mass of weeds.  With an almost 23 degree  slope, mowing was out of the question, so a lawn was never a consideration.   The LeCocqs initially covered the expanse with ivy, which they soon realized was a deer delicacy.  Time for Plan B!  In envisioning revised plantings, the LeCocqs didn’t consciously seek out a ‘form and foliage’ design, but  they did have some specific criteria.

gardening on a hill, gardening on a slope

The steep slope presented design challenges, especially since the LeCocqs wanted to be able to walk down to pick up the mail!

First, the slope meant that ongoing maintenance would be difficult and disagreeable (the reason for their first choice of ivy).  Second, in Bellingham’s mild climate, the garden is enjoyed year-round, so should be attractive year-round.  Finally, the LeCocqs knew that they would have to share their garden with the deer, ruling out most tender, floriferous plantings.

foliage gardening, winter gardens

A mix of conifers and deciduous woody plants provides four seasons of interest.

Over the next 21 years, a sequence of talented designers and gardeners assisted the LeCocqs in realizing their vision.  Richard Haag, a Seattle landscape architect, provided the initial plan.  One of his first tasks was to lay out a concrete and gravel pathway following the serpentine track that Irwin had made along the contours of the hill as he made the daily trek to the mailbox.   The mainstays of the garden would be shrubs and trees that could withstand the bands of marauding deer, with a generous component of evergreens to provide winter interest.

foliage plants, Japanese maples, ornamental grasses

A Japanese maple graces the front patio, complemented by ornamental grasses.

They chose numerous Japanese maples and other deciduous plants to ensure a spectacular autumn.  As with all gardens, this one evolved with the help of many hands, including David Steinbrunner, now in Texas, and Bear Creek Nursery’s Jeanne Hager, who currently tends the garden.  Recently, Susan Harrison, of Private Gardens in Bellingham, helped redesign the entry.

woodland gardens, foliage gardening

A wide variety of plantings with lots of trees and shrubs create a lush, woodland feel on what had been a bare slope.

Throughout the garden’s history careful attention was paid to creating combinations of complementary and contrasting textures, as well as colors.  The woody plants do the ‘heavy lifting’ in the garden, but there are enough herbaceous varieties interplanted among the trees and shrubs to create a lush, woodland feel.

peonies fall color, foliage plants

Peonies, with a second season of interest that we didn’t think possible!

Our visit in September caught the deciduous plants at the beginning of their autumn color, and it wasn’t just trees and shrubs providing the show; we were repeatedly amused (and a bit chastened) to see bold oranges and reds provided by peonies, which heretofore we had dismissed as one-season wonders.

A scarlet-leaved Cotinus coggygria in a container on the deck brings the autumn foliage right up to the house.

The LeCocq’s home overlooks most of the garden, as well as Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands and the Olympic Peninsula, and has a large deck that feels nestled in tree tops.  Frances has container plantings to complement the beds, and the autumn standout is a scarlet Cotinus coggygria.

foliage gardens, foliage gardening

The LeCocq garden, viewed from their deck.

While the garden could not be described as ‘no maintenance’, the upkeep is far less than would be necessary for flowering perennials. Although the deer visit nightly, their nibbling has generally been minimal.  The LeCocqs remain grateful to those original marauders, who, by eating the ivy, were responsible for Plan B!

foliage plants, fall color

A Cornus in fall color nicely complements the blue-green leaves of a Euphorbia.

This is a lovely garden in which to wander, to sit and enjoy, and to revel in the colors, shapes and textures.  We thank the LeCocqs for graciously hosting the first segment of our road trip.  Astute readers will have noticed that their last name is the same as Jan’s.  That is because they are her parents!

Admittedly, the garden does get a bit of competition from the view beyond!

Yes, we started close to home, but we branched out. Stay tuned for the next stop: Coenosium Gardens in Eatonville WA, home of Bob Fincham, plantsman extraordinaire.

Copyright 2012 Sara B Malone and Janice M LeCocq