form and foliage

Year round garden interest with minimal care


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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


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Sumptuous Summer

color wheel combinations, color wheel opposites, colored foliage, foliage plants

Acer p. ‘Mizuho Beni’, Phormium ‘Dusky Chief’, Cedrus libani var. atlantica ‘Blue Cascade’ and Leycesteria formosa

The foliage garden always garners big kudos in fall and winter; it is difficult to imagine a flower garden in most temperate zones able to compete with foliage during those seasons.  It is even relatively easy to make the case for foliage over flowers in spring, as much new foliage provides eye candy that rivals spring blooms.

color wheel combinations, foliage plants, colorful foliage

Even without flowers, the summer garden can be richly colorful.

But who can imagine a summer foliage garden that can compete with an herbaceous border?  How to replicate with foliage those colorful displays of summer annuals and perennials that spell summer to so many of us? Why not borrow a ‘leaf’ or two from our book and see!

colored foliage

We like plants with contrasting stems, such as this Viburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select’, whose reddish-brown stems echo the leaf color of the Cotinus x ‘Grace’ behind.

While we speak constantly of choosing plants for fall and winter appeal, we are not indifferent to plants that pull their weight in summer.  Crisp green or maroon leaves, contrasting stems and bark and blue-hued conifers are all components of an interesting summer foliage garden.

Cotinus x ‘Grace’, Spirea t. ‘Mt. Fuji’, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’, Phormium ‘Golden Ray’, with Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’ peeking from behind.

As can be seen in the above photo, the plummy tones of Cotinus x ‘Grace’ are deepest in summer, and Spirea t. ‘Mt. Fuji’, which is grown primarily for spring bloom and fall color, spends the summer months as a luscious lime green. Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’ becomes practically turquoise during the long days of July and August, and the resulting combination is summery and fresh.

Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’, Cotinus x ‘Grace’ and Podocarpus elongatus ‘Monmal’

The same lime green, yellow, plum and turquoise are seen in this arrangement of the striped pine, ‘Zebrina’, our friend ‘Grace’ again, and the lovely Podocarpus ‘Monmal’which is sold as ‘Icee Blue’.  It is an icy blue in winter, but in summer has a richer tone.  Many foliage plants change color through the seasons, and it is as satisfying to anticipate their varying tones as it is to wait for seasonal flowers to bloom.

The summer foliage border.

The summer foliage border has the benefit of never needing deadheading and seldom needing refreshing.  We use the summer months to plan for fall planting or to prune conifers and deciduous shrubs and trees for form.

A well-placed bench is the perfect place to sit in the shade and make plans for fall plantings.

Mature trees add dimension and structure to the garden all year around, and their trunks and bark add color and texture as well.  The photo below displays a trifecta of trunks: the gnarled multiple trunked Olea wilsonii, or fruitless olives, the grizzled ancient Quercus agrifolia (coast live oak) in the far background and the brilliant cinnamon-colored Arbutus ‘Marina’ mid-way between.  They are beautifully showcased by the many greens of the foliage.

Don’t ignore trunks and bark when considering non-floriferous garden interest.

Succulents put on a great display in summer – check out the orange leaves of the Crassula on the top tier!

We love our containers in summer, too, when patio living reaches its zenith, along with the sun.  Succulents carry the containers through the year in our mild climate, but even in colder climes they are a great choice for container plantings, and remember, almost anything qualifies as a container if it will hold potting medium!

A sweeping view across the summer garden includes many colors, shapes and textures.


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Golden Spring – and lots of other colors, too!

As winter subsides the garden magazines and blogs proliferate with emblematic photos of spring: bulbs in bloom, flowering trees and early floriferous annuals such as pansies.  Buds, particularly, capture our imagination, as they exemplify spring’s promise with their enticement to envision the unfolding flower tucked inside.  But garden writers woefully neglect the backstory: what is going on out there besides the flowers?  What has just as much color, interest and pizzazz?  Leaf buds, cones and young, tender vegetative growth.  Come with us on a tour through the spring garden as seen through the eyes of self-confessed foliage freaks.

Part I – Flower ‘substitutes’

Picea pungens ‘Gebelle’s Golden Spring’ gets our vote for New Foliage Poster Child.

One of the brightest garden lights as new growth pushes is Picea pungens ‘Gebelle’s Golden Spring’.  The new needles are daffodil yellow, a color that persists for 5-6 weeks until it gradually fades to bluish green.  Unlike real daffs, however, there are no unsightly withering leaves lingering for months. Apparently, the sunny needles of this spruce look like flowers not just to us. Try as she might, however, this errant honeybee is not going to get any nectar out of them!

New foliage on Picea p. ‘Gebelle’s Golden Spring’ with honeybee.

For a nearly perfect nosegay, we love the young leaves of Cotinus coggygria, or smoke bush.  They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but we know that before there’s smoke, there are luscious little leaves clustered around the immature flower buds.  Cut a bunch, stick in it a vase, and you have a ready-made ‘flower’ arrangement.

A ‘nosegay’ of Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’.

Now, to make a point, we’ll show you a branch with actual flowers on it: Acacia pravissima, an Australian plant known down under as wattle:

Acacia pravissima

Acacia pravissima in spring bloom.

We couldn’t help but notice that right next to the Acacia in the garden is a Picea abies ‘Rubra spicata’, which is notable for having rosy red new growth, arrayed along its branches in a matter very similar to the Acacia!

New growth on Picea abies ‘Rubra Spicata’ is a rosy red – are you sure those aren’t flower buds along that branch?

Not to be outdone, Picea orientalis ‘Early Gold’ is resplendent with cones in almost the same rosy red.

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

A bouquet of purple shows up on Abies x arnoldiana ‘Poulsen’

Abies x arnoldiana ‘Poulsen’ has grape-colored cones in spring.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Admiration’ leafs out like a vivid paprika dahlia.  Who says that spring colors are pastels?

Berberis ‘Admiration’ new spring foliage – who says spring is for pastels?

Another warm-toned flower look alike is the maple Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’, whose unfurling leaves resemble the bell-shaped varieties of Clematis or Campanula.

New growth on Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’ just after bud break.

And if you prefer pink, why not go for Pinus parviflora ‘Cleary’, clearly a pine with attitude!  These are the immature female cones, but they look pretty sophisticated to us.

The female cones of Pinus parviflora ‘Cleary’ are hot pink!

Do you like spiky flowers, such as Gladiolus or Delphinium?  It’s hard to beat the new candles of Thunderhead pines, Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’.

Candles on Pinus t. ‘Thunderhead’ look more like matches with sulfur heads. In any case, they look ready to be lit!

Want rosebuds?  Check out the cones on Picea abies ‘Pusch’.

The dainty ‘rosebuds’ of Picea abies ‘Pusch’.

‘Pusch’ is a mutation of Picea abies ‘Acrocona’, and you can see that the parent has its own ‘flower power’.

A rosy ‘bud’ on Picea abies ‘Acrocona’ (in reality a female cone).

The blue spruces get into the game, too, as P. pungens ‘Fat Albert’ demonstrates. In spring the new growth is not so much blue as minty green.  Scrumptious.

The minty green new foliage on Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’ has us reaching for the dark chocolate.

Lobelia tupa, generally grown for its 7’ tall spikes of deep red flowers, masquerades as a foliage plant in spring, when it wears felted leaves in soft green.  They appear as pointed ‘buds’ that remind us of lily petals unfolding.

LeCocq_120425_1447s

Felted leaves in fresh green glow in the spring foliage garden….long before the scarlet flowers grab center stage.

And for those that insist on a rosette, look no further than Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick’.  No wishy-washy shade for her!  We wonder if she wears matching nail polish.

Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick’ forms a rosette with perfectly outlined ‘lips’.

And to end where we began, with ‘golden spring’, is Corylopsis spicata ‘Golden Spring’.  Leafing out in a deeper yellow than ‘Gabelle’s Golden Spring’, it deepens to  chartreuse in summer and then in autumn a golden yellow again.

LeCocq_20120425_0975-Edits

New foliage on Corylopsis spicata ‘Golden Spring’ glows in the shade garden in spring.

So look harder, look longer, look beyond the flowers, and find the gold…and burgundy and red and purple and powder blue and pink and….

Next up: Part II – Compelling Color Combos.

Stay tuned.

Copyright 2012 by Form and Foliage