December Foliage


Foliage reigns at the Fairegarden, but even more so in the colder months. Flowers are fleeting, most have a bloom time of only a few weeks at the most. Evergreen foliage has been added in every colorway to add to the interest in all season. Pam of Digging has decided that foliage deserves to have its day of display once a month, just like the flowers of GBBD. I agree. The concrete cat, Freedom protects the turning straps of Hemerocallis ‘Kabuki’.


Ever striving for less work and more enjoyment, evergreens have been added to the lineup of planters along the wall behind the main house. The leaf man trough, meant to be a nice deep round hypertufa but most of the sides fell off from being unmolded too soon, is now home to miniature conifers, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Pygmy’, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana lutea’, silver Thymus ‘Heigh-Ho Silver’ and Armeria ‘Nifty Thrifty’.


Sharing a bench with leaf man is the Rosemary topiary forest. We wrote about it in one of our very first posts, back when we posted every single day. Click to read it here, Rosemary, catchy title, don’t you agree? The blood grass is still showing red along the top of the wall. Unheard of so late in the year.


In a more successful hypertufa if not straight sided, using a cardboard box is likely to cave inward if not supported, we found out the hard way, is Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’. We are still waiting to see colors more multi than green from it. Still pretty though. The green glass ball is one that was broken when we redid the pond. The damaged side is turned to the bottom.


In the trio of reddish pots, from the right, just trying to prevent boredom here, we know you were expecting us to name them from the left, HA, are Lavendula ‘Hidcote’ with a ring of rosemary cuttings that were stuck in the fall of 2008 to prevent squirrels from digging, (it works and the cuttings even rooted), Carex testuca ‘New Zealand Orange Sedge’, and a mixed planting of Erysimum ‘Cloth Of Gold’, Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’, forget me nots and Dicentra eximia, finally going dormant.


In the newest of the glazed pots, the low round purple number, California poppies, Eschscholzia californica were sown last winter. Even if they never bloom, we love the silver lacy foliage. Surely they will bloom this spring though.


The Sleeping Maiden is snoozing on the hill. Her planting is now the evertan Carex seedlings, probably offspring of C. ‘Toffee Twist’ and unknown Carex fathers. There was this wild party one night, see…. To read her story, click here-Sleeping Maiden. Yet another clever title. Sometimes after writing a post, the creative juices just dry up when it is time for the title.


Several pots of white kale, Brassica ‘Evening Lace’ were bought on mark down at the big box store. A few were planted in the ground and three were left in the black plastic pots and stuck in a quickly disentegrating limb of Ferngully, RIP, that rests at the base of the golden elderberry, Sambucus ‘Aurea’.


In the same area is a mixed planter, also bought at a steep discount of purple kale, probably B. ‘Redbor’.


The metal window planter on the shed holds some Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus seedlings and golden creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ that could use a trim. This planter gets zero attention from the gardener. It really should be redone this year, I mean next year. Time to get ready to write 2010, it even feels funny typing it.


It has been mentioned that we avoid working in the front gardens if at all possible. We are usually dressed oddly and don’t want our privacy invaded, unless it is Mickey coming by in his golf cart for a visit. In the space between the garage and the main house that was paved when the driveway was laid, the blue pot collection holds Yucca filamentosa ‘Golden Sword’. Many plantings have been tried in these pots. Yellow tulips, violas, Camellias, summer annuals all have looked quite attractive, but only for a short time. The Camellias died outright. Wanting something evergreen, upright and interesting, these yuccas seem to fit the bill. The blue foliage of the blue stars, Juniperus squamata and upright Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’ offers a cool foliage dominated rock walled bed by the front door sidewalk. Heuchera ‘Citronelle’ contrasts and the still tiny japanese maple gives red foliage in the growing seasons. Bulbs live in there with a covering of forget me not seedlings. Calm, restful to the eye, and above all, no maintenance for the shy gardener.

The value of evergreen foliage of different hues cannot be stressed strongly enough, if there is hope of winter interest. Do consider these plants, whether for containers if your climate allows, or in the ground. It is so nice to have something alive and colorful to look at until spring shows its face again.

Frances

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38 Responses to December Foliage

  1. Frances, I am more in love with foliage plants the older I get. Their beauty is not fleeting like a flower. Love the golden yuccas in the blue pots and the structure of the rosemary forest, I might have to steal/borrow that idea for work.
    Deborah

    Hi Deborah, thanks for visiting. Feel free to borrow the rosemary forest idea, I borrowed it from somewhere, I ‘m sure, just don’t remember where. Flowers are nice and I love them too, but the foliage of plants is a much more important consideration when designing and enjoying a garden. I am happy with the yuccas for a non maintenance colorful idea for those blue containers. I don’t have to do a thing and they look exactly the same all the time. I have enough other things to tend so it a good choice for the front. :-)
    Frances

  2. Charlotte says:

    Wonderful! Wish I could see our foliage right now, but as you’ll see if you check in – we have six inches of snow!

    Thanks Charlotte. Wow to your snow! I will be right over to check it out. :-)
    Frances

  3. Darla says:

    Very nice post and yes I agree, foliage has earned it’s own day!

    Hi Darla, thanks. We just can’t say enough about the importance of foliage, can we? :-)
    Frances

  4. Kiki says:

    Beautiful foliage..everything so lovely. I love the sleeping maiden..she is super fabulous! I love all the statues and faces..they add such a magical element! AS always your posts are full of life and spirit and magic! Great work.

    Hi Kiki, thanks. The maiden is an honored guest here, I have yet to find the right plantings for her, the carex might be just the thing, we shall see. Leaf man is VERY magical, he really transforms the broken pot to something special, almost like that one tall side was planned all along rather than the one part that did not break off. Glad you liked them, not everyone cares for faces in the garden, but I say the more the merrier. :-)
    Frances

  5. Gail says:

    Frances, Your garden so reigns supreme with foliage AND flowers. I’ve long admired the evergreenery in the garden and have wished it would magically appear in my own. I know Don will have a word or two to say about that~~

    I am completely charmed by the California Poppy foliage~Perfect color in and out of bloom in that new container!

    I know this is a foliage post, but have to say that your hardscape adds so much to the design of fairegarden…The mosses look wonderful and it’s a great backdrop for containers. My favorite photo shows Blood Grass peaking at us, the hypertufa planting and the delicious moss covered wall. Have a good weekend….It’s raining again and might be heading over the mountains. gail

    Hi Gail, thanks so much. The hardscape is important and the moss, well I could write reams about it. What an archaic term. HA Don will be stifled for the evergreen remark he has at the ready. Isn’t the poppy foliage pretty? It has been just like that since last winter! A packet of seeds sprinkled then topped with chicken grit is the secret. I plan to do it again, not caring about the flowers. Raining here too, with temps dropping. Snow over the next range of mountains to the east, too. Have a happy weekend. :-)
    Frances

  6. I’ve been lacking in blooms but do have some foliage still hanging around. The blue pots definitely add some cheer to the winter garden. It does feel funny to think of 2010 already. I’ll get used to writing that in July!

    Hi Dave, thanks. Foliage is so much more important, with nearly limitless options for plantings. It is hard to even SAY 2010 without it seeming like the distant future. Well, the future is rapidly approaching! HA :-)
    Frances

  7. A perfect demonstration of what I’ve been telling people for years now, Frances; that foliage alone is beautiful, even without flowers to liven things up. Even in December, your garden is radiant with colour and texture and form. Mine will have to wait til it milds up a little bit more because it’s anything but mild here!

    Hi Jodi, thanks. We have been striving for many years to get the mix of color, form and texture to be interesting. Of course that work is never done, but it is getting better from all the winter browns of the beginning plantings. Like all gardeners, we started out only thinking about flower color and bloom time, thinking we were so smart in even thinking about the season of flowering. Will you be getting mild anytime soon? I imagine a covering of snow that lasts until spring there. A winter wonderland. :-)
    Frances

  8. Tatyana says:

    Hi Frances! Your garden is very alive even in December! Shapes, textures and colors are there! Pots and garden art pieces are more visible now in my garden too.

    Hi Tatyana, thanks. We have been studying books, magazine, and more recently blogs for ideas about how to make for more winter interest on the slope, at least the parts we see from inside the house, for several years. It is constantly tweaked, but we learn a little more each season. We feel the pots are as important as what is in them. :-)
    Frances

  9. Rose says:

    There is so much still going on in your garden, Frances! I have become painfully aware that evergreens are one thing I am definitely missing in my garden. Not sure how many of these same plants would thrive here in zone 5, but I need to look at some possibilities. My garden is primarily brown right now, without any interesting foliage that I can see. I’ll have to go back and read about the rosemary topiaries–I like them!

    Hi Rose, thanks. I have worked long and hard to get even this much winter interest. Sometimes we pay too much attention to the flowers, not enough to the evergreen foliage that is crucial in a winter garden, snow cover or not. I would like to recommend for you the red twig dogwoods or willow with winter stem color. They are quite cold hardy and add tons of interest. :-)
    Frances

  10. Teresa O says:

    The sleeping maiden immediately drew my attention and my imagination. Foliage plants add a sense of permanence with color, texture, and pattern as your photos illustrate so beautifully.

    I must say, I’m so enjoying my first winter as a blogger and seeing what’s growing across the land while the world I live in snoozes.

    Thanks Teresa, the Maiden is a beauty. We are still tweaking the winter foliage and form here, but knowing how things perform in our climate really helps. That is one good thing about the blogs, getting ideas that can work for you. :-)
    Frances

  11. Catherine says:

    It took me awhile to figure out how important foliage was in the garden. I used to look only at the flowers. I’ve just started adding some dwarf conifers too. I love how having just the Carex looks in containers too.

    Hi Catherine, thanks. It seems most gardeners start out only thinking about blooms, we were certainly no exception. Even after many years of gardening, it is only at this house that the winter scene was even considered. The little conifers are wonderful for containers, as are the Carex and grasses, and let us not forget the yuccas! :-)
    Frances

  12. Jen says:

    The true bones of a garden show in the winter. Yours are beautiful.

    Jen

    Hi Jen, thank you, that is so very sweet. :-)
    Frances

  13. stevesned says:

    We used to plant those Kale every Winter in Vancouver, Canada. They just thrived there, opening wider and looking more colorful as the weather pattern arose and descended. Pansies too, for that matter. As usual, those are terrific photos, Frances. I could look at your garden for days.

    Hi Steven, thanks and so nice to see you. You are so kind to say those nice things, I do appreciate you. The kale is wonderful, and we would never be without fall planted pansies and violas. We are lucky to live where they can be happy over winter to repay us in the spring with those vibrant displays.
    Frances

  14. Pam/Digging says:

    Thanks for celebrating foliage with me, Frances! I knew you would have a good collection of winter beauties, and you do. I would even have included those winterberries that are so stunning, even if berries are not exactly foliage.

    My faves here look like they belong in Austin too: the orange carex and the yuccas in the blue pots. So much to look at all winter–well done!

    My pleasure, Pam. Foliage is certainly deserving of its own special day and there will always be plenty of photo ops shortly after bloom day. Thanks for allowing some leeway on the timing too. I didn’t even think of the winterberries because they show up here and there over the winter. They are the brightest thing in the garden right now though. The yuccas are a direct result of your influence, I didn’t even like yuccas before, not realizing they came in the pretty variegation. :-)
    Frances

  15. Ok, so I should be focusing on the foliage but truth be known it’s leaf man trough, sleeping maiden and rosemary topiary that really floats me boat.

    Thanks Rob, You can focus on whatever you want to. The leaf man is a fave here too, even without plantings. I am hoping the little conifers do well there. The rosemary has been a success story, several years old already. If we can just keep the devil squirrels from burying walnuts in the pot, grrr.
    Frances

  16. easygardener says:

    I like the Rosemary forest with the mini trunks. The Yuccas look good – the spikiness provides an excellent contrast to the solid blue of the pots. I would like a blue pot too. A garden needs splashes of colour at this time of year!

    Hi EG, thanks. The rosemary forest has been around a long time. It might get put under cover once or twice a year when the temps dip into single digits, but the rest of the time it sits happily on the bench all year. The spikes are working well so far in the blue pots. I don’t do a thing to care for them. Blue is wonderful, I agree. :-)
    Frances

  17. Joanne says:

    Still lots of interesting foliage to see and plenty of colour.

    Hi Joanne, thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked the tour. We do still have winter interest in the garden, all from foliage, stems and hardscape, very important garden denizens. :-)
    Frances

  18. Susie says:

    I love all of your pots, so imaginative(is that a word?)….I especially love the sleeping maiden & the forest of rosemary. I would never have thought of that one!

    Hi Susie, thanks. Last time I checked, imaginative is a word, and even if it wasn’t all words are welcome! Well except a few, but I think we all know what those are about. Glad you liked the containers, we love faces of all sorts and colorful glazes. The rosemary forest has been with us for several years, very easy to take care of with fun trimmings twice a year. :-)
    Frances

  19. Santa Monica says:

    Frances, Over the years I have become a huge fan of shrubs in general and evergreens in specific. Yay! I love the colors, textures, and, as you say, ease of care. My biggest surprise in non-woody evergreens is Nigella–they reseed themselves and have foliage up (no flowers) in fall and their leaves remain evergreen all winter, even in my zone. They then bloom in… um… probably June! (Why didn’t I pay exact attention last year?!)

    Ho Ho Ho, Santa Monica! I wondered who was visiting us from California! I am cheered by your Nigella, we have it as thick as moss here and the ferny foliage is so welcome. Glad to hear it operates in the same way so far north too. I am not sure when ours bloom either, sometime in spring. We do take them for granted, that needs to be corrected! :-)
    Frances

  20. ourfriendben says:

    Wow, Frances, what a delightful tour! Much as we love flowers, it is foliage that ultimately gets our attention. (One reason peonies and hellebores and mums and groundcovers are such faves.) Thanks!!!

    Thanks OFB. The evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials really come to the forefront this time of year. We kind of forget about them when the flowers are blooming. More thought needed about the winter garden, that seems to only happen in the winter when it is harder to find new plants and harder to plant them in such cold earth, even if it isn’t frozen.
    Frances

  21. Hello Frances,

    I love all of your pictures of foliage. Such a great collection of textures and colors. I especially like the rosemary topiary. I haven’t seen any pruned with the multiple stems. I really liked it.

    Hi Noelle, thanks. The rosemary forest has been a popular item on this post. It is sweet, if only I can keep the squirrels out of it. You would think the fragrance would deter those digging devils, but there is a big hole in the scotch moss that can only be the work of the fluffy tailed rats!
    Frances

  22. kanak7 says:

    “Striving for less work and more enjoyment” sums up why we tend to add foliage plants to the garden.I liked the tour. Your containers are pretty, the blue and the reddish ones, especially. The sedge looks so good and so does the kale.

    Still chuckling at the thought of Mickey stopping by…:-)

    Hi Kanak, thanks for your support. We only last year discovered the happiness of one evergreen plant in one container, previously trying to make mixes that were always underwhelming. Mickey doesn’t come by as often as he used to, sadly, since his mate Mae passed away last spring. But he does still travel around his own, much flatter than mine! garden by golf cart or small tractor/lawn mower. Bless his heart. :-)
    Frances

  23. chuck b. says:

    You have many beautiful containers. I really like the sleeping lady head.

    Thanks Chuck, glad you like them. We have been editing the containers, keeping only the best ones and giving the rest to the offspring. Sleeping Maiden is a fave, but we have yet to find the perfect plant for her small space in her hair available. The carex should be good for the winter, but may not survive the hot dry summer in there. It is in the shade then, that might help. The sedum died, if you can believe it.
    Frances

  24. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Nice foliage Frances. You also have so many intersting pots sprinkled about. My faves are your tufa pots. I will make some one of these days. I will make some one of these days. I will make some one of these days. Oops sorry I realize I keep saying that. As to blog titles…I too find it difficult to come up with something interesting. This must be why newspapers have people that just make up titles to articles. It must not be easy. Cheers…

    Hi Lisa, thanks. The pots have been gathered over several years and don’t even need plants in them to provide interest. One of these days, you WILL make a hypertufa pot! HA About the titles, I am always torn between trying to be clever, very very very difficult, or just descriptive for someone doing a google search, or me trying to find an old post. Does it even matter? :-0
    Frances

  25. Anna says:

    I enjoyed reading about the Sleeping Maiden – she reminded me of a visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall and their Mud Maiden. I think that I would have fallen for her too Frances :)

    Thanks so much Anna! I looked up the mud maid and there is a striking resemblance. I see she is also planted with grassy hair, a good omen for the carex. I hope it can make it through the hot summer months in the small planting space, even the sedums died there last year. Maybe a different potting mixture will help, or mossy mulch to keep it damp. :-)
    Frances

  26. Stevie says:

    Wow – your garden art and containers make the garden look like like it’s springtime. Love love love the purple kale.

    Thanks Stevie. Those things do help give interest during the non growing season. That redbor kale is so photogenic, it will flower in the spring too with yellow flowers on tall stalks. A fabulous plant. :-)
    Frances

  27. Liisa says:

    Beautiful foliage, Frances. I just love your golden-haired Sleeping Maiden. And, I enjoyed your story of how she came to be. :) I admire your slope, as I have one of my own that I am to begin making into a meadow this coming spring. If you have any wisdom to share about constructing pathways on a slope, I would love to hear it!!

    Thanks so much Liisa. Sleeping Maiden does look better as a blonde! The pathways on the slope are tricky, as you probably already know. They can be very slippery, gravel does not stay put and will make you slip sometimes. Having some kind of timbers every so many inches, well secured into the ground with large metal spikes, or even concrete will help. If you make concrete steps, like we did on the main and steepest slope, make them on the diagonal to lessen the height between them, something we did not do. Use long, at least two foot long metal rebar in the concrete driven down just enough not to stick up above the top. Our steps are still moving, even though they are super heavy, with all the rains we have had. Good luck! The planting part is much easier! :-)
    Frances

  28. The sculptures in your garden add SO much – I love the Sleeping Maiden! Thank you for such a beautiful tour this morning…I quite enjoyed it!

    Hi Rebecca, thanks for that. I am so glad you enjoyed the foliage tour. We love the Maiden too, hoping to find the right planting that can survive in her hair. :-)
    Frances

  29. Kathleen says:

    Winter foliage in the garden is something I desperately need to work on Frances. It does deserve it’s own post ~ kudos to Pam for thinking of it. I love your containers and their plantings. I think my favorite is the rosemary. I didn’t realize it was so hardy? I chuckled at your description of dress and not wanting to work in the front garden. That’s me, except I can often be found in my pj’s! I go out with my coffee then see things that need to be done and end up working in them.
    ps. I got an early Christmas gift ~ a ‘Raisin Pie’ paphiopedlium. I think the obsession has begun! Merry Christmas to you and your family too Frances. I hope it’s a wonderful holiday for you all.

    Hi Kathleen, thanks for stopping by. The rosemary has proven hardy, but we will move it if there is single digit or even teen temps forecast just for good measure. I used to do that in my PJs too, but wore out the knees too quickly from kneeling in the dirt. I am more careful now, with old clothes for gardening that are not exactly lovely. The best are my husbands old shirts, nice a roomy for all the bending over. Hooray for your paph. I am quite jealous, for we have not gotten a new one in years. They are hard to find, lucky for my budget! May your holidays be the best ever! :-)
    Frances

  30. Willow says:

    I just love your pictures. They look so magical.

    Willow

    Thanks Willow, I am so glad you liked them. This time of year is moody and magical, with the low light and lack of brilliant color. Moss reigns and adds plenty of enchantment to the scene. :-)
    Frances

  31. Frances, your garden is still so lovely – plenty of interesting plants to enjoy. I like your sleeping maiden a lot – such a beauty!

    Thanks Katarina. We do still go out and putter around the garden, when the weather permits. The Maiden has been welcomed by the other planters and faces in the garden. She is one of the gang now. :-)
    Frances

  32. Have you ever thought about showing the broken side of the glass ball that’s in with your Calluna vulgaris? You know, just to let folks know that gardening isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? (I know, bad pun, but still valid point me thinks.)

    (My new WordPress blog is comin along slowly but surely, I’ve added a few blogroll links, including yours.)

    HA TC, you are too funny! Maybe one day it will be shown, just for you! I will be over to visit you as soon as time allows, my friend, thanks for the link. :-)
    Frances

  33. Frances,
    Your art in the garden and artistic expression through your camera lens — wonderful! Hope all is well in Fairegarden.

    Happy Holidays!
    Cameron
    PS. I think I may be finally getting over my respiratory illness. I’ve barely had any writing thoughts at all (as you’ve probably seen, I’ve been desperate for something to write about!). I’ve not seen my garden in weeks, except through the windows. My camera has been unused.

    Dear Cameron, I am so sorry to hear you have been ill. May this be the beginning of your return to normalcy, we miss your inspiring posts! Thanks for the kind words, we are well, knock on wood, and madly preparing for the clan’s coming here soon. Do get better and take it easy. The garden will always wait for you. :-)
    Frances

  34. Hi Frances! I can tell that it’s not Summertime down there anymore. And it doesn’t even really look like Fall, anymore. So… that makes me feel just fine! I really love Winter here. It’s “enforced rest” as well as opportunity to do eversomany other things! ;-) Have a Wonderful Christmas!

    Hi Shady, thanks. If it makes you feel better to know we are suffering from the cold dreary days of winter, then you should be ecstatic about now! HA Our normal temps are more up and down rather than all down at this time of year. I am longing to be outside doing clean up and chores in the garden, but too many indoor things require my time right now anyway. May you have the most wonderful holidays and get well rested. ;-)
    Frances

  35. Nell Jean says:

    I really never will make hypertufa pots. I will buy more pots, though. Your rosemary plantings remind me that I have rooted cuttings, and could take more cuttings. Are there ever enough cuttings? It makes a wonderful hedge. Maybe the sleeping maiden could have rosemary hair?

    Hi Nell Jean, never say never! HA That rosemary roots so easily it is just amazing. I think rosemary for the maiden would be too stiff a ‘do. She needs flowing locks, like the one in England, the mud maid of Heligan. I need one of those! Brain clicking in mad formulations…… :-)
    Frances

  36. Janet says:

    Good morning Frances, great foliage. Love the poppies in that GREAT lavender pot…nice color. Your blue pot collection with the yuccas is an idea I will store away for next year…striking statement. Looking forward to seeing if your Calluna is in fact multi colored.

    Thanks Janet. We love the purple pot too, even empty. I just checked on the calluna again today, the very tips are turning pink but the rest of the stems are green. Pretty but no cigar, yet. :-)
    Frances

  37. Carol says:

    Your photos are amazing….enjoyed visiting your blog and will return!

    Thanks Carol and welcome. I enjoyed snooping around your blog, lots of interest there! :-)
    Frances

  38. Christine B. says:

    This is my first visit to your fine blog. The purple kale: sensational! The golden yucca in the blue pots: eye-catching! Well done, I’ll be back again.

    Christine in Alaska at the Last Frontier Garden

    Hi Christine, thanks and welcome. I am so glad you came, leading me back to your space. I will learn much about gardening in Alaska from you! :-)
    Frances

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