Follow The Foliage

april-21-2009-177-2Until last year, our design philosophy was just wanting the garden to look good. Plants were stuck in where there was an opening, aiming for the right growing conditions. Leaf and flower color was considered in the placement, but not so much size and shape. Above is an example of the lack of diversity in the area we refer to as the flat bed. The lower section was the gravel driveway for the house next door that was bought, demolished and the garage built in its place. The downhill part is where the foundation for the garage was excavated. It is solid red clay soil. Nice rectangular chunks could be sliced out, dried in the sun and used for construction. Getting things to grow in this has been challenging. It seems spiky leaves do best here. We did try to mix it up with the red foliage of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’.april-24-2009-069-2Moving over to the lowest set of steps going up to the knot garden we see the little leaf syndrome. There is color variety with the purple of the Ajuga leaf and the silver Cerastium and Dianthus, but only the Hellebores which are slowly but surely making their presence felt with self sowing have a nice large green leaf.april-28-2009-028-2Late last summer a program of large leaf introduction was begun. One of the best candidates to be spread about is Heuchera villosa ‘Brownie’. This is not a showy leaf, but the size, color and hardiness of this cultivar make it an excellent choice. We have found it will grow in most any situation here except the fullest blazing all day sun and has the added appeal of producing offsets that can be split off and replanted for the highly desirable massing effect. Shown here with the Cerastium and Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’. This trio has a nice contrast of color, form and size.may-4-2009-013-2Another pleasing combination with an eye to the future is this maple seedling that was germinated in the greenhouse from a collected wingnut at a nearby nursery with particularly fine fall foliage. At some point this tree will tower over the companions shown above, Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’, Fothergilla to the right and Helleborus orientalis to the left.may-8-2009-041-2Not really part of the garden, but an interesting foliage duo is Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ and an unknown Hedera growing behind the heating/air conditioning unit. These were planted to keep the weeds down in a very shaded area. It works too. The ivy must be kept off the house, but we like it on the fence.may-8-2009-048-2Coming back from the heater to the front of the house some of the earliest plantings appear. Two Acer palamatum ‘Butterfly’ maples were planted the day we closed on the house in 1996. We love the foliage interest on these trees and have pruned them over the years in various ways. Right now they are being kept to the height of the front stoop so as not to block the front door from the street. The ever present violets have taken over the space between the step stones. Bulbous oat grass is along the stone facing on the right. In the center driveway bed the nigella and lamb’s ear, Stachys byzantina are beginning to flower. Across the driveway is the muhly bed with Purple Sensation alliums still showing color.may-8-2009-051-2The chance to show our favorite branch on the whole property cannot be passed by. How this happened is a mystery. Maybe something was pressing on this stem to bend it away from the house while the offspring Semi and Chickenpoet, then Gardoctor lived here. Before we moved here and cast the step stones to make a nice path to get to the utilities at the side of the house. Who can say, but we love the result.may-8-2009-114-2Following the path to the back gardens and up the hill finds a group of Hosta ‘Sunpower’ with native ferns, Persicaria macrocephala ‘Red Dragon’, various weeds and Gaillardia seedlings of mixed parentage. Morning shade with afternoon sun make this a challenging area to plant. This hosta can take full sun without getting burnt edges, a good feature.may-8-2009-069-2Passing by the ferngully bed reveals Astilbe, variegated Solomon’s seal, the lower stalks of Joe Pye weed with a little Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ seedling that snuck into the mix. One minus here is that all of these disappear in winter.may-8-2009-065-2Trudging onward and upward, oh you want to rest for a bit? I don’t blame you, this is a steep trek for those non-hillbillys among the group. As for me, I like to keep going and take a rest at the top for there is a nice bench up there, with a cushion. Oops, the cushion was left out in the rain and the whole thing is a soggy mess. We will have to stand up unless you want a soggy bottom. What is being shown here is the fading foliage of the tulips and little iris retics at the front edge as the patchwork of creeping thymes planted in the knot garden quadrants are filling in as instructed.may-8-2009-066-2Looking at the opposite quad which has filled in the most of the four with the thymes. New this spring are the bamboo teepees in the centers planted with one each of Lilliums Chinese trumpet ‘African Queen’, ‘Lady Alice’ and asiatic ‘Tiger Babies’. Scarlet runner beans have been planted to grow on the poles. We are hoping this will add some summer interest up here and still let the thymes weave and bob to fill the spaces. It is an experiment that might have surprises with the color and height of the bulbs. It will take a few years for the lilies to reach their advertised height of five or more feet. Anticipation is a good thing.may-8-2009-122-2Centered behind the soggy seated bench is a stand of hemlocks, Tsuga canadensis with chartruese new growth framing Cotinus coggygria. This smoke tree was moved from between the main house and the garage when the two structures were attached with the construction of the addition a few years ago. It nearly expired with the drought of the last two years but has never looked better with the more than adequate rainfall of recent weeks.april-29-2009-050-2Descending back to the house for a cool beverage, Schweppes ginger ale and maybe some cheese and crackers, Triscuits and muenster, we pass the daylily hill. Let’s have some red seedless grapes too. Watch your step here, there should have been more stone steps rather than just gravel path on this incline. We will put that on the to do list. The daylily hill contains more than daylilies. There is an edging of Spiraea bumaldi ‘Magic Carpet’, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and bulbs. The tulips have gone by and the lilies are showing buds. There are various types of lilies in this bed that will be featured in another story when they begin to bloom soon. Hosta ‘Sunpower’ is planted under the Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’ that was recently pruned to the right of the photo. Tall Dryopteris x australia, Dixie Wood Fern is beginning to reach above the masses of strappy foliage. The odd oriental poppy and yet another Husker red can be seen here as well.may-8-2009-147-2Our lady of the corner, Athena is nearly submerged by the yellow budded Sedum acre. Flanked by Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’ with pinkish blooms, she will be cleared of foliage soon to gaze out upon the garden.may-8-2009-148-2That is stretching it a bit since she actually faces the deck and house so we can gaze at her from the lazyboy with laptop at the ready. Looking back at the daylily hill, which was the focus of some tweaking last fall, click here to read about that project, the foliage takes the stage rather than flowers for now. The stipa, now called Nasella tenuissima gives waves of movement with the slightest breeze at the corner. Tall Phlox paniculata from dear neighbor Mae is rising with a slightly different leaf form in the sea of green. The daylilies and lilies will give splotches of color soon for a couple of months, then it will be back to green leaves. But green is a color too, they say, and it is a nice one that cools us on hot summer days. The goal of more variety in shape and size of the green is still being striven towards.
(All photos in this post were taken with the old camera, Canon Powershot A720 IS)

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36 Responses to Follow The Foliage

  1. Good morning Frances, it is always a pleasure to see photos of your garden. I love the garden by the steps. Hope you have a wonderful day.

    Hi Linda, thanks so much and nice to see you here. The steps have proven a good planting arena. πŸ™‚

  2. tina says:

    I saw that same ‘Brilliance’ at Gail’s. It is so pretty. I’ve never even heard of it before. Your butterfly maples are amazing. I think your gardens look awesome no matter the time of year-really filling out now. Have a good day today.

    Hi Tina, thanks. Brilliance has been getting a big push lately at the big boxes. I am not sure how it differs from the straight old Autumn fern in any way other than by name. I would not look specifically for that cultivar it you happen to see an Autumn fern. They all have that emerging color, hence the Autumn name.

  3. Randy says:

    What an incredible tour. I’ve often wondered if we planted the seeds from Crimson Queen would they grow. How old is the little maple in the picture?

    Hi Randy, thanks. I did find a dissectum seedling in the gravel path and planted it near the other seedlings which is not a dissectum. I believe the one shown is four or five years at least. It was moved once after the initial planting, of course. It is just now starting to look like a tree. πŸ™‚

  4. Joy says:

    Frances .. you know already I am a foliage gal .. but wow , you have such amazing plants showing off their leaves today !
    I found a new heuchera to me .. “Pinot Gris”
    If you do not already have it .. I think you should consider hunting it down ? LOL
    It would look amazing with your plants (it changes colour during the season and it is bred specifically for heat and humidity tolerance) : )

    Hi Joy, thanks. I have heard of Pinot Gris and will keep an eye out for it. Heat and humidity are a fact of life here in summer, so the plantings must be able to cope.

  5. Kathy says:

    Beautiful. You inspire me to get moving.

    Hi Kathy, thanks and welcome. Moving is a good thing. πŸ™‚

  6. Brooke says:

    I could spend hours just wandering through your hillside. I have a small hill I am trying to “tame” but yours makes me green with envy. Watch out if you see me come with a bucket and spade…lol. Just kidding, but I would love to be your neighbor! Hugs…..Brooke

    Hi Brooke, thanks and welcome. Taming the hill takes years. We are still working on it, as with all gardens, it will never be finished. But that’s the idea. Anyone who visits my garden will leave with plants. It is nice when they bring their own buckets and shovels too, and even do the digging. πŸ™‚

  7. Hi Frances, love the curling branch and the painted fern–also love the purple smokebush–it’s a fav in my garden.

    Hi Monica, thanks. That curling branch always makes me smile. We have another purple smoke that is coppiced, cut to the ground each year. It makes a small mound of brilliant reddish foliage that is positioned for backlighting. It got zapped by a hard frost this year but is regrowing. Those are tough trees. The one by the hemlocks will be allowed to get larger, but I like them pruned a bit.

  8. Dave says:

    It’s all looking great! I was curious about your maple seedling. Did you cold straify the seed or just plant it? My parents have a very nice ‘Bloodgood’ maple that I’ve tried germinating the seed but haven’t had any success yet.

    Hi Dave, thanks. I plucked the seed in the fall and planted it right away in the greenhouse. There were two seeds attached to the wings, both germinated. After a year they were planted outside. One died. The other was moved to its current location since we believe it will grow fairly large, twenty feet at maturity. The name of the tree, a large specimen in a wooden boxed container, was a japanese name of some sort, nishiki as part of it possibly. But there are so many names like that, I have no idea which it could be. Seedlings rarely come true to named cultivars anyway, but this one has nice red color to the leaves. I have not noticed the brilliant mixed orange and reds the parent had so far, but it is still a baby. I don’t know if Bloodgood can produce viable seed, many do not. If this one ever has a seed produced, you are welcome to it. If I live that long, HA! πŸ™‚

  9. ourfriendben says:

    One word, Frances: Aaaaahhhhhh…

    Thanks, OFB. πŸ™‚

  10. Sunita says:

    Oh that’s lovely, Frances! I’m sure Athena doesnt mind being submerged in all that greenery. And I love that very quirky, bendy branch. Never mind how it happened … just enjoy it!

    Hi Sunita, thanks. Maybe Athena doesn’t mind, but I want to see her queenly features while in the lazyboy! I love that branch, only wishing I knew how it happened so I could make more of them do the same. πŸ™‚

  11. Gail says:

    My dear, I have a thought playing in my head when I head to the nurseries…I can’t get rid of it! ‘Is that leaf a different shape from all the rest you have? Does it come in a variegated form? WWFG->What Would Frances Get!” You know I adore your garden, so I am not going to tell you again how darned beautiful it is or how the textures, colors, fragrance and masses of plants are a delight to the senses. gail

    Good morning Gail and thanks, you make me laugh. πŸ™‚ Looking for different leaf shapes and sizes, larger and maybe more colorful for your garden is a good idea when making plant selection. My own purchases are so impulsive, for really the garden is all planted and needs no more additions. The daylily hill still needs work, and I am hoping last year’s additions will make it more interesting come fall. The light leaf of Sunpower hosta is looking great. Maybe you could add some of those, or a similar yellow leaf at your place?

  12. Brenda Kula says:

    Your gardens have the illusion of wild fields in some areas (a much sought after effect) and woodlands in others. So much diversity! I am always overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude and diverse beauty of your yard!

    Hi Brenda, thanks so much, I like what you are saying! Diversity has come from years of buying one of those, one of those, etc. The things that do well have been divided and spread about and the self sowers are heaven sent. Being on the hill makes the garden appear so much larger too, although it is a third of an acre with hardly any lawn. None in front, a small bit at the side and none in back. And the lawn is shrinking. My house in Texas had zero lawn. πŸ™‚

  13. Phillip says:

    I’ve long wanted a “Butterfly” Japanese maple. I’ve since decided that I’d rather have “Waterfall” – however, your photos make me wonder. Beautiful!

    Hi Philip, thanks. If I had to choose, I would go with Waterfall. Butterfly, if left to its own devices grows to an ungainly vase shape that I am not in love with. That is why these have always been hard pruned. Now if they could get that leaf color with the graceful form of Waterfall, or Veridis, just as nice and usually cheaper, that would be a to die for tree. πŸ™‚

  14. Sweet Bay says:

    What a lot of different colors and textures you have — it adds so much interest and beauty.

    Hi Sweetbay, thanks. It took me several years to figure out that leaves were more important than flowers to the overall appearance of the garden. Now I get it. πŸ™‚

  15. I just love the last photo with the overall look at this flower bed, or maybe I should call it foliage bed. I do see those lovely orange poppies peeking out of the foliage. Marvelous color and diverse foliage everywhere Frances.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. There needs to be more diversity in the daylily hill and elsewhere, but that is the view I look at most often. Those crazy poppies have these twisting stems, they don’t stand straight and tall at all. Being mixed in with other foliage really helps their appearance. I do love the orange dots. HA

  16. Hi Frances

    You have so many plants. I liked every photo but have to say how taken I am with the steps. I bet you can’t imagine gardening on flat ground now.

    Do you ever have slug/snail problems with the Hostas?


    Hi Rob, thanks. Sometimes I wish for flat, aging makes that seem preferable with each passing year. The slugs and snails mostly affect the young seedlings, especially with the massive amounts of rain we are having. Maybe the types of hostas I grow are not the kind they like. We do have plenty of them, their number one meal is young primroses. Arghh!

  17. Catherine says:

    That is a lot foliage to follow. I’m finding this is a great time of year to appreciate all of the foliage before the flowers start blooming. Some of it is almost prettier than the flowers themselves. Thanks for a nice tour.

    Hi Catherine, thanks for coming along on the tour. For many of the plants, the flowers are so fleeting, it is the foliage that we look at all year so it needs to be interesting.

  18. Darla says:

    I know I sound like a broken record, (remember those) your garden amazes me everytime I see it. How large are your garden areas?

    Hi Darla, thanks, and yes, I do remember and still own records. HA The lot of the main house is 80 x 150. The other lot with the garage is 100 x 100. Not that big really, the slopes make it appear larger. That and the fact that it is all garden. The buildings are sort of close to the street, not in the middle either. Our house is not large, the three car garage is larger than the main house.

  19. Rose says:

    Thanks for a great lesson in adding foliage to the garden, Frances. Other than my shade garden, which is primarily foliage (I need to add some of your wildflowers from your previous post), I haven’t paid much attention to the foliage in my garden till now.
    I always enjoy seeing views of your garden; it is amazing! And since my feet are already wet from pulling some weeds in the rain, I didn’t mind the soggy seat at all:)

    Have you considered building an adobe garden shed with your chunks of red clay soil, LOL?

    Hi Rose, thanks. I didn’t pay attention to foliage much either until last year. What a concept, huh? Foliage over flowers. Glad you didn’t mind the wet, it is impossible to go out and even just peruse without getting wet here lately. I have not considered the adobe shed, since I already have a shed made from wood, but clay pots have been pondered. πŸ™‚

  20. carolj says:

    Your garden is fabulous. I love it all. Such a rich tapestry of colors and textures, with just the right touches of hardscape and garden art. Thanks for the spring tour! Very inspiring.

    Hi Carolj, thanks and welcome. So glad you found inspiration here. πŸ™‚

  21. commonweeder says:

    Another wonderful tour. I can’t believe your plot is really so small. So much concentrated lovliness.

    Hi Pat, thanks. I can’t believe it’s that small either. The hill and the land being all garden make it seem like a lot of space. It is a lot of space for one person to take care of actually.

  22. Jen says:

    Wow – I don’t know what to look at first, there is just so much to see here! You have a great eye for combos and color, Frances. I really love those Butterfly maples.

    Hi Jen, thanks. There is a lot to see even though our lot is not large. Intensively planted might be a good description. The foliage of those maples is a delight.

  23. Darla says:

    thanks, we still have albums too!!! Our youngest found a 45 and said, “Hey look, an old fashioned CD.” LOL

    HA Darla, that is too funny. While we do have albums and 45s, we do not have a record player! πŸ™‚

  24. teza says:

    I think OFB has perhaps the best response to this posting…. ‘Ahhhhhh!’ Oh how the eyes dance across the photos…. I too love Heuchera villosa ‘Brownies’ – and the sheer size is spectacular. I love the photo with the Dryopteris Erythrosora ‘Brilliance’, that beguiling maple seedling, the Helleborus and one of my favourite shrubs, Fothergilla… which species/cultivar is it? I have F. ‘Blue Mist’ which is a much shorter species (3-4’max) Of course, I couldn’t end without saying how much I covet the A. ‘Butterflies’…. just enchanting. This wonderful tour was just what I needed after a long and busy day at the nursery! You’ve definitely got it all going on in the gorgeous tapestry that is Fairegargen!

    Hi Teza, thanks. The Fothergilla is an unknown species, growing to between four to five feet with spectacular fall foliage most years. With all the rain we have had lately, jungle better describes it than tapestry. I wish you could see it in person, the photos cannot capture the way it really looks. To me, anyway. πŸ™‚

  25. DP says:

    Your garden reminds me of a park! It’s so abundant and full of some many varieties of plants, foliage, and flowers. I love the steps going up and the purple surrounding it

    Hi DP, thanks. My neighbor’s garden really does look like a park, with large trees and shrubs and plenty of lawn. Our space is smaller with barely any lawn and narrow paths. The steps make a good focal point for the hill.

  26. Lola says:

    Awesome, Frances just awesome. I never tire of looking at all your gardens with all those lovely plants.

    Hi Lola, thanks, you are too sweet. πŸ™‚

  27. Les says:

    It sounds like you and I garden in a similar way. Some of my choices were part of an overall design. However you are just a likely to catch me aimlessly walking around the garden, new plant in hand, looking for a place to put it.

    Hi Les, thanks. I am sure you are much more professional in your schemes. The big blank canvas was overwhelming when we began. It has been tweaked and retweaked constantly since then. A new plant still will just get stuck where there is an open spot. The trouble is that there are no more open spots unless something else gets taken out. It has slightly, but only slightly slowed down the collecting. πŸ™‚

  28. Tatyana says:

    Hi Frances! The second image, with the steps, is my favorite. Can look at it for an hour! Thanks!

    Hi Tatyana, thanks. I am so glad you enjoy the photos of the steps. They are photogenic most of the time. A good case for hardscape, not to mention a way to get to the top of the hill, their initial purpose. πŸ™‚

  29. Kanak says:

    Following your foliage works like therapy for me. To take a leisurely stroll, even if vicariously, is like discovering another sense in me …the sense of better/stronger appreciation of such beauty. Breath-taking, really.

    Hi Kanak, thanks, what a kind thing to say. It touches my heart to think of soothing others with the garden. I appreciate you so much.

  30. TC says:

    Wondering why you didn’t use the new camera?

    Hi TC, because the new camera needs the tripod and I am usually in a hurry to dash out between rain events for a few quick pics. I promise to work on learning more about the settings and slow down enough to take the time to plan a shot. However that is completely foreign to the way I have been taking pictures for the last several years of the garden. My husband asked the same question. πŸ™‚

  31. Patsi says:

    Looks like you have acres of land. Hillside is a unigue garden…wonderful addition.
    I don’t know about you but I’ve found that different cameras have different advantages…regardless of cost.

    Thanks, Patsi. This would be a completely different garden without the hill, it is true. Hard for me to even imagine, I have been working so long on the hill, making sure the views are not blocked by too tall growing things. There have been many adjustments over the years. More adjustements are on the drawing board, of course. πŸ™‚ The two Canons are very different. The effort needs to be made to learn how to use the new one, for I want to grab the easiest to use when the moment is right. Thanks for understanding. Would you like to speak to The Financier? He would like to know how the new camera is working out.

  32. RobinL says:

    So many beautiful spots in your garden, as always Frances, but I am curious. Do you have any lawn areas? Or are you simply planted full of luscious flowers?

    Hi Robin, thanks so much. I have a small bit of lawn at the side of the garage in between the path and the tall pine trees. It is sloping but less so than most of the property. I have not measured it, but would estimate it’s size at maybe 20 x 40. It is shrinking however. πŸ™‚

  33. gittan says:

    Goodmorning Frances! I have to admit…. I’m in love… with your garden ❀ !!!

    Sitting by the laptop, driveling over the keybord… with paper and pen next to it where I’m abel to note every plant I just have to put on my Plants-I-want-list. And that list is growing real fast =)

    I just have to see if I can find that Hosta ‘Sunpower’ around here. I’ve resently sawn seeds for ‘Huskers Red’ hoping some plants will show any day now after keeping them in the fridge for a few weeks. By the way, my Astrantias have finaly shown! Makes me wonder if yours have?

    I did put them in the greenhous first, nothing happened. Then I put them in a shady part (under the stars in to the kitchen) made sure they wouldn’t dry out and forgot them. Checking yesterday – and there they where! Now I’ll take another look at this wonderful post and then I’m heading out in the garden. Todays weather is sunny without any wind at all – just perfect for me! Hope you’ll have another great day / gittan

    Hi Gittan, you are too sweet, thanks. I do wish someday you could see the garden in person too. That is a good hosta, one of the best really for its color and being able to take some sun. I have never had slug damage to it either. The Huskers sow very readily here, I have never tried to germinate them myself. My astrantia was doing nothing and when everything was moved out of the greenhouse I put the pot back into the fridge. Sounds like it needs to come back out! Have a wonderful sunny day in the garden, my friend! πŸ™‚

  34. Siria says:

    Oh Frances…your garden is truly spectacular!!! I only wish I could borrow you for a spell to help me transform my barren hillside. My mothers day gift from my husband was a nice check so I can go plant shopping at the nursery and start working on it! I can’t wait. (I too have my pad and pen next to my computer jotting down my must have plants…I only hope I can find what I am looking for!) πŸ™‚ Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

    Hi Siria, thanks. It has been lots of hard work over many years to tranform this space. The beginning was to have it cleared by heavy machinery, then several dump truck loads of mulch were spread over the whole thing. Then came the steps so we could get up to the top without sliding back down. Plantings were made as fast as we could get them in the ground. Hope you had a wonderful shopping spree!

  35. Genevieve says:

    Lovely garden tour, Frances! The autumn Fern is always my favorite – I can’t find much info online in how Brilliance differs from the usual, either.

    Your Butterfly stem looks kind of like the OM symbol! Very cool.

    Hi Genevieve, thanks so much. No wonder that is my favorite branch, HA! I have both the named Brilliance and the unnamed Autumn fern, I see absolutely no difference in any way.

  36. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Frances, you’ve given me yet another unattainable plant to lust after … that variegated Japanese maple is just stunning. Your gardens never cease to amaze and delight me.

    Hi Cindy, sorry for that, but thanks for the nice words. I know from experience that the Japanese maples don’t care for your area. I wonder why some nurseries sell them? Maybe some places have the right conditions. The Woodlands did not.

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