Green Thumb Tip #19: Focus on Foliage

New growth on Mahonia

~

A garden built from woody trunks, stems, branches and beautiful leaves will last through the seasons.  Abundant foliage offers cool shade and privacy.  It screens the view, cleans the air, muffles outside sounds and protects the soil, all while offering a sense of enclosure.

~

Crape Myrtle

~

Flowers can be exciting, for a while.  But they fade or explode into a heap of petals all too quickly.  Their perfumes entice us, but flowers aren’t enough to create a lasting garden.

Better to focus on foliage plants for a garden’s flesh and bones, and appreciate ephemeral flowers as seasonal accents.

~

~

Once one gets past wanting a garden filled with fragrant flowers, there is a beautiful palette of foliage waiting for the curious garden designer.  In fact, I’ve been reading an intriguing book on garden design by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz  called Gardening With Foliage First:  127 Dazzling Combinations That Pair the Beauty of Leaves With Flowers, Bark, Berries and More.

The authors have photographed and described associations of shrubs, perennials, vines, ferns and grasses that will grow well together for a variety of climate zones and locations.  The color combinations are striking, and the authors discuss how the association will change as the four seasons unfold.

~

Colocasia ‘Mojito’ in August

~

One of the nicest things about designing with foliage is the wide selection of colors and textures in the plant palette.  And with woodies and perennials, the plants grow larger and more complex with each passing year.

~

A native redbud tree seedling has appeared by our drive. This tree can eventually grow to 20′ or more.

~

We plan and plant our gardens in at least four dimensions.  We create out door ‘rooms’ by creating ‘walls’ with large shrubs and trees, or perhaps vines growing on a pergola or trellis.  Our carpet is a selection of low-growing plants and ground covers.   Some of us cultivate a simple carpet of moss.

The leafy canopy of trees offers us a bit of shelter and shade, enclosing our garden from above.   So we are planting foliage plants of varying heights to serve different purposes.

~

Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, is a native, deciduous tree in coastal Virginia that will grow to about 25 feet.  It often grows as a multi-stemmed shrub, growing a bit broader with each passing year.

~

Perennials tend to also spread, growing wider with each passing year.  A plant or two this year may propagate itself into two dozen plants within just a season or two.  Even within the short span of a single season, a small tropical plant purchased in a 3″ pot may grow to be 5′ tall and wide before frost.

~

~

Our garden is also constantly changing over time, the fourth dimension.  Sculptural stems and branches cover themselves in buds, then ever expanding leaves.  The leaves grow and change colors as the season progresses, often developing intricate veins or spotted markings as they mature.

~

Begonia

~

Eventually, we are enclosed in leaves and woody growth before winter sweeps the season’s tender growth away.  Leaves glow with autumn color, then fall.  Perennials die back to ground level, harboring the promise of next year’s growth in their roots and crowns.

~

~

It is this foliage framework which demands a garden designer’s attention. This is where we make our main investment of time and treasure. 

When beginning a new garden, one selects and plants the trees first to give a head start on growth.  When renovating a garden, it is wise to replace tired shrubs, or rejuvenate them with heavy pruning before the season’s new growth begins.

~

~

Once we have good woody ‘bones’ in place, then we fill in the ground covers and herbaceous plants to occupy the mid-level spaces .

Flowers are the ephemeral elements which can come- and go- with the seasons. Whether we choose blooming shrubs, perennials with a short season of bloom like Iris, or even if we plant annuals for several months of bloom;  the flowers themselves are very short-lived.

~

Japanese painted fern emerges among the Arum italicum, and is interlaced with creeping Jenny.  Bulb foliage will die back soon.  You can just see the new leaf of a hardy Begonia catching sunlight like a stained glass window to the right.  They will grow to about 18″ tall before their tiny pink flowers emerge.

~

Many traditional gardens rely on foliage for all of their seasonal interest.  This is easy to do with herbaceous perennial foliage plants like ferns, Heucheras and Colocasia.  But a ‘foliage only’ garden doesn’t mean a monochromatic garden.  Beautiful contrasts and color combinations may be painted with colorful leaves.

~

~

And stunning beauty may be created with little more than variations of texture and form.  Leafy plants swaying in the breeze bring life and movement to the garden.

~

Lamb’s Ears, Stachys Byzantina. is grown more for its velvety gray leaves than for its flowers. In fact, many gardeners remove the flower stalks before they can bloom. Bees love it, so I leave them.

~

As you plan and plant your pots and garden borders, remember to focus first on the foliage framework.   This will last over many months or years and will grow better with time.

The flowers will come and go, but your garden’s leafy presence will make the lasting impression.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018
~
~

 

“Green Thumb” Tips: 

Many visitors to Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help grow the garden of their dreams.

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.

If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what you know from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I’ll update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about gardens and gardening.
Green Thumb Tip # 14: Right Place Right Plant
Green Thumb Tip # 15: Conquer the Weeds!
Green Thumb Tip #16: Diversify!
Green Thumb Tip #17: Give Them Time
Green Thumb Tip # 18: Edit!

 

.

WPC: Living Lines

~

Much of our garden’s personality can be defined by the lines.  There are the lines we create and the lines we allow.

~

~

Do we cultivate the formality of lines straight and orderly, or do we invite ever changing curves and organic softness?

~

~

Our plants grow in lines.  Our beds are bordered by lines… or not.  We organize our garden spaces within the confines of a line.

~

~

Lines give us structure.  Woody trunks and branches frame and fixate; divide, fill, support and explode with soft flowers and leaves.

~

~

We recognize our garden’s denizens by the outline of their leaf; the pattern of the life giving veins networking through them.

~

~

At times, the lines of vines overtake and blur the others.  They extend of their own accord, to their own rhythm, geometry and design.

~

~

There is a primal intelligence in these living, breathing, ever exuberant lines as they stretch towards the light, defying gravity and the gardener’s imagination.

~

~

As the season progresses, all of the lines evolve and change.  New lines criss-cross the old.  Lines swell into curves, then shrivel into zig-zagged shrunken shells of  themselves before falling away.

~

~

Our gardens’ lines inspire us even as they define us, ever unfolding, ever new.

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

~

~

For The Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Lines

~

Sunday Dinner: Small Miracles

~

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters
of the very same story
which is written across the whole world
in letters too large
for some of us to see.”
.
C.S. Lewis

~

~

“People usually consider walking on water
or in thin air a miracle.
But I think the real miracle
is not to walk either on water or in thin air,
but to walk on earth.
Every day we are engaged in a miracle
which we don’t even recognize:
a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves,
the black, curious eyes of a child—
our own two eyes.
All is a miracle.”

.
Thich Nhat Hanh

~

~

“There are days when I think I don’t believe anymore.
When I think I’ve grown too old for miracles.
And that’s right when another seems to happen.”
.
Dana Reinhardt

~

~

“I am realistic –
I expect miracles.”
.
Wayne W. Dyer
~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

~

~

“To experience what isn’t,
love what is.”

.
Eric Micha’el Leventhal
~
~
For all of my siblings, with love…

 

 

 

Fabulous Friday: Signs of Spring

~

Jack, or Jacqueline Frost, visited our garden last night.  The temperature dropped quickly after the sun went down, and there was no wind.

Long, intricate ice crystals formed on every moist surface.

~

~

I went out early enough this morning to discover them.  The sun’s first rays were just stroking them, and releasing each ice crystal back into the sky as mist.

~

~

“In the process of  falling to the earth,
seeping into the ground, and then emerging,
water obtains information from various minerals
and becomes wise.”
.
Masaru Emoto
*

As I wandered around, admiring the rim of frost on grass and leaves, buds and glass, I also noticed many signs of spring.

The ground in our garden may be frozen hard, but determined green shoots still emerge.

~

~

Perennials still push up a few tentative leaves.  Woody buds swell.

~

~

And the desiccated chaff remaining from summer’s growth blankets the ground.  It, too, prepares for spring as it decomposes and enriches the soil for all that will follow.

~

~

Maybe it is in our nature to watch and wait for signs of events still beyond the horizon of our lives.   Perhaps it is a lack of discipline when we shift our focus from ‘what is’ to ‘what will come.’

~

~

Even as we appreciate winter’s gifts of fiery sunsets, quiet snow, long evenings and intricate crystalline artworks shining in the morning sunshine;  spring already stirs in our hearts.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

~

~

“What is the relationship between love and gratitude?
For an answer to this question, we can use water as a model.
A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom,
represented by H2O.
If love and gratitude , like oxygen and hydrogen,
were linked together in a ratio of 1 to 2,
gratitude would be twice as large as love.”
.
Masaru Emoto, Hidden Messages in Water

~

~

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another.

In Bud

Edgeworthia chrysantha, Chinese Paperbush

~

January promises limitless potential.  At the time of year when so little appears to be growing in the garden, a closer look shows us evidence of coming attractions.

~

Mahonia aquifolium will soon bloom, feeding hungry pollinators through the winter months.

~

Another gardening season stretches ahead of us; everything we hope for feels absolutely possible.  The first green tips of daffodil foliage poke up from the muddy soil, reminding us where clumps and drifts will soon begin the year’s progression of flowers.

~

~

And every woody tree, shrub and vine is covering itself with plump, swelling buds.  Like colorful eggs, their protective shells shield the tiny leaves and petals within from winter’s harshness.

~

Aesculus pavia, red buckeye buds contain both flowers and new leaves.

~

A quick walk about reminds us how incredibly varied something even as simple as a woody bud can be.  Their colors, texture, placement on the stem, shape and form prove as varied as the flowers and leaves which will burst into growth in the months to come.

~

Dogwood, Cornus florida sports round onion shaped flower buds from fall through until spring.  Leaf buds grow long and narrow.

~

Even in these spare wintery months, the garden holds such a variety of interesting things to see.  Without spring’s fragrant distraction, these beautiful buds, and the stems and twigs which hold,  them claim my attention.

~

Last year’s seed heads mix with next summer’s buds on crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia species.

~

Next spring’s garden lives in these shivering buds today.  They are more fragile than any other exposed part of the plant when our temperatures dive and winter’s winds blow.   At times they may hold small mounds of snow, or rest encased in an icy skin.

~

Magnolia stellata will be one of our first trees to burst into bloom next month.  The large bud at the end of the branch holds the developing flower, while the smaller buds along the stem will unfold as leaves.

~

With luck, they will survive the elements to finally unfold into new life, at the perfect moment for their growth to accelerate.  Rapid growth at the buds will elaborate on what is already here, creating new woody growth as the weeks go by.

~

Magnolia liliiflora  will bloom a few weeks later, with deep purple flowers.

~

Even if a swelling bud is lost, those further down the stem will respond with accelerated growth of their own.  There is always a plan, even if an entire stem succumbs to the cold.  We will watch for shoots and buds to emerge from the roots.

~

Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia  is a native shrub hardy to Zone 5.  New growth from late opening autumn buds was frozen in our recent cold snap.  New growth will emerge next spring, and new shoots will also grow from the roots.

~

Even as we celebrate our successes when the garden is fully clothed in vegetative growth; in January, we celebrate our garden’s potential.

~

~

These are the days when we feel appreciation for every woody branch and twig, for every evergreen leaf, and especially for all of the healthy, swelling buds which sparkle in the winter sunshine.

.
Woodland Gnome 2018

~

Forsythia buds show color early, often blooming by mid-February.  In an especially cold winter, they may not open until early March.

~

For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Variations on a Theme

~

 

WPC: Weathered Flowers

~

Flowers have survived on our Hydrangea quercifolia shrubs longer this season than ever before.  From buds to these weathered remnants, we have enjoyed them daily over their season.

This is the longest they’ve ever lasted, as some years the flowers  are eaten off of our oakleaf Hydrangeas by hungry deer before the flowers fully mature.

~

~

I see these winter wilted leaves and weathered flowers as a small sign of victory in our ongoing struggles with this garden.  Like an elderly person, a story of survival is told in every detail of their countenance.

Winter teaches us to find beauty in all stages of life.  It shows us the dignity of strength and tenacity, and serves as

~

Allium flowers, gone to seed, and now with the seeds mostly blown away.  Their structure and grace remains.

~

“…a reminder that there’s beauty to be found in the ephemeral and impermanent.”

~

~

For the Daily Post’s:

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Weathered

Leaf: Illumination

~
Illumined leaves glow like Tiffany sculptures in the morning light.  How different they look when lit in this way, with a strong June sun shining through them.
~

Colocasia ‘Mojito,’ center, has unusual purple patterns on the leaves and burgundy stems. C. ‘Tea Cups,’ behind, shows its elegant veins as its leaves tip upwards towards the sky. C. ‘Pink China’ also has reddish stems and sports a pink spot on its leaf to mark where the stem begins.  The red leaf at lower right is a Caladium.  Pitcher plants grow in the foreground and to the left.

~
Sculptural tropical leaves, like these Colocasia, grow quickly to fill a space and make a statement.  Always interesting, their very size and subtle colors feel like living artworks at any time of day.  Catching the light at just the right angle, shining through them, creates even more excitement in this bit of our garden.
~

Here, C. ‘Pink China’ is also backlit, showing its elegant veins and slightly wavy margins .  These are very hardy in Zone 7 and spread wonderfully.

~
Beautiful leaves can stand alone; no flowers needed. 
In this new series, “Leaf,” I will share some of our favorite foliage plants.  Summer is prime time for big, bold, dramatic leaves.  I hope you enjoy seeing our favorites.  
~
~
“The leaves that remain are only a very small part of the tea.
The tea that goes into me is a much bigger part of the tea.
It is the richest part.   We are the same;
our essence has gone into our children, our friends,
and the entire universe.
We have to find ourselves in those directions
and not in the spent tea leaves.”
.
Thich Nhat Hanh
~

Alocasia ‘Sarian’ returns in the green pot, after its winter in the basement. Caladium tubers idly poked into the potting soil last fall, return also. “What is that bright red?” my partner called from his resting place. He saw the garden from a different angle, and was intrigued by such bright color. Caladiums should always make us take notice.

~
“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize
so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge
or floating lazily on a pond,
I could be doing the work of the world
while standing silent in the sun.”
.
Robin Wall Kimmerer
~
~
Woodland Gnome 2017
 

WPC: Transient

~

“The only way to make sense out of change

is to plunge into it, move with it,

and join the dance.”

.

Alan W. Watts

~

~

“Nothing endures but change.”

.

Heraclitus

~

~

“If a beautiful thing were to remain

beautiful for all eternity, I’d be glad,

but all the same I’d look

at it with a colder eye.

I’d say to myself: You can look

at it any time, it doesn’t have to be today.”

.

Hermann Hesse

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

.

“It is in changing that we find purpose.”

.

Heraclitus

~

Clematis ‘Violet Elizabeth’

~

For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Transient

~

Sunday Dinner: Discovery

~

“From so high above it,

the world seems ordered and deliberate.

But I know it’s more than that.

And less.

It is structured and chaotic.

Beautiful and strange.”

.

Nicola Yoon

~

~

“Our real discoveries come from chaos,

from going to the place that looks wrong

and stupid and foolish.”

.

Chuck Palahniuk

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

(parsley flowers and fennel leaves, after the rain)

.  .  .

For the Daily Post’s 

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Order

~

 

Sunday Dinner: Observers

~

“To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.”

.

Paul Valéry

~

~

“Chaos is peaceful

when you stand quietly & watch –

we are eternal observers,

reflecting both tiny & vast,

singing infinitely within.”

.

Jay Woodman

~

~

“Observation is, at its core, an expression of love

which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.”

.

Takashi Hiraide

~

~

“Keep your eyes open

and you’ll see more than you ever dreamed of.”

.

Marty Rubin

~

~

“Learn to see what you are looking at.”

.

Christopher Paolini

~

~

“The world was beautiful

when looked at in this way—

without any seeking, so simple, so childlike.”

.

Hermann Hesse

.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

~

 

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 683 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest