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Contemporary Container Design

Contemporary Container Design

Thanks to YOU and your great ideas I finally got my new container planted. I’m not usually stumped – it was more that I had too MANY ideas, and your input helped hone them down perfectly. (In case you’ve forgotten you can revisit my original post Imagination Needed here. )

The criteria

Plants for the container needed to be:

  • Deer resistant
  • Reasonably drought tolerant (occasional blast with the hose)
  • Tolerant of full sun
  • Work with the surroundings plants and color scheme (sunset shades with silver and white accents)
  • Be visible from a distance but also interesting up close

 

How I got started

It is so important to stand back! I set out the plants, still in their pots then went to view them from the window. I loved the low profile of the design, how it moved in the breeze, how it left the shape of the container clearly visible and how it allowed the surrounding foliage to frame but not compete with it.

From 75′ away the details are not obvious – but the effect is.

Getting closer

Even though this is newly planted, and the plants are still small it doesn’t look too sparse even when viewed close up. There’s a sense of anticipation – a promise – of what’s to come. Bear in mind this is still May – it will look STUNNING by the time we are truly in summer mode.

The plants I chose – and why.

The inspiration for the whole design came from Lomandra ‘Platinum Beauty’, a gorgeous grass-like perennial from the Sunset and Southern Living collections which I used as the centerpiece. I am testing this to determine winter hardiness this year, but until now have assumed it is only a luscious annual fin Seattle. Gardeners are optimists though, right?

The delicate green and cream variegated foliage moves in the breeze – like a kinetic sculpture when set in this contemporary container. 

I flanked the finely textured Lomandra with two Senecio ‘Angel Wings’, whose bold, felted silver leaves are foliage-lovers eye candy on steroids. This is still in limited supply as it is so new to the market so if you see it – BUY it! The large heart-shaped leaves have a scalloped edge and the plant itself is said to be fast growing. In slug-infested Seattle, you will need to bait for those slimy, lace-making invertebrates but otherwise this promises to be the Plant of the Year for sheer beauty.

Senecio candicans ‘Angel Wings’. Photo courtesy Concept Plants

Adding a petticoat effect to the Senecio is Quicksilver hebe, whose tiny blue-grey leaves are held on stiff black stems, the color echoing that of the pot.

I could have left it at that, but it wasn’t quite “Karen” yet. I happened to have one pot of Kirigami ornamental oregano so I squeezed that in front of the Lomandra. The lavender and apple-green hop-like flowers will tumble nicely over the container edge while the round blue-green leaves works well with the monochromatic color scheme.

The finishing touch was Red Threads Alternanthera, sometimes called Joseph’s coat, whose purple foliage repeats the oregano blooms and adds contrast to all the paler shades. This is the least drought tolerant plant of the design so I’ll need to keep my eye on it! Here’s the funny thing about this annual; from a distance it disappears into the shadows. Yet up close the deeper color definitely enhances the overall combination.

Looking ahead

As a rule I don’t show you my freshly planted’ designs – preferring to “wow’ you with the fully grown version! But I wanted to say “thank you” for your inspiring ideas and also to show you that even a newly planted container using smaller than ideal plants can look beautiful if you know how to do it.

Which begs the question – how confident are YOU that every container you are planting will look amazing from the day you plant it, until frost?

  • Do you know how to plan efficiently,
  • shop effectively ,and
  • design like a professional?

Why don’t you check out my NEW online workshop where I teach all this and a whole lot more;

Designing Abundant Containers

Registration is only open for a few more days but if you register now you can save money and watch the online workshop as often, whenever, and wherever you please.

Use coupon code earlybird to get 25% off!

(Coupon for first 100 subscribers, expires 5/31/18)

 

Here’s a preview video:

“Wonderful combination of video and written information! Karen’s warm personality is a pleasure to listen and learn from. So practical and key points are ones you can easily remember and pass on to others “ Sue

Get the details and register TODAY!

 

 

Remember to save 25% with the coupon code earlybird

 

Over the Garden Wall

Over the Garden Wall

It’s been a busy week as I’ve been hard at work on a special project for you! (More about that later…)

Are you curious to see what’s happening in your neighbor’s garden? Do you sneak a peek while out walking the dog? Don’t blush – we all do it!

Well I know I’m rather off the beaten track so I took a few photos this weekend to show you what’s happening.

It was early morning when I ventured out. The sun was just moments from making its appearance; that magical, ephemeral time of day.

Misty layers of flowers and foliage

Most of my garden borders have a sunset” color scheme of coral, orange, magenta, gold and deepest burgundy. It’s a rich color palette that is vibrant in every season. In spring, the rhododendrons and Exbury azaleas (most of which I inherited) have their shining moment. My challenge is to find ways to showcase their fleeting glory – by partnering them with beautiful foliage of course.

Working with pink blooms

Burgundy leaves pair so easily with pink flowers.

A “no name” Rhodie Playing off the burgundy foliage of a new Pixie Japanese maple

Low lying branches flirt with Blackberry Ice heuchera

A golden full moon maple provides a brighter contrast

Golden yellows need bold partners

The deciduous Exbury azaleas are some of my favorite shrubs – I love the fall color as much as the “in your face” spring blooms.

The large golden flowered shrub below was here when we moved in although we relocated it with help from a bobcat! Today it joins company with a golden conifer and large Rose Glow barberry.

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae reinforces the color scheme

The wispy shrub with red flowers in the background is a sterile form of Scotch broom. It is an old Proven Winners variety. Love that it is deer resistant and drought tolerant.

Close up of the flowers on my sterile Scotch broom – so pretty

Foliage Highlights

Foliage is key in my garden and I love the way a Double Play Gold spirea and Mountain Fire andromeda frame these mango colored azaleas, one of the Northern Light series.

New growth on a spirea and andromeda  echoes an orange-toned azalea

Mercifully barberries are not invasive in the PNW, because I love them for their deer resistance and wonderful range of colors.

Limoncello barberry and a blue pine

Limoncello barberry can be tough to place in the garden as the color goes beyond bold to almost garish. I’ve found blue and silver are the best companions and love it with a columnar blue pine in the background.

Lemoncello has crazy attitude!

Red barberries are much easier to work with, however. I have several clusters of the dwarf Golden Ruby barberry and am especially pleased with this pairing with a dark leaf euphorbia.

Golden Ruby barberry and Ruby Glow euphorbia

Those magenta colors seem to be everywhere right now! An elderly gentleman (Jerry Munroe, that some may remember from his Kenmore nursery) gave me these primroses many years ago. When we moved to this house I brought them with me.

Moisture-loving Japanese primroses and Rodger’s flower – ideal companions on our stream bank

Love how they play off the oversized Rodgersia foliage!

And deep in the garden….

So what else have I been up to? Well I’ve been working hard putting together a new online workshop for you; Designing Abundant Containers. This will totally change how you plan, shop and design your containers gardens! It will launch any day now and be offered to my newsletter subscribers. (Not a subscriber? No problem – you can sign up here.)

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look  from one of the videos. We needed to check that when I moved about I would remain inside the frame of the primary camera. Andy (my husband who was manning all three cameras plus audio) asked to “see what (I ) could do”……

 

Never take yourself too seriously, right?!

 

 

 

New (and newly discovered) Deer Resistant Annuals

New (and newly discovered) Deer Resistant Annuals

When six plant-crazy women (collectively known as #NGBplantnerds), six overstuffed suitcases, numerous bulging camera bags,  a LARGE  bag of yummy snacks, and rather a lot of plants squeeze into a minivan for a Californian road trip, you can bet there’s going to be some laughs, plenty of wine, and lots of fun. You can also expect a few funny stories along the way: let’s just say that one unfortunate lavender plant got squished so many times it earned the nickname “Chernobyl” for it’s somewhat mutated shape….

Chernobyl sacrificed her good looks for a worthy cause, however. This was the annual road trip, hosted by the National Garden Bureau and All America Selections (AAS) to the California Spring Trials (CAST) This week long event is an opportunity for 59 plant breeders with displays at 16 different locations, to showcase their latest seed and vegetatively propagated annuals, perennials, edibles, and shrubs, hoping to tempt plant distributors, growers, and retail buyers into selecting their treasures for their customers. How many of the plants displayed actually make it to the retail nurseries and box stores? About 12%. Yikes – I had no idea, had you? Think of all the years that have gone into selectively breeding the latest speckled petunia – and it may never make it beyond CAST.

My role in this adventure

I was one of four garden writers selected to accompany Diane Blazek and Gail Pabst, both from the National Garden Bureau and AAS. As garden writers we are the link between these plant breeders and you, sharing the plants we were most excited about and giving you an insight into what we hope will be coming to retail nurseries near you either later this year or in spring 2019.

My two primary areas of interest were plants with great foliage (if they had flowers that was a bonus but not essential) and  anything new that was deer resistant. I was not disappointed as my 1000 or so photos will attest! To narrow it down I’m focusing this post on new deer resistant annuals. Some are new colors, a few have improved breeding, and one isn’t really new to the market, but it was new to me and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you.

You don’t have deer? Lucky you – enjoy these beauties anyhow!

Cool Shades of Violet, Blue and Aqua

Senetti® Magic Salmon

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Senetti® Magic Salmon by Suntory

You’ll probably recognize this flowering pot plant although this colorway is quite remarkable. The plant itself has a bewildering number of names. In the UK I knew it as Cineraria, but I see that today it is also referred to as a Senecio and a Pericallis hybrid. Regardless – did you know it is also deer resistant? That makes it a worthy container candidate in my view and this color was blow-your-socks-off amazing. Almost luminous, the violet-blue daisies have a distinctive salmon-pink eye.

Expect this to bloom late spring-early summer, so possibly a useful transitional plant for the container shoulder season? Unlike earlier introductions, the Senetti® series is unique in that it re-blooms. Introduced by Suntory.

Hot® lobelia series

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Snow Flurries combo of  Hot lobelia from Westhoff

I had pretty much dismissed lobelia from my radar until I discovered a few newer varieties that had been bred for improved heat resistance. That means they don’t peter out in August -my main complaint. Once I also realized they are deer resistant I got really excited and now look to include them in my designs!

This Hot series is said to be the most durable and heat tolerant lobelia on the market today. Bred by Westhoff these annuals are an upright form but as you can see from the photograph will gently mound over and soften container edges. I especially loved this color mix offered as a pre-planted combination called Snow Flurries, a blend of Hot Snow White and Hot Waterblue.

Surdiva® fan flower series

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Surdiva fan flowers from Suntory

I’ve always been a fan of fan flower (pun intended) (Scaevola sp.). They do well in full sun -part shade and are great minglers in mixed container designs, blooming non-stop for the entire summer planting season. They do tend to throw out long “arms” which can be a problem in smaller containers or more “disciplined” designs, however. Surdiva changes all that with more compact yet equally floriferous plants. Suntory is the breeder behind these award winning annuals. Shown here are three colors from that series that play especially well together: Blue Violet, Sky Blue, and White Improved.

No deadheading is necessary – and they will still have flowers when you get the first frost in fall.

Salvia Cathedral® Blue Bicolor

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Salvia Cathedral Blue Bicolor from Greenfuse

Salvias were one of the most popular new introductions – both annual and perennial varieties. All of which is good news if you share your garden with deer as they are typically ignored by those four-legged pests. I am always drawn to the two-tone varieties of Salvia farinacea such as this one called Cathedral Blue bicolor from Greenfuse, which is scheduled to reach nurseries next year and as yet is not listed on the breeder website (which goes to show how new it is!). This series performs well in hot and humid conditions as well as more temperate areas such as the PNW and starts blooming early in the season. At 12-16″  tall it is ideal for the border or pots.

Shimmering Silver and White

Makana Silver artemisia

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Artemisia ‘Makana Silver’ from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

This one had me so excited I was positively giddy! Feathery, finely dissected, aromatic foliage that opens sea-green before maturing to a beautiful silver  – just imagine what I could do with this!! Well imagine no more as I have purchased FOUR of these samples from my local wholesale grower to experiment with – stay tuned! A new introduction from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., this annual is set to become a favorite of foliage lovers everywhere.

Drought tolerant, deer resistant and a delicious, fluffy mound of loveliness.

White Delight bidens

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White Delight bidens from Danziger

A few years ago, bidens were the last annuals standing on the nursery shelves. No-one wnate dthem or knew what to do with the overly-vigouros rather straggly things. Today, with improved breeding that has changed and bidens have  become popular trailing annuals for baskets and container. Colors are typically in fiery shades of orange or yellow – white is much harder to come by so I was pleased to see White Delight being offered by Danziger – one of their Timeless collection. Unlike those earlier introductions, White Delight appears less gangly, yet as cheerful, and floriferous as you’d hope. What do you think?

Rosy tones

Tattoo™ Papaya Vinca

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Tattoo Papaya vinca from PanAmerican seed

I’m not a fan of tattoos. Sorry. They make me squeamish just thinking about the needles involved. But this annual flowering Vinca Tattoo had me smitten to the point that I have begged one of our local production greenhouses to grow them! Unlike the trailing vinca (commonly called periwinkle) which is a shade loving, evergreen, trailing groundcover (Vinca spp.), this flowering annual is literally another genus (Catharanthus roseus) and prefers full sun.

We don’t usually see them in the Seattle area, but are very popular in states such as Florida and Texas. I’d love to see that changed because this deer resistant annual is a powerhouse of color. I especially loved the Papaya colorway shown here – and it is available this year from several sources including Burpee Seeds! Introduced by PanAmerican Seeds it is sure to become a firm favorite. Just look at the color blending in those blooms…. Like ink blots diffusing on a wet background.

(Also check out this page which lists mail order companies that sell a range of the PanAmerican seeds)

Joey lamb’s tails

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Just call me Joey – from Benary

As cute as a fuzzy pair of slippers – I was totally entranced by these when I saw them on display at Benary. Granted they are not new to the market but it was the first time I had seen them and loved this container combination using them.

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Joey and friends: design by Benary

Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’ is a bit of a mouthful to remember. But it’s worth the effort to make a note of this Australian beauty that is drought tolerant, heat loving and deer resistant. And pettable. Just ask for Joey.

Hot and Spicy

Margarita African daisies

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Margarita Solar Flare and Margarita Rioja Red from Dummen Orange

That’s one sizzling combo right there. Pour the tequila – it’s time for a FIESTA!! African daisies (Osteospernum) are drought tolerant, deer resistant annuals (or perennials depending on where you live). This duo comprises Margarita Solar Flare and Margarita Rioja Red from Dummen Orange. A squeeze of lime and I’m yours.

Golden Empire & Blazing Glory bidens

Also from Danziger, these two varieties made an eye catching display. Golden Empire was noticeably upright and compact while Blazing Glory had  a spreading/trailing habit. Quite remarkable. I like to use bidens in my deer resistant container designs and have two large glossy orange pots where these would be great summer additions.

And in closing…

Yes we had lots of laughs along the way. I mean who doesn’t need a feather boa or two?

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Left to right: Four of the six #NGBPlantnerds –  Erin Shanen, Diane Blazek (our fearless leader), yours truly, Marianne Willburn. Playing at being canaries, with the new Canary Wings begonias from Ball Ingenuity.

2018 #NGBPlantnerds:

Diane Blazek – Executive Director, National Garden Bureau

Gail PabstNational Garden Bureau

Erin SchanenThe Impatient Gardener

Marianne WillburnThe Small Town Gardener

Tracy BlevinsPlants Map

 

You might also be interested in this post featuring new FOLIAGE plants at CAST

New Fine Foliage to Watch For

 

Skinny Shrubs for Tight Spaces

Skinny Shrubs for Tight Spaces

When I realized that my post Skinny Conifers for Tight Spaces has been read over 40,000 times, it inspired me to create a  free booklet for my newsletter subscribers; Top 10 Skinny Trees for Tight Spaces, which expanded that selection to include deciduous and flowering trees as well as conifers. That too has been well received, so here is the next installment: Skinny Shrubs for Tight Spaces.

Why Skinny?

There are times when you need a vertical element to break up a river of mounding shapes. Or to stand sentry at an entrance point. Or to create a living dividing wall between garden areas. Perhaps you have a narrow side garden and need screening from the neighbors’ yet do not want to erect a fence? Or you are just looking for a centerpiece for a container that doesn’t get too wide. Basically skinny shrubs are useful where you only have a small footprint to work with yet need some height.

The selection here is far from all-inclusive, but includes many I have used in designs over the years as well as a few newer ones that I’m still testing but look promising. For my garden they also have to be drought tolerant and deer resistant! Here are my current favorite skinny shrubs:

Fine Line buckthorn

Stunning waterwise design by Loree Bohl, Portland, OR

Stunning waterwise design by Loree Bohl, Portland, OR

I’ve used Fine Line buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’)  in containers, to create a deciduous hedge, and also to establish a living wall adjacent to a pathway.

This versatile shrub retains is columnar shape without pruning, is deer resistant, drought tolerant, will grow in part shade or full sun and is sterile – so none of the invasive concerns of older varieties of buckthorn. The finely textured green leaves turn bright yellow in fall and the brown woody stems  are speckled with white spots, so even  after the leaves have fallen there is a sculptural quality and beauty to this shrub.

One of my deer resistant container designs featured in Country Gardens magazine, spring 2017

One of my deer resistant container designs featured in Country Gardens magazine, spring 2017

Ultimate height is given as 5-7 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide but mine have yet to get that big. Hardy in USDA zones 2-7. (There’s another really cool combo featuring this in our book Gardening with Foliage First)

Columnar barberries

Sunjoy Gold barberry with Pistachio hydrangea, Bellevue Botanical Garden

Sunjoy Gold barberry with Pistachio hydrangea, Bellevue Botanical Garden, WA

Not for everyone, as barberries (Berberis) are invasive in some states, but where these can be grown, consider Sunjoy Gold Pillar (gold) and Helmond’s Pillar (burgundy). I’ve used these in the impossibly small planting beds in front of garages, in containers, to mark the entrance to a woodland path, to create a living fence between neighbors, and as exclamation points in the landscape. They can be planted singly or in groups to great effect. Fall color and berries add to the display.

Using Helmond's Pillar to break up a mass of black eyed Susan. Design by Joanne White, Redmond, WA

Using Helmond’s Pillar to break up a mass of black eyed Susan. Design by Joanne White, Redmond, WA

Incidentally I have seen Helmond’s Pillar 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide so the size cited here is rather conservative. Conversely, I have found the golden form to be smaller and slower growing.

A semi-transparant screen between neighbors using Helmond's Pillar, clematis. My design

A semi-transparent screen between neighbors using Helmond’s Pillar, clematis, standard roses and columnar evergreens, rising from a carpet of Profusion fleabane. Design by Le jardinet.

You’ll find more design ideas using both of these in my latest book Gardening with Foliage First.

Drought tolerant but needs moisture retentive soil to avoid defoliation during extreme summer heat, and has proven to be deer resistant (YAY!)

Barberries are hardy in zones 4-8.

Moonlight Magic crapemyrtle

The dark chocolate foliage of Moonlight Magic crape myrtle means this stunning shrub looks good even when not in bloom

The dark chocolate foliage of Moonlight Magic crape myrtle means this stunning shrub looks good even when not in bloom

Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia cvs.) and Washington state – especially colder regions of the state – are not usually considered compatible as it rarely gets warm enough for the shrubs to bloom. That becomes irrelevant when you have a  variety such as Moonlight Magic, with dark chocolate colored foliage in a much narrower form than the better known Californian street trees.

Moonlight Magic grows just 4-6 feet wide yet still gets 8-12 feet tall, so more slender and well-toned rather than truly skinny – but worth your consideration for sure.

Beutiful white blooms on Moonlight Magic. Photo courtesy First Editions Plants

Beautiful white blooms on Moonlight Magic. Photo courtesy First Editions Plants

I’ve had success with this in a container for several years now. In landscape designs I could see using Moonlight Magic as a focal point within a vignette or where I might otherwise reach for a purple smoke bush but don’t have the space.

Purple Pillar hibiscus

Reliably upright yet densely clothed in foliage and covered in blooms. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Reliably upright yet densely clothed in foliage and covered in blooms as shown in the test garden at Spring Meadow nursery. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Hibiscus are those shrubs with tropical-looking flowers that are so eye catching in late summer, yet many are too large for the average garden. Purple Pillar is the answer at just 2-3 feet wide. If you plant them 2 feet apart they quickly form a dense summer screen as shown in the photo above.

Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Don’t let lack of a garden spoil the fun. Purple Pillar will grow happily in large containers. These can be placed together to create a privacy screen from the neighbors or hide ugly utilities.

More ideas

There are also several broadleaf evergreen shrubs that are tightly columnar that you might consider, including

Sky Pencil Japanese holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’)

Columnar Japanese holly (Ilex crenata ‘Mariesii’) which is more sculptural than Sky Pencil but can be harder to find.

Green Spire euonymus (Euonymus japonica ‘Green Spire’)  – slightly slower growing and not quite so tight at Sky Pencil

Graham Blandy boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’)

 

A Spring Perennial you NEED – Epimedium

A Spring Perennial you NEED – Epimedium

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra sp.) get all the love. Cute name. Delicate foliage. Distinctive blooms. Yet there is another spring blooming perennial I get even more excited about. Whether you know it by the common name Bishop’s hat (UK), barrenwort (USA) or the botanical name Epimedium, this perennial deserves your consideration for a space in the shade garden.

Many species are evergreen, forming weed-smothering carpets of heart shaped leaves. The new spring foliage often exhibits striking colors – red margins, copper shades or distinctive veins, while the rainbow-hued flowers dance high above the leaves on impossibly slender stalks, each blossom resembling a thimble-sized fairy hat.

Epimedium lend themselves to exciting design combinations that highlight either the foliage or flowers, or in their quiet season may serve as a foliage picture frame for other more showy companions.  In fact I would encourage you to plan ahead and deliberately purchase companion plants at the same time as these perennials to make the most of them.

Here are some of my favorite plant partnerships to get you thinking.

Shades of lavender and rose

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Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’, seen here with dark purple heuchera and a silver dusty miller in the background

Lilafee has long been a favorite of mine. While evergreen or semi-evergreen in milder areas, I find the foliage melts away on its own by late winter, allowing the lavender flowers and new  red-mottled foliage to shine.

Enhance the lavender blooms by pairing it with shades of pinky-purple and silver such as Pink Frost hellebore and Japanese painted ferns , or purple heuchera and silver dusty miller as shown above.

Lilafee dancing next to Iris 'Gerald Derby'

Lilafee dancing next to Iris ‘Gerald Derby’. Design by Mitch Evans.

Or celebrate the brief moment in time when Iris versicolor ‘Gerald Darby’ sports dark purple tones at the base of each blade by planting it adjacent to Lilafee as shown above. Bright yellow Japanese forest grass adds a visual spotlight to the scene.

There are many other varieties with rose and lavender blooms, often bi-colored like a fuchsia.

An unknown variety of Epimedium echoes the color of a blooming Bergenia in the background

An unknown variety of Epimedium echoes the color of a blooming Bergenia in the background. Design by Mitch Evans

In the photo above, the magenta flowers of elephant ears (Bergenia  sp.) echo one of the colors of the Epimedium bloom while the elongated, dusky-lavender leaves also play into the color scheme.

The very first Epimedium I ever bought was Epimedium rubrum – mainly because it was the cheapest! It has given me decades of pleasure in several gardens, has continued to spread generously into mature clumps and looks good no matter where I place it, even in dry shade under conifers. The flowers have rose-red outer petals and the evergreen foliage has distinctive red markings in spring.

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Epimedium x rubrum paired with autumn fern, Francee hosta and Spiraea ‘Ogon’

I have found it a good idea to remove the old foliage just as flowers are forming in late winter. When I forget to do that (as in the photo above) the old leaves can hide emerging blooms. I do love seeing that sweep of orange colored autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora) above it though.

Citrus shades

If you prefer orange flowers over purple, check out Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’.

Orange flowers of Epimedium 'Amber Queen' rise above a dwarf golden spruce

Orange flowers of Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ rise above a dwarf golden spruce. A deep violet Rhododendron in the background introduces a complementary color for maximum impact. Design by Mitch Evans.

Pairing dwarf golden conifers such as Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb’ with orange and yellow blooms of Amber Queen makes a showy combo in the shade as seen above. Notice how the deep violet rhododendron flowers in the background enhance the scene.

Still in the citrus theme, look for yellow blooming epimedium. Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ is a vigorous, evergreen variety with golden yellow flowers and distinctive red-veined new foliage that will quickly create a stunning carpet under trees.

In my own garden I planted Epimedium × versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ , whose two-toned yellow flowers remind me of miniature jonquil. Play off the color of these blooms by pairing with yellow toned grasses or golden foliage then adding deep purple or silver for contrast.

A new planting of Epimedium × versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ with golden bleeding heart and yellow veined Beesia

A new planting of Epimedium × versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ with golden bleeding heart. I did try golden Japanese forest grass here but the rabbits ate it!

You can see the still immature grouping above. Since the rabbit population make it impossible for me to grow Japanese forest grass here – or any other grasses, I have just added several Jack Frost Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’) in the empty areas. If the heart shaped leaves of that solo beesia survive deer and rabbits I may add more of those too, as the foliage has subtle yellow veins. However, last year slugs had a go at the beesia leaves – there’s always something!

Treasure hunt!

You’ll be seeing these perennials in the nurseries any day now. Which ones will you buy and what will you plant with them? There are so many to discover! They all do well in partial shade, many even in full shade. Average, moisture retentive soil is ideal but many also thrive in dry soil although their growth will be slower.

Ignored by deer and rabbits … usually …(last year “something” nibbled the emerging stalks of Epimedium x rubrum. Being so tiny it was hard to determine the angle of the cut and accuse the culprit!). Vine weevils can be a problem but otherwise these are really easy and low maintenance. They do not need to be divided although it is easy to cut through a section with a spade if you want to move a clump.

 

Resources

If you’d like to learn more check out The Plant Lover’s Guide to Epimediums by Sally Gregson (Timber Press, 2015) which features 126 commonly available varieties.

There are also several combinations using Epimedium in my latest book Gardening with Foliage First, co-authored with Christina Salwitz (Timber Press, 2017)

 

 

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