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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

 

Big Ideas for Using Color in Small Spaces

So much color, so many ideas, so little time! That’s the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in a nutshell. Thank goodness for my camera because that’s how I can look back on special visual highlights to glean ideas for my own garden and share some of my favorites with you. In this post I’m focusing on some of the details from the City Living displays that caught me eye. These displays are created within an 12′ x 6′ footprint and intended to represent a typical city size balcony or condo patio, showing that a small space doesn’t mean compromising on style.

If you enjoyed my last post on Fearless Design – secrets for using bold color in the garden but wondered how those ideas could be translated to even smaller spaces, this post is for you

Crayola Colors

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Vibrant scarlet and golden-yellow tulips set the theme for the garden called “Seattle Style

Camden Gardens won the award for Best Design in the City Living Displays this year and I can understand why.  A border of glossy, golden yellow containers framed the space and brought instant sunshine to this petite grey Seattle patio. These were planted with a simple repeating combination of chartreuse conifers, vibrant red and gold tulips, yellow begonias and bi-color primroses.

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Award winning display “Seattle Style”  by Camden Gardens

Clusters of tall, white, circular containers were the perfect counterpoint to the linear display while one single bronze vessel with unique geometric lines took the container display from well done to exceptional. The red and yellow color scheme was continued in all the containers – except a single bronze one, which included blue flowering accents.

A unique bronze container added blue grape hyacinths (Muscari) as an accent color

A unique bronze container added blue grape hyacinths (Muscari) as an accent color

I also loved the use of a sculptural piece of driftwood inserted into one of the tall containers, its organic shape acting as a  frame for several colorful glass balls while also introducing the juxtaposition of a natural element within the man-made.

All the finishing touches were pulled together with an artistic eye for both repetition and contrast. It’s a perfect oasis for an Seattle couple – and their pampered pup, as this patio includes a comfy dog bed and water bowl for the furry family member too.

Color for Cocktail Gardens

Dee Montpetit is no stranger to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, and her display this year, “A Botanical Soiree” had all her usual hallmarks of  great use of color, interesting container combinations, and attention to detail.

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“A Botanical Soiree” designed by Dee Montpetit

 

The silver chairs, table, and buffet had an airiness to their design, the transparency enhancing the sense of space on the small patio.

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A wall-hung, mosaic framed mirror reflects the taller plantings opposite, suggesting a much larger garden space.

Turquoise is the key color, featured in containers, a tall bubbling fountain, the mosaic mirror frame, and soft furnishings. Being used on different elements throughout the patio, the eye  moves from one splash of blue to the next – a key design trick to create a sense of cohesion but also making a small space seem larger.

Silver reflects light, and grey Seattle days  – and evenings – need all the help they can get, so it was a wise use of color for the furniture while matte black containers anchor the design.

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Great use of space: oval pots and light-wrapped tree branches

Against one wall, in place of a traditional screen or fence Dee wrapped tiny LED lights around cut birch branches. I’m seriously going to copy that idea somewhere!! Can you imaging the tiny twinkles of light at night?

Notice her use of oval containers too – they take up a smaller footprint than round or square pots so are ideal where space is at a premium yet can still be planted with trees, shrubs, perennials, succulents and bulbs – all top-dressed with sparkly blue glass pebbles.

Charming color and plant combinations

Charming color and plant combinations

A restrained color palette of silver, blue, and pink  doesn’t translate to boring when Dee is let loose! I loved her intriguing textures and unique combinations that included fragrant lavender and hyacinths, with spring daffodils and primroses all nestled within a gorgeous foliage tapestry of astelia, spurge, cushion bush (Calocephalus brownii), succulents and more.

Spring isn't spring without hellebores

Spring isn’t spring without hellebores and fragrant sweetbox.

Dee chose colors for the container plantings that would work well after dark as well as being beautiful during the day . White, pale pink, and soft lavender all glow softly at dusk, which together with the twinkling lights and silver elements ensure this patio is ready for any soiree.

Final Shout Out

I have to commend Grace Hensley for this fun detail in her City Living  garden. You KNOW you want to copy this idea. If you have kids, grandkids – or are a child at heart, don’t you want to tell the story of the little mouse who lives behind the teeny tiny black door…..

Design by Grace Hensley

Design by Grace Hensley

 

Are you ready for spring now?

More Ideas

If you want more ideas for designing for small spaces check out Susan Morrison’s latest book The Less is More Garden, You can also read my review here.

 

Fearless Design- secrets to using bold color in the garden

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One of my favorite award-winning gardens at the 2018 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is always a source of inspiration and this year was no exception. One display garden that really caught my eye was called Contained Excitement, designed by my good friend and former colleague Lori DeLeuw (Designs by deLeuw) and David Rogers (Issaquah Landscaping).

This was their design statement:

Here’s the perfect counterpoint to our hectic lifestyles.

Hone your culinary skills in the outdoor kitchen, preparing healthy dishes using edibles grown in containers just steps away. And work off the stress of the daily grind with a swim in the outdoor lap pool…which also “doubles” as a tranquil spot to just plain relax!

Unusual, yet appropriate, plant material blends with finished wood and metalwork to create a distinctively modern design. As the night winds down, gather with friends at the fire pit for good conversation and an aperitif. If it begins to drizzle, simply move the party into the sleekly-styled shelter for cover!

Take-home ideas: Creating discreet outdoor areas within a garden using plantings and hardscape materials.

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Bold use of color works when the design is equally strong

While they clearly achieved their goal and I love the many outdoor spaces they created, my own take-home ideas were more about their remarkable and fearless use of a vivid color without the garden looking like a paintbox explosion! Pillar-box red was the theme color, boldly used on the walls of a chic shed, garden furniture, a glossy BBQ, containers, soft furnishings and many accessories including a stunning glass installation by artist Jesse Kelly. Having spent some time analyzing it here’s why I feel it works:

  • Most of the bold red appears on vertical elements, the horizontal patio spaces being in neutral grey tones. The addition of a red rug would have been too much of a good thing!
  • Bold black trim and shiny galvanized metal panels add a contemporary flair, enhanced by strong geometric lines, this strong design aesthetic becoming the over-riding focus.
  • Incorporation of rusted metal containers and a fire pit give a nod to red tones yet add variety by allowing for an orange hue.
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Red stems add a subtle connection to the color scheme

 

  • It’s all in the details. I can see Lori’s hand in this so clearly! She is an excellent container and landscape designer and knows that a cohesive design is about the subtle color echoes between foliage, flowers, stems, and more. I love how she carried the red theme into the plant palette, yet did so in an understated manner. A casual glance would assume the plantings are in shades of green, yet the mosaic below tells a different story to the careful observer.
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Red veins, buds, and foliage variegation shows the level of detail that to me says “excellence”.

  • There is still room for fun! There are times when a design statement  becomes so rigid that there is no allowance for serendipity or an unexpected moment. With a clear contemporary design and red-green-black-silver color scheme, the designers still allowed themselves the whimsy of a couple of orange goldfish swimming through the plants! Yes they could have use red fish. I love that they didn’t.
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Allow room for the fun factor

Congratulations on being awarded a silver medal at the show as well as the Sunset Western Living® Award. Very well deserved!