May 31, 2015

How to add IMPACT to your Gardens

Whew, this time of year is sheer madness, garden designs and installs, interior designs and installs, equals one tired gal! Thankfully the shop is in the best of hands with the best of staff.

One bit I am focusing on constantly when adding plantings into the designs is my clear focus on foliage shape and color, the two most important elements to an interesting landscape, with impact. It is how to extend a colorful garden
Gorgeous? YES!
 But.....what happens when those flowers are gone? Sure there may be some flowers to follow however it could have season long impact. In this case all green, smallish leaves = b-o-r-i-n-g
Same here. It is easy to create a lovely garden in mid-summer, it is the remainder of the year that is important too
Uniquely attractive, in a subtle way. Today however it is all about impact created with diverse foliage

Virtually few perennials, massive interest with diversity of colored foliage and varying leaf shapes


Lamium 'White Nancy', sparkles in the evening
Ajuga 'Bronze Beauty' with the added bonus of blue flowering spikes in Spring
Lysimachia 'Aurea'

Miscanthus 'Zebra Grass'
Festuca 'Elijah Blue;
Miscanthus 'Purpurascens '
For shade, 'Hakonechloa 'All Gold'

Purple Sage
Purple Basil
Variegated Thyme 'Lemon'

Caladium 'Ansel Adams' die for!
Caladium 'Gingerland'
Coleus 'Watermelon'

Helichrysium 'Icicles'
Ornamental Cabbage

Japanese Painted fern

Hadspen Blue
'Coast to Coast'
'Fire and Ice'

Heuchera's......In every imaginable color, well, almost
Geranium 'Espresso'  Brownish foliage with delicate pink flowers that blooms from late April to late September. I like to underplant it with the ground cover Lysimachia 'Aurea', shown above. This is a real POP, as this beauty can fade into the mulch. You do mulch don't you?
Heucherella 'Sweet Tea'
Brunnera 'Jack Frost'
Actea 'Black Negligee'. Tall with architectural foliage blooms in late Autumn with bottle brush spikes laced with the scent of vanilla
Stachys 'Big Ears'

Hello Gorgeous! Clematis 'Stolwijk'
Hardy Kiwi Vine Only the MALE has this coloration
Climbing Hydrangea 'Firefly'

Physocarpus 'Amber Jubilee'  This is year round, not just Autumn!
Pittosporum 'Irene Paterson'
Sambucus 'Plumosa Aurea'
Fothergilla 'Blue Mist'

Again, not a flower in sight
False Cypress 'Gold dwarf'
Abies 'Silberlocke'

Pyrus 'Silver Frost'
Cercis 'Forest Pansy'  Yes, a burgundy leafed Redbud!
White Birch
Cornus 'Golden Shadows'

And........that is just for starters! Now, how to combine these plants in your borders. This is where the leaf shape takes center stage.
The best neighbors are opposites; thick leaf next to thin leaves
More of the above
Thick and thin

Something else to note......if you have a bed that appears to be messy, the cause is often too many small leaves. Large leaves lend order. Imagine if the above tropical was not there, there would be no focal point and the Verbena would appear medowish

Let's take a look at great examples of this conversation

Hope  you found some inspiration, I love this topic!
Thank you for reading......


  1. Gorgeous pictures! I almost always pick my plants based on leaf colour, shape and size. If they happen to have an attractive flower, so much the better.

  2. THANK YOU for your consistently amazing and informative blog!! I learn so much every time. Would love to hear your opinions on deer-resistant plantings. I love hostas, but they are "deer crack" in our region.
    Thank you again for your hard work and for sharing your knowledge.

  3. Dear Debra, wow I think yo have covered it! With our Midwest winters I am adding more perennials that return in the spring before I have decided what to do differently for the year! Just added some variegated hostas. I will be going through this listing and images again!

    The Arts by Karena
    Coco Chanel

  4. This is such great inspiration (that I need badly given my lack of gardening skills!). In our last house the previous owners had planted a TON of tulips and daffodils and our landscaping looked phenomenal for two weeks a year and like crap for the rest of the year. Lesson learned!

  5. To Grc; two thoughts on deer;
    -i have a ton of deer that walk thru my gardens and eat NOTHING! why? Deer have daily traveling patterns and the neighbor they visit just before me feeds them, perfect!
    -I once went on a garden walk and when we came through the forested garden it was brimming with healthy hostas. i sought out the owner to ask how this could be, she claimed a product called BOBBEX, a spray, worked and the proof was there

  6. Hi backyard needs some loving! My hubby has been working on it, but it just needs something to bring it together...hope your doing OK..thinking about you!

  7. Fabulous post and I am a lover of different, colors, shapes and textures over a lot of flowers, however I do have to have neat little flower beds for my impatiens. What a great assortment of plants and images, I pinned away, Thank you

  8. Debra,
    This post is a present. I'm hindered this year by the fourth year of a drought. Some of the plants you've shared are undoubtedly drought resistant and I take heart that you've shared ideas that aren't perennial intensive and will offer longer lasting bones for my garden. Annuals and perennials will be minimal and all the better for the lack of water.
    I love this topic too!

  9. Not only are these images gorgeous but so much great information, Debra! My garden is definitely in need of a little sprucing up! Happy June!

  10. I found lots of inspirations :) Gorgeous post, Debra. So with you: foliage is just as important as flowers. You've featured many of my favorites, such as lambs ear, hostas, etc. I hope you are enjoying a lovely and productive season in the garden. I'm behind on the weeding :( They are growing faster than I can keep up!
    Happy June~

  11. I've always thought that it's all about contrasts in the garden, + this tutorial has been AMAZ-ing! Thank you! We're re-doing a Dutch colonial in Morris (so. of you), + the yard there is a blank slate. I will definitely keep the points in the post in mind when we finally get to our garden plan!

  12. WOW!!!!! This post is stunning! Thanks for sharing all of your tips for those of us who do not live near you so that you can help us in person.

    Perhaps that could be something to add to your already loaded plate, "landscape" in a box. You could do landscape e-design. I bet you would have a lot of new clients because landscaping is a challenge for many of us!

    Have a great weekend.

  13. Interesting choices.

    My work has evolved into maximum effect for minimum input.

    Every plant must pay rent, every day, for decades.

    Dead head, divide, cut back, deer delights, herbacious, time it takes to maintain, or worse, pay someone to maintain? Hardly.

    Canopy/understory trees, evergreen shrubs, flowering shrubs, bulbs, focal points on axis, paths, groundcovers, implementing a color trinity for house/garden furnishings/deck/etc, exchanging existing light fixtures on the house, detailing views into the home from the garden, having views into the garden from every room of the home fabulous.

    If client wants perennials, they are layer 2.

    You make me realize it has been at least a decade since a client has wanted a perennial garden layer.

    Once I saw Arne Maynard's work a couple of years ago it was clear, he was where I was heading. Love being here.

    A question I ask after every design, 'What can I take out and it holds together?'

    Ironically, friend/peer, Susanne Hudson said yesterday she remembers my garden when it had perennial gardens, she had brought a tour bus to visit my garden and have box lunches. We both laughed. Perhaps that was 15 years ago, the perennial gardens.

    Looking forward to visiting Maynard's garden some day.

    Leaving my garden of 30 years, forever, in 2 weeks. Many tears, to the point of body shaking. Moving rural, 115 year old farmhouse, 4.5 acres, open/wooded/pond. Designing the garden for my 80 year old self. First time to design most paths to accommodate a golf cart.

    No amenities on the property, a good thing, I get to choose where the coop, barn, conservatory, shed are sited. Deer, coyote, fox, timber rattler call this home too.

    Perennials I will have at new garden: iris, thrift, peony, rudbeckia, dianthus 'bath pink', helleborus, ferns. Will use self-seeding annuals: English daisy, blue ageratum, cleome.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

  14. This is one of the most helpful garden design posts I've ever read. I live in Perth, Western Australia and gardening conditions can be pretty tough (although not at the moment - it's winter and absolutely lovely). Our three-quarter-acre garden often phases me but you have given me all sorts of ideas. Many thanks.