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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Placing Plants for Maximum Impact

Foliage, foliage, foliage, it's all the rage. Ok, so you bought some plants with cool foliage. Now what are you going to do with them?

When I first tried combining foliage I made a big mistake. I chose spots for the plants strictly based on where I thought the foliage would look best. What I forgot to take into account is what conditions does that plant like. As a result, it took many tries before I successfully grew Ligularia because I kept putting it in full, dry shade.

In the opening photo you can see where I chose to plant my new Astilbe. The plants around it might not have different colored foliage but they do have different shapes or textures. There's a Pulmonaria, several Hosta, a pair of daylily seedlings I couldn't bare to part with and Liriope 'Silver Dragon' just emerging in this spot. I'm not at all sold on that Liriope, it doesn't look good until late in the season and it appears to me that there are two runner shoots appearing between my bowling shoes.

Here you can see the Astilbe in the pot. I did quite a bit of walking around before deciding on where to place it. One lesson I've learned with Astilbe is that they like more sun than shade and a nice regular watering so I need to choose a spot where our sprinkler system reaches.

A few feet further down in the semi shade border is a spot that I think was successfully planted. The foliage all combines nicely in my opinion. The only thing I'd change is the Aquilegia vulgaris that seeded right in the front against the stone. I just googled this plant as I'm not sure of it's name and came up with a hit on Frances at Faire garden. Hi Frances!

This is the spot I chose for one of those purple Ligularias. It's so dark it's hard to see it there in the middle but as it grows it should really pop against all those lighter foliaged plants.

The second Ligularia 'Osiris Fantaisie' plant went in this location. I have major dreams of that Lamium growing up to the base of the purple Ligularia. The Lamium is a slow growing one, the name long lost but I wish I could find more of it for sale.

Here's a bit closer look at the Lamium, it has a very white leaf and a lovely pink flower. Another plant that I'm just crazy about is in this photo. It's in the top center and kind of looks like an Astilbe but it's Aruncus aethusifolius.

A very dwarf Aruncus, it holds it's form looking like a perfectly clipped little ball. I get a nice amount of seedlings from the parent plant, maybe 3 or 4 a year and have learned to put them in places where they can grow on. Now I've got at least a dozen of these perfect balls in various parts of the garden and soon I'll have enough to be able to share on a regular basis.

Last year I bought this specialty Polygonatum 'Striatum' (Solomon's seal) with twisted leaves. I'll hold my opinion on this until it clumps up a bit but at least I know it's quite hardy as both plants I purchased have come back this year.

Here's a great combination area. The Hakonechloa 'All Gold', a Geranium sanguinium and that Aruncus aethusifolius. The little gold in the foreground is a piece of a Hosta I rescued from a totally dessicated root bound area.

Out front in the sun border I continue to add pieces of yellow and green variegated Liriope. This is such a great plant in my garden. The only thing I have to remember is it doesn't look like much this early in the season but as soon as that foliage starts growing it's a winner.
Several pots of Amsonia 'Blue Ice' were planted next to the various Dicentras (Bleeding Hearts). The Dicentras have already been blooming for quite some time but I hope that the Amsonias will join the show as the Dicentras are winding down and then the Amsonia foliage will fill in some of the gaps. Only time will tell if this is a winning combination.

Well, I'm off to the races. Actually, I'm off to the elections. Today is the day for our school district's budget vote and vote for new candidates for the Board of Education. I'm running for one of the openings and will spend most of the day at the voting area shaking hands and introducing myself to people. Unfortunately we are expecting a seasonly cold and rainy day so I just might look like a bay man in my yellow slicker and galoshes. At least I won't be giving up another spectacular day in the garden.

Till tomorrow,


Kim said...

Good Luck today, Melanie!


Dave said...

Great job with those plants! They look really good. I just added some Soloman's seal to our hostas and heucheras. That lamium is worth a look!

redrahde said...


You take such great pictures. Do you have any tips for a novice? What kind of camera do you use? I'm finding it difficult to photograph my daylilies. Early in the morning, the plants are not fully opened; mid-day, the sun is too bright and the photos look washed out; early evening and all the dark daylilies look like faded limp dish rags after a day in our hot sun.

Gail said...

Good luck Melanie...I know you would be perfect on the are dedicated and hard working...evidenced by the fund raiser plant sale. You should definitely get points for being a good teacher, too! I have learned a great deal from your posts!


Frances, said...

Hi Melanie, what a laugh I had when you mentioned finding me on the google search. I laugh when I am looking for info on a plant and my blog comes up, too. I must mention a lot of plant names. HA Your hakone all gold inspired me to buy one this weekend, too expensive for too small a plant, but with your advice it will get plenty of water, or as much as the hydrangeas and primroses around it. You have the most gorgeous hostas ever. What is the one with the bluish leaves with the yellow stripe down the middle? I love it! You would be an asset on any board, but especially schools need people with your energy level and level headedness. Hope you get to serve your community in that way.

Jan said...

Lovely combinations. You've done a great job in plant placement and have given me some ideas for my garden. Thanks

Always Growing

cindee said...

Hope you won!!! I am reading late today..
I love all your plants they all look so nice together. I have a massive amount of mondo grass that I love. I use it as a border in areas and it just grows beautifully here. It is invasive but I don't mind where it is because it keeps out the weeds(-: It also looks so pretty swaying in the wind.(-:

Jean said...

Melanie, I learn such a lot from your posts, and just love todays photos.
I am developing a shade garden and I'm afraid I am a bit of a copy cat, because the plants are the same as we grow here in New Zealand, and ones I am very fond of. Havr not seen that new ligularia here yet though, what a lovely one, and I will be looking out for it.
Thanks for your lovely photos

Anna said...

So how did it go? Do you know anything yet? All your plants look great and I know you are so busy planting right now. I can see the beds are all ready for the new babies. It looks marvelous.

Let me know how the elections or nominations went. I'm a bit confused on how that works for you. I'm guessing the nominations were first.

kathi~lavender, lace and thyme said...

Melanie, you are simply amazing! You not only take incredible photos but your groupings are perfect, I love hosta's, I am working on groupings myself so thank you very much for all the wonderful ideas.

Anonymous said...

wow, your foliage planning is beautiful! can't wait to get to that stage of planning for my garden.

lovely photography!

Cinj said...

I love those hosta! Wow.

Sorry it's been a while since I visited, but I just can't believe how crazy life has gotten!