Hydrangea Companion Planting

Clockwise from top right; Light o' Day, Pistachio, Bloomstruck, Limelight

Clockwise from top right; Light o’ Day, Pistachio, Bloomstruck, Limelight

On a recent trip to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens I was blinded by a dazzling display of a golden barberry paired with a kaleidoscopic Pistachio hydrangea – which got me thinking. What other plants make good companions for hydrangeas?

So in the interest of helping your create artistic plant combinations and have another excuse to go plant shopping here are a few ideas from my photo library that you may like to try.

Using Foliage

Consider repeating the color of the hydrangea flower with a foliage plant to add emphasis.

In the image below the marbled pink leaves of Rose Glow barberry set the scene for this vibrant pink hydrangea

Rose Glow barberry is a perfect foil to this mophead hydrangea

Rose Glow barberry is a perfect foil to this mophead hydrangea

For a softer look, blades of a white variegated grass such as Miscanthus are perfect behind white panicle flowers such as the peegee hydrangea.

 

Design by Birgit Piskor, Victoria, BC

Or use a softer toned grass as a carpet to skirt a large hydrangea, hiding the bare shrub ankles without distracting the eye from the seasonal beauty of the blooms

Design by Mary Palmer, Snohomish, WA

Design by Mary Palmer, Snohomish, WA; grasses hide the bare ankles of a Hydrangea aspera

For grab-your-sunglasses drama what about this combo seen at the Bellevue Botanical Garden that proved to be my inspiration for this post? Rather than repeat the raspberry pink bloom color, or even the secondary blue-lavender eye within these Pistachio hydrangea blooms, these designers opted to  highlight the yellow-green notes of emerging blooms for a high intensity color punch.

 Pistachio hydrangea meets Sunjoy Gold Pillar barberry

Pistachio hydrangea meets Sunjoy Gold Pillar barberry – WOW!

Now see the same concept played out in a much gentler way with All Gold Japanese forest grass tucked under this soft blue lace cap hydrangea.

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Design by Mitch Evans, Redmond, WA

Using flowers

Timing is everything when you want to combine flowers with flowers.

Below is the same hydrangea that you saw with the Rose Glow barberry, viewed from a different angle. Here you can see how the crisp white blooms of an adjacent hydrangea soften the scene. Since this is a pond-side planting the white adds to the visual cooling – rather like adding ice cubes to your cocktail!

Use white to temper intense colors

Use white to temper intense colors – design by Joanne White, Redmond, WA

Want something more subtle? Loved this hebe whose flowers perfectly matched the lilac hydrangea bloom behind. Delightful.

Try to imagine this without harsh shadows....

Hebe and hydrangea. Design by Helena Wagner, Portland, OR

Or here’s an easy one from my own garden. Rozanne geranium blooms for so long you can’t help but get this right! This hardy geranium is also a real mingler so its tendrils will weave their way along hydrangea branches with little assistance from you.

Design by Le jardinet; Rozanne geranium and Firelight hydrangea

Design by Le jardinet; Rozanne geranium and Firelight hydrangea

Looking ahead

Many hydrangea blooms change color as seasons progress. Consider planning a companion planting to highlight those dusky fall shades. Angel’s Blush peegee hydrangea turns from white to a delightful rose shade which echoes the color of Gateway Joe Pye weed looming overhead, the scene brightened with the yellow ox eye sunflower (Heliopsis) daisies planted to one side. A scene to look forward to.

Late summer glory; Design by Le jardinet

Late summer glory; Design by Le jardinet

Watch out for my new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, January 2017), coauthored with Christina Salwitz, where we have several amazing combinations using hydrangeas including some winter ideas!

Final thoughts

What about pairing the hydrangea blooms with the colors of berries, stems or even bark?

The warm cinnamon colored bark of a paperbark maple is a clever component of this design

The warm cinnamon colored bark of a paperbark maple is a clever component of this design by Helena Wagner, Portland, OR

Wondering which hydrangea to choose? I can’t even begin to help you there as there seem to be a gazillion to select from! I recommend deciding what size and color you want first, then the flower shape. From there ask a nursery professional to help you select the best varieties for your area and to give you tips on successful cultivation.

I also like to know who has grown my plants. There are several excellent  hydrangea growers that sell to the nurseries and stores including Proven Winners and Baileys Nurseries that sells the Endless Summer collection of luscious hydrangeas so look for their branded pots.

Who can resist the Endless Summer series of hydrangeas?

Who can resist the Endless Summer series of hydrangeas?

What are YOU pairing your hydrangeas with? Leave a comment below or post a photo to me Facebook page for us all to enjoy!

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The Path Less Traveled

Sapphire Blue sea holly is a favorite for deer resistant, drought tolerant drama

Sapphire Blue sea holly is a favorite for deer resistant, drought tolerant drama

Have you been into your garden recently? Not to weed the borders or cut the grass – just to see what is happening? Set the alarm clock a little earlier tomorrow, grab your camera and go on a mini garden safari.

I must admit I wasn’t sure there was anything really worth photographing. I hadn’t even caught up with removing spent bulb foliage let alone trimming the grass edges, the peonies needed deadheading, the new borders weren’t grown in, I still had ‘holes’ to plug….. Sound familiar?  Yet I challenged myself to be an adventurer in my own garden, to be expectant, observant.

Hidden in plain view

Create a sense of mystery with a scrim of finely textured foliage or flowers

Create a sense of mystery with a scrim of finely textured foliage or flowers

I typically view this scene from a different perspective; from the left (indoors) the right (driving into the property) or three feet higher up – when I’m standing. Yet as I bent down to pull a weed (I couldn’t help myself) I happened to glance up and noticed what a delightful semi-transparent screen this stand of Sapphire Blue sea holly (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’) made. Veiled glimpses of this intimate patio made it appear all the more enticing, tucked within a frame of foliage and flowers. The elliptical glass birdbath drew my eye back to the roses and Caradonna sage (Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’) now in full bloom. I could ignore fallen petals and leaves and enjoy the romance of the setting.

You can create a similar effect using tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) or grasses.

Take a different path

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From outside the border, the strolling path disappears visually, leaving uninterrupted layers of colorful trees, shrubs and perennials

Do you always walk around your garden in the same direction? The scene above is part of my large island border which has a strolling path running through the middle of it. I have trained myself to deliberately walk that path in each direction periodically to get a fresh perspective but I rarely walk around the outside of the border and peer in. Yet this richly hued  vignette could only be truly appreciated when I did just that. The red-tipped Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’) is still low enough for me to see over and provided a perfect visual carpet for the glowing Orange Rocket barberry, Skylands spruce and erupting Cleopatra foxtail lilies and orange oriental poppies . Layers of gold, orange and burgundy, set off by many shades of green – all revealed by taking a walk along the path less well traveled.

Learn to stand still

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No special detours taken for this shot – I just stood still and crouched down a little to look more closely at this lovely metal bird my son sent for my birthday. The early morning light cast a perfect shadow.

From my semi-crouched position I simply turned my head….

IMG_1128 Was this my garden? I usually walk this pathway quite quickly and as a result was missing this complex vignette with its luscious textural layers and color play. Yet look how the ice-blue corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica) needles  complement  the rich plum leaves of my new Moonlight Magic crepe myrtle while offering a monochromatic medley with the Sapphire Blue sea holly and Blue Shag pine (Pinus strobus ‘ Blue Shag’). I had missed that moment when the rising sun kissed the tips of the Skylands spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) and barberry branches (Rose Glow to the left and Orange Rocket to the right). A little bird helped me see all that.

Do you need a add a ‘garden moment’ alongside the path to re-focus your view?

Dare to dream

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I  want to wait until this newly planted area has grown in before I write a more extensive post discussing the design details of our new patio but I thought you might like to get a glimpse of my vision at this interim stage. This is the view from our kitchen looking out into the back garden. The main patio is several steps away from the house and we have added a large planter in the middle of a border between the two. The idea is to create layers of color and texture to frame the patio, attract hummingbirds and butterflies, establish a focal point and create a more intimate space within the acreage.

IMG_1076 Once outside you feel nestled within that space yet have open views all around. The plants have a lot of growing to do – but the dream is becoming a reality.

How is your garden growing?

 

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Beyond Geraniums….

Mix it up a little! Here a golden elderberry (shrub) mingles with a colorful annual (for me) Coprosma and a vivid perennial Gaillardia

Mix it up a little! Here a golden elderberry (shrub) mingles with a colorful annual  Coprosma and a vibrant perennial  ‘Celebration’ blanket flower

Are you struggling to do something different with your sunny container gardens this year? Do you always seem to start off with a geranium, add  some pretty million bells (Calibrachoa) and then tuck in some trailing vbacopa to finish it off? Cheerful but not very imaginative is it?Yet this early in the season these are the plants most likely to be in full bloom at the nursery.

But look more closely at some of the other annuals sitting quietly in the sidelines. They may be mostly foliage and just a few buds right now but there are some really interesting options that will bloom their little flowery hearts out once you take them home. Here are some of my favorites

Top 4 flowering annuals for sun

Fan flower (Scaevola)

Scaevola 'Pink Wonder' is a delightful soft pink with lavender overtones

‘Pink Wonder’ fan flower (Scaevola) is a delightful soft pink with lavender overtones

Whether you choose pink, white or blue you won’t be sorry you took a chance on that unassuming pot of leaves in May! Before you know it this vigorous annual will weave its way through its container partners, tumbling, spilling and clambering at will. You’ll never plant containers without it again! Deer resistant and thrives in partial shade as well as full sun

Samantha lantana

The variegated leaf and yellow flower of Samantha lantana adds citrus flavors to a blue Scaevola and Apricot Punch million bells

The variegated leaf and yellow flower of Samantha lantana adds citrus flavors to a blue Scaevola and Apricot Punch million bells (Calibrachoa)

Samantha lantana can be tricky to find but worth looking for as this variety has lovely variegated leaves that set off the lemon flowers perfectly. The pretty foliage helps keep the color interest going when the lantana is still gearing up to full bloom.

Don’t ignore the PERENNIALS either, especially those with colorful foliage. Several of these make great contenders for container gardens. Unlike annuals these make good investments for your garden too as they can be transplanted into the landscape at the end of the season.

Diamond Delight Euphorbia

Diamond Delight Euphorbia and Royale Cherryburst verbena - two new introductions from Proven Winners that I trialed

Diamond Delight Euphorbia and Royale Cherryburst verbena – two new introductions from Proven Winners that I trialed

Its hard to imagine  how much impact this delicate plant will have – so just trust me! The sparse stems and tiny white flowers will explode into a flowering frenzy reminiscent of baby’s breath (Gypsophila) but this annual will bloom continually ’til frost. There are also some varieties with darker foliage and a slight pink tinge to the blooms.  Wonderful fine texture – it will become a favorite.

Centradenia

Unexpected drama as Centradenia 'Cascade' meets the bold golden yellow Forever Goldie conifer.

Unexpected drama as Centradenia ‘Cascade’ meets the bold golden yellow Forever Goldie conifer.

Centradenia is often sold as a 2″ basket stuffer and can languish on the table in May. Yet just a few weeks later and you’ll be glad you tucked it into the pot as it quickly fills out and blooms all season. A couple of different varieties are usually available but I have only seen them with flowers in various shades of pink. However I love the vivid red stems and bronze flushed green leaves . Plant this at the edge of the container to tumble over the edge

Top 4 perennials for sunny pots

Hyssop (Agastache) varieties

Kudos Mandarin hyssop (Agastache) - associates beautifully with grasses

Kudos Mandarin hyssop (Agastache) – associates beautifully with grasses

Shorter forms such as Apricot Sprite generally look better in containers than the taller forms. Drought tolerant, deer resistant, long blooming – they add a wonderful splash of color and herbal fragrance to sunny baskets and pots and attracts hummingbirds too! The variety shown here is Kudos Mandarin: a new one to me – I bought EIGHT!! Yes I was rather enamored……

Gaura varieties

In the landscape or in containers Gaura will always produce an abundance of delicate flowers over many months

In the landscape or in containers Gaura will always produce an abundance of delicate flowers over many months

Even the simple white flowering form of Gaura works well in a container, sending up dozens of dancing wands all summer long. However there are also several with pink or variegated foliage which can help fill the color gap early in the season. A few varieties are short enough to even be suitable to add to hanging baskets! Use as the thriller in smaller pots or a filler in larger containers.

Coneflower (Echinacea)

Add sizzle to late season combos with coneflowers

Add sizzle to late season combos with coneflowers

Since these bloom mid-late season it can be a bit tricky incorporating them early in the season simply because the nurseries aren’t well stocked. However for procrastinators – or really clever planners – they add  a mega watt color blast since these are available in every color from white and yellow to magenta, orange and red.

Here’s a trick if you want to plan ahead. Plant an empty 6″ (gallon) pot into your mixed container garden to hold the space available for the coneflower. Then when you find the perfect plant just take the empty pot out and slip the coneflowers in. Voila!

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

One of many Gaillardia varieties

One of many blanket flower varieties available

There have been several new varieties of these sturdy  perennials introduced in recent years. Deer resistant, drought tolerant and long blooming you may find one of them is the perfect addition to your design. Deadhead to keep them blooming all summer long – although truthfully the fuzzy seed heads are pretty cool too! Lots to choose from including bi-colors. Look for Celebration, Arizona Sun and more!

Got you thinking? Great then go shopping! Post a photo of your creation to my Facebook page – I’d love to see what you do this year.

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Join me for cocktails – book review & giveaway!

white_at_night_fornari

The romantic softly variegated foliage of a dappled willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’) takes center stage when illuminated at night.

We have recently purchased a fancy new propane fire pit. It is one of those lovely ones with a tile surround large enough to function as a table for your wine glass and snacks and pretty reflective glass through which the flames dance and flicker. Being propane it is a great option for instant ambience without the smoke and with the unprecedented warm temperatures Seattle has been experiencing, my husband and I have found ourselves….RELAXING in the evening! What a concept.

Our usual routine is work, work and then more work. As business owners that also work part time  it seems that there is a never ending list of  ‘must do’s’ from grocery shopping and cleaning to laundry and cutting the grass. Your list may include child care, car pools, sports or music practice. The point is Life can trump Living. That’s why the new book The Cocktail Hour Garden by C.L. Fornari (St. Lynn’s Press, 2016) caught my attention.

sit_shade_fornari

Late afternoon sun can be hot – provide shade structures or a colorful umbrella

The Cocktail Hour Garden gives a plethora of ideas for designing, planting and accessorizing your garden space to offer maximum enjoyment for those couple of hours when you can actually indulge in sitting down. Whether that is an hour before you start dinner with a calming cup of tea or like us, taking your wine glasses (and chocolate) over to the fire pit at dusk to watch the bats start to fly and the stars come out. C.L helps the reader evaluate their current garden and ask what each plant “brings to the party”. How does it support your vision for a magical gathering place for 2 or 20, a space that lures you into the garden at twilight?

For those of us who need help fine tuning that vision C.L. takes the reader through the design and decorating processes step by step, all beautifully illustrated with her evocative photographs. As you turn the pages I guarantee that your heart rate will slow a little and your breathing become easier as you being to imagine the possibilities.

Plant selection is key and C.L. discusses her favorites to include for fragrance, including several that only release their heady scent in the evening. From shrubs and vines to annuals and herbs be sure to include something that lures you outside. We have included several Phenomenal lavender (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal) in a raised bed adjacent to the fire pit and I am hunting down the night scented phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis ‘Midnight Candy’) for that area also. Mmmmm.

The colors of the cocktail hour garden are also important; white, silver and soft lavender seem to glow at dusk for example and many examples of great foliage and flowers in this palette are suggested.

cocktails_in_vegetable_bed_fornari

Talking of delicious plants this book also covers fun edibles to include for your cocktail garden design. Imagine reaching over to snip a stem of lemon balm to stir into your iced tea? CL goes much further than that though, with a fabulous chapter called Cocktail Hour Grazing. Here she discusses the new trend in flexible, edible landscaping and provides us glimpses into her  front garden, entered via a rustic arbor, which is an exuberant tapestry of edibles and flowers that frames an enchanting patio. Those flowers attract pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies and more) that add life and movement to the garden – another aspect of garden design that is so vital and helps us re-connect with the natural world around us.

C.L. also discusses the importance of lighting for your cocktail hour garden, from battery operated candles to string lights and professional landscape lighting you can add just the right balance of drama, mystery and intimacy. The leading photograph of an illuminated dappled willow tree shows how effective uplighting can be.

Perhaps my favorite chapter in this book is Conversations with Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Sky. As a designer I pride myself in creating gardens that will be experienced – not just observed and that means engaging all the senses. C.L. addresses this by discussing how our senses communicate with the elements and giving ideas on how to purposefully plan for them. Whether it is by the inclusion of a small pebble mosaic that invites us to touch, or deliberately planting a swathe of tall grasses to move in the breeze atop a windy bluff or incorporating a petite fountain near a sitting porch.

Cocktail Hour Garden Cover_fornari

So I invite you to step out into the garden and simply ‘be’.

The cocktail hour garden is a landscape that reminds us to put …. distractions aside and be in the present moment. It’s an environment that, like a strong ocean current, pulls us determinedly into the natural world and invites us to relax and better sync our rhythms to the flora and fauna around us”.

Enter to Win!

I have one signed copy of C.L.s book to give away to a lucky winner! Simply leave a comment below and you will be entered to win. I will draw a name May 23rd 6pm PST.

Buy your copies here

Follow C.L. on her website, Facebook or one of her two call-in radio shows; GardenLine on WXTK and The Garden lady on WRKO.

And the winner is….

Nancy Daniels!

Congratulations Nancy, and thank you to everyone who entered. I hope the rest of you will purchase a copy through the link given. Cheers!

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The Smile Factor

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Our newest family members

Whether you consider your personal garden style to be elegant, romantic, contemporary or traditional there is always room for a little whimsy – a special garden moment to make you smile. It doesn’t have to be large or extravagant and in fact some of the best are those that are discovered while strolling through the garden rather than something that screams ‘look at me’ from your living room!

Here are a few ideas from my own garden as well as several I have visited.

Highlight unique forms

A weathered bird house tucked into the gnarly remains of an old maple tree

A weathered bird house tucked into the gnarly remains of an old maple tree

This big leaf maple tree had been a focal point in the garden border: originally a towering, bleached silhouette it is now just a snag after a recent windstorm brought down the last branch with a ker-THUMP! Yet I still find this a fascinating sculptural element – just look at all the contorted growth on the trunk. To encourage other garden visitors to slow down and appreciate this I tucked a weathered birdhouse into the snag; he looks as surprised as our guests upon being discovered!

Bringing life back to a dead shrub

Bringing life back to a dead rhododendron shrub

This large rhododendron died many years ago yet its skeletal form is still beautiful. The previous owner had painted it silver but that makeover has long since faded and tufts of lichen now dress up the coral-like structure. This shrub framework seemed like a lovely spot to hang my charming bird feeder with its succulent roof. A thoughtful friend gave this to me at Christmas and I had been looking for the somewhere to showcase it effectively. We see this every day through our kitchen window where it adds an unexpected splash of color to an otherwise drab spot in the garden. Looks like I need to fill it up again….

Child’s Play

Created by Katie Pond

Created by Katie Pond – when she was still Katie Chapman

Lovingly nicknamed ‘Charles’ after a certain Royal personage, this creature was crafted in a high school art class by my daughter  many years ago. Showing signs of wear and tear, this only adds to the humor; I mean how good would you look after scrambling out of a rotted tree stump?

STOP!

STOP!

Spied on a recent garden tour in Pasadena this wonderful dinosaur is doing his best to get your attention! Whether warning against the step or the prickly plant I’m not sure but he did make me stop to take his photograph.

Cact - cus by Debra Lee Baldiwn made me giggle

Cact – cus by Debra Lee Baldwin made me giggle

Of course we’re all children at heart aren’t we? Debra Lee Baldwin may be a few years out of kindergarten but that didn’t stop her adding wonderful googly eyes to this cactus creation in her San Diego garden.

Hidden in Plain View

A brick pathway to read while you walk

A brick pathway to read while you walk

Have you noticed how many bricks have names embossed on them? Love these ideas

Perfect post-topper

Perfect post-topper

Likewise paving stones can be an opportunity to add some personality – or family history

a celebration path

A celebration path

 

Add Interest to Bare Walls

Cluster small pieces together for greater impact

Cluster small pieces together for greater impact

Whimsical terracotta faces on a stucco wall will soon be surrounded by this clinging vine –  a fun discovery as I strolled along this shaded path and such a variety of expressions

Look up!

An easy project

An easy project

Hanging from a cedar branch one would not expect to see shards of cobalt blue glass wrapped in copper wire – yet their casual placement was perfect in its simplicity.

Unintentional humor?

Hmm

Hmm. Armed by whom or by what?

Strange the things that catch your eye – and make you laugh. Great placement either way!

Does your garden make you giggle?

Three Blind Mice by ee-i-ee-i-o

Three Blind Mice by ee-i-ee-i-o

 

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