Gardening with Foliage First

127 dazzling combinations that pair the beauty of leaves with flowers, bark, berries, and more

Foliage-firstFlowering plants in the garden can be fickle—we love them, but blooms are seasonal. But foliage, silhouettes, and texture layered throughout the design gives a garden longevity and beauty through all seasons.

So how does all that mixing and blending of plants happen? Gardening with Foliage First has the formula. As the introduction assures “You don’t need to be a horticulturist or an artist to learn how to design. Careful observation of the smallest detail will help…” The authors are talented designers from the Pacific Northwest who teamed up and put all those observations and details together in more than 300 pages of plant “recipes,” along with lush photography of the resulting plant combinations. This is a well-thought-out, approachable how-to book.

As you flip through the book, on page 17 you’ll see the first of three seasonal sections. Captions like “Bad Hair Day,” “Pizzazz with Palms,” “Pretty in Pink,” plus 124 more, will lure you in to see what plant combination fulfills the titles. Tips to bring those fun combinations to life are even more enticing. Useful ideas on adding art and pottery are sprinkled throughout the combinations to add a designer touch.

Sandwiched among the beautiful, lush photos is a veritable buffet of plant information. The best use of each plant is described along with information about how to grow it successfully. Each plant story explains what growing conditions, soil, zone, and season it will thrive in. You will find the information as valuable as the exciting plant recipes. Karen and Christina draw on their experience to tell you how each plant will behave in the mix of their combinations. They make no apologies for individually boring plants, like rock cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis ‘Perpusillus’), in the “Mixed up Mosaic” combination. It is really the combination that showcases the mixology of plants both common and exotic. A few bonus tidbits are in the book too, like a “Heuchera Hot List” for fans of those foliage superstars.

Lush, beautiful, and filled with a bounty of information, this is a nice addition to the design shelf of your garden book library.

Sue Goetz, landscaper designer and PHS board member, Tacoma, Washington