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Designing for spring and summer with foliage first

by Timber Press on January 18, 2017

in Design, Gardening

All included images by Karen Chapman.

Even if the winter weather is keeping you indoors, it’s time to start planning your upcoming garden designs. With the fun and fresh combination of fir, bushes, lilies, and dahlias in Gardening with Foliage First, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz show how the right foliage palette can make your garden shine with color and texture year-round.



Between the tufty hair on the pineapple lilies and the disheveled orange dahlias, this looks like quite the pajama party. Wine-colored barberry echoes the dark spotting on the stems of the pineapple lilies, while golden Korean fir plays to their lighter notes. This foliage combination is attractive but unremarkable until the aptly named Bed Head dahlia is added in the background, adding a fun splash of color.


The golden foliage of the fir will be a year-round highlight, with the bright new growth and clusters of yellow flowers of the barberry adding spring interest. In summer the dahlia and pineapple lily provide summer color with foliage and flowers. The merrymaking continues through fall, when foliage of the Concorde barberry will turn from wine to scarlet and tiny red berries become visible on the thorny stems. As the clumps of pineapple lily and dahlias mature, this party will only get more colorful.


This broad upright conifer has pale yellow needles in spring that mature to a softer green, creating a dramatic backdrop for the blue-purple cones. Grows to 4–6 feet tall in zones 5–8.

Golden Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Aurea’).

There are many purple-toned barberries, but Concorde stands out for its reliable mounding shape, rich blue overtones, and slightly larger foliage. Add yellow spring flowers, red berries, and great fall color and this becomes a garden-worthy three-season shrub. Grows to 3 feet tall and wide in zones 4–8. Caution Before planting, make sure barberries are not invasive in your area.

Concorde barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Concorde’).


Fat flower spikes emerge from succulent rosettes in summer and support the strange pineapple-like flowers. This perennial needs well-drained soil. Grows to 2 feet tall and wide in zones 8–10, but will survive in zone 7 with winter protection.

Pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa).

Bed Head dahlia (Dahlia ‘Bed Head’) Looking positively rumpled, these 4-inch orange flowers are as much fun as they are vibrant. Makes an excellent cut flower that gets even curlier in the vase. Stake the stems and add slug protection when young. Grows to 5 feet tall in zones 8–10, but you can lift and protect during the winter in colder areas.

Bed Head dahlia (Dahlia ‘Bed Head’).


Karen Chapman has her own container and landscape design company, Le Jardinet. She writes garden articles for online and print publications and is an instructor for Craftsy. Her website is lejardinetdesigns.com.



Christina Salwitz operates The Personal Garden Coach, a Seattle-area business that helps gardeners of all skill levels achieve their gardening dreams. Her blog is personalgardencoach.wordpress.com.


Click the image below for a look inside this book.


“A successful planting combination is as much about beautiful foliage as it is about flowers—that’s the premise of the upcoming book Gardening with Foliage First.” —Sunset

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