Planting Ideas: Orchestral Movement in the Key of Lime

Greetings, friends. It’s time for our monthly installment of planting ideas from Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, the Seattle-base...


Greetings, friends. It’s time for our monthly installment of planting ideas from Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, the Seattle-based authors of Fine Foliage.

Why this works:

The daring showiness of this foliage combination in the late winter or early spring depending on your location is a rather musical mix that lends itself to a feeling of hearing a new zesty groove but with a classical twist. When you notice the background sounds of textural contrast in the form of a soft conifer, then add in a finer instrument as the narrow leaved euphorbia and an audaciously loud heucherella that demands you listen, you do! Then bring on the soft and subtle, low, blue-notes of another euphorbia cascading down the front, it becomes a rather lyrical interplay.

Key players:

Ascot rainbow euphorbia (Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow): Variegated foliage that boasts a load of colors ranging from sage green to lime and gold. In winter, it gets beautiful pinkish coral tinge that makes it a multi-season plant. The soft, full and bushy growth habit make it a good plant to snuggle up to others in combinations whether in a container or landscape. Ascot Rainbow takes the heat and is rather drought tolerant as well. *Caution- skin and eye irritant, wear gloves when handling. Growing to 20” tall and wide it can be tucked in places where you ned a bit of dramatic filler. Sunset climate zones 1a–24

Golden dwarf hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’) Soft vibrant gold new growth, the nodding branch tips of this ferny conifer foliage are a wonderful textural addition in the shady back of the border where they can shine at times of the year when other plants are not. It does need moderate protection from the hottest summer sun. Since this conifer is so slow growing it fits well into many garden situations and styles from containers to Japanese styles gardens. Mature growth will reach 4ft. tall by 2-3 ft. wide. Sunset climate zones A3; 2b–17

Stoplight heucherella (Heucherella x saxifragaceae ’Stoplight’): The radiant yellow/chartreuse leaves splashed with vibrant red blotches will force you take notice of this plant. Heucherella are a hybrid of Heuchera and Tiarella, two hardy plants for the shade to part sun part of the garden, but both take heat very well. Lovely spires of white flowers arrive in summer, but until then you have all of spring to be wowed by the color of the foliage. Growing 16” high by 12” wide in Sunset climate zones 1–10, 14–24

Donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites ‘Donkey Tail’): This wonderful cascading ground cover is a drought tolerant show off. When used at the edge of a container, it will drape down and STILL be the center of attention because of its sculptural drama. Soft, steel blue foliage gives way to citron green/yellow blooms in early spring that turn a blush of coral pink in summer if left on the plant. *Caution- skin and eye irritant, wear gloves when handling. Growing 8” tall and 2 ft. wide in Sunset climate zones 2–24, 26, 28–43