How to Create a Foliage Framework for your Garden with Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz


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Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz are on the show today and they are the authors of Gardening with Foliage First: 127 Dazzling Combinations that Pair the Beauty of Leaves with Flowers, Bark, Berries, and More. As landscape designers, Karen and Christina see gardens through a different lens. They like to begin their work on a garden space by building what they call the foliage framework. This requires shifting your focus away from blooms - which are fleeting - and from artistic elements - which are often designed to steal your full attention. Instead, the foliage is elevated as a top priority - kind of like building a quality foundation for a house. When we ignore the role of foliage, our gardens can feel like a rollercoaster with a few weeks of fantastic blooms followed by an endless sea of uninspired green. But we can step of that crazy ride and have a more consistently wonderful experience by thoughtfully creating the right foliage palette - one that offers year-round color, texture, and interest. If you are looking for expert advise for designing a better garden this year, or if you’re a designer who loves to talk shop, or if you just geek out on plant selection, you are in for a real treat today. Over the years, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz have designed hundreds of gardens. The two met at an event where Christina was presenting on interesting foliage combinations. Karen was sitting in the audience and felt an immediate connection because Christina’s work was so aligned with her own; they both appreciated unique and interesting - even uncommon plant combinations. They quickly realized they had been traveling parallel paths as designers and writers - they were true horticultural kindred spirits. So, their collaboration on Foliage First was a natural output of their connection. I mentioned at the top of the show that Karen and Christina are passionate about something they call the foliage framework. This is their starting point for designing a garden and they know that it requires a little bit of discipline, a little bit of focus, and lots of practice. Instead of focusing on the shiny objects - blooms or artistic elements - Karen and Christina know the best foundation for a garden begins with foliage. Well-planned gardens feature foliage that offers year-round color, texture, and interest. Add in blooms and art and you have a lovely garden. Karen and Christina’s book is expertly organized with color-coded pages by season: Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter; and also by exposure: Shade or Sun. What’s it like when you get two designers on the phone and you start talking plants? Nirvana. We are geeking out today - BIG TIME - Let’s learn How to Design a Garden with Foliage First with Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. I hope today’s show gave you a new approach to try when you’re selecting plants at the garden center, when you're creating your gardens, and when you’re evaluating what’s working and what is not in your 2018 garden. Karen and Christina are pro’s - they’ve given us their very best advice to help us reset the way we think about what makes our gardens beautiful and the value of setting that framework with foliage first. And, don’t forget you can find Karen and Christina’s book on Amazon: Gardening with Foliage First: 127 Dazzling Combinations that Pair the Beauty of Leaves with Flowers, Bark, Berries, and More - it’s selling for $16.96 - and it’s worth every penny! For my sign-off today, I leave you with this thought to help you grow... Sometimes the best place to start is the most obvious.
  • Where are the places in your garden where foliage is not working?
  • Instead of Foliage First, where is foliage clashing?
  • Where is it uninteresting?
  • Where is it just plain bad or sad?
Start there. Make a few changes. Move some plants around, or out, or escort them to the compost pile. Putting Foliage First is a skill - and you can get better at it with practice. So let’s get started. Have a great week everyone.

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