FANTASY FOLIAGE: Season after season, anything I planted under a grove of three coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in our backyard failed. Too much root competition and insufficient irrigation were the cause. Then this past summer I discovered this mostly shaded patch offered the perfect growing conditions for my small collection of potted begonias. So I placed those as the anchor plants among in-ground native fern, thimbleberry and wild ginger. As the begonia grew, the foliage concealed the pots, creating the effect that the plants were growing out of the ground instead of in containers. Around the same time that I was gathering all my begonia in this particular spot, I became obsessed with showy-foliage plants and was bringing home a new coleus (or several) every other day. It was super fun to play with a diversity of colors, heights and growth habits, ultimately creating a technicolor tapestry/dream coat effect. This effect intensified beautifully as the plants grew, providing a gorgeous view adjacent to a small seating area framed by a collection of Japanese maple in large containers. “The more the merrier” certainly applied, too, because the more I added, the more wonderfully fantasy-like my new understory became. I should mention that grouping the plants this way also makes it a cinch to water them. A friend noted how fantastic my vignette looked and marveled at how the vibrant colors popped against the background of enormous redwood trunks and drew the eye upward. A side effect to this design, which I lovingly call my Willa Wonka garden, is that I now have commitment issues. In other words, I’ve grown considerably more interested in growing plants in containers than committing to installing them in the ground. Container planting offers me the versatility to move the plants around whenever and wherever I want. Talk about instant gratification!
(Photo by Paul Lee Cannon)