Garden Photo of the Day

Summer in Eric’s Garden

Getting creative with foliage

garden path with lots of foliage plants on either side

Today we’re visiting with Eric Sternfels. We’ve visited his garden before (Big Garden Small Space, Part 1), and it is always a beautiful pleasure.

I thought I might submit more photos from my garden as spring turns to summer. In my garden, I have experimented by grouping plants with similar foliage color. Ignoring the conventional advice of juxtaposing foliage for maximum contrast, I believe there are special benefits to grouping bronze or chartreuse or silvery foliage together. The effect is more soothing than planting strategies that have each plant popping from its neighbors.

garden bed with lots of chartreuse foliageThis photo shows Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ (Zones 5–9), Hosta ‘Stained Glass’ (Zones 3–9), and a Tiarella hybrid (Zones 3–8) that flow together to create a pocket of light in my dappled-light garden. Also grouped together are bronze/green leaves of Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ (Zones 4–9), annual begonia (Begonia hybrid, Zones 10–11 or as an annual), and Cotinus coggrygia ‘Royal Purple’ (smokebush, Zones 4–8).

garden path with lots of foliage plants on either sideAnother view of the same planting.

silver foliage plants with a container as the focal pointThe silvery tone of lamium (Lamium maculatum, Zones 3–8) flows into the Japanese painted fern ‘Burgundy Lace’ (Athyrium niponicum ‘Burgundy Lace’, Zones 3–8). Meanwhile, recent cuttings of ‘Main St. Beale St.’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides, Zones 11 or as an annual) repeats the burgundy tone of the glazed pot.

New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri, Zones 10–11 or as an annual) are placed where leaves have ruddy undertones, like the hardy Begonia grandis (Zones 6–9) and Leucothoe shrub (Zones 6–9) and ghost fern (Athyrium ‘Ghost’, Zones 3–8) at the left. Underutilized Carex muskingomensis (palm sedge, Zones 4–9) is a great textural contrast to the common Hosta.

ferns and hostas around a quirky piece of garden artThe buds of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Zones 3–8) mimic the whimsical “steam” in the kettle sculpture.

hoastas with astilbe in fornt of rusty garden artAn unknown cultivar of Astilbe thunbergii (Zone 3–9) with Hosta sieboldiana (Zones 4–9) are the foreground for a rusty iron mattress spring. Soon to use the spring as a climbing trellis is a seedling of cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit, annual) which is just starting to climb above the hosta leaves.


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View Comments


  1. Rebeccazone7 07/06/2021

    I really like the thought behind your placement of color. I'm such a more is better kind of person, which probably won't change, but this really gave me pause. I have to also say I had to look at the sculpture for awhile to realize their wasn't really water coming out of the kettle.

    1. nwphilagardener 07/06/2021

      The small copper kettle is suspended by a twist of patina'ed brass wire.
      Rebecca, you don't have to change but you might experiment with gathering coordinated colors to different areas. I think we are all too hesitant to move healthy plants. But in early spring it can be lots of fun to try new juxtapositions.

  2. sagebird52 07/06/2021

    Great use of color and texture. Brilliant sculpture of teapots - imaginative and fits well.

  3. shegardens 07/06/2021

    So beautiful!

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/06/2021

    Eric, amazing garden. I bet you don't have a single weed with all the plants packed so tight. Love it all!

    1. nwphilagardener 07/06/2021

      Of course there are weeds, LOL! And with such fullness you have to trim and prune to balance all the sharp elbows competing for limited space.

  5. rosys_villa 07/06/2021

    I want to live in your garden!!!

    1. nwphilagardener 07/06/2021

      You'll have to compete with more squirrels than you can imagine, not to mention the occasional groundhog, opossum, raccoon.

  6. Joycelaubach 07/06/2021

    Kudos, Eric. Your approach to color grouping is indeed visually delightful, as is your whimsical garden art.

  7. wittyone 07/06/2021

    Your color scheme is very interesting and looks to work well. How nice to see someone stepping out of the net of "this is how you do it" land. I love the bedsprings as a frame for a climber. What a good idea!

  8. User avater
    simplesue 07/06/2021

    I especially love that little winding brick path planted with so many interesting colors and textures of plants...I'd be walking on that every morning to start my day!
    The "found objects" sculpture with the garden bits and intricate springs is eye catching against the wall with the plants around it.
    Also like reading your "reply" that it is wildlife friendly, supporting squirrels, groundhogs, opossums, raccoons.
    So nice to see the garden of "NWPhilaGardener"'s beautiful!

    1. nwphilagardener 07/06/2021

      The mischievous squirrels make it hard to maintain my "friendliness" . And birdsong is amazing in my semi-urban yard.

      1. User avater
        simplesue 07/08/2021

        The squirrels in my garden have me trained to give them some nuts or they won't leave me alone LOL...and yes...the sound of birds in the garden is very enjoyable I agree.

  9. btucker9675 07/06/2021

    Love this garden and the wonderful, whimsical garden art! No more bedsprings should ever end up in a landfill - they should all be in gardens! The way you have used the similar colors in such graceful waves is just right and the textures make a lovely quilt of plants. Thanks for sharing your creativity and skill!

    1. nwphilagardener 07/06/2021

      Not everyone has the space to make large drifts of a single plant, but that adds useful calm to a garden. But for those who want to make drifts of foliage color, you can get some of that effect while still indulging in many plants in a small space

  10. Jay_Sifford 07/06/2021

    Very thoughtful design... I love it.

  11. user-5117752 07/06/2021

    Picture perfect in every way! Your photos capture each scene perfectly. The combinations of colors and shapes are, well, picture perfect! Wish you lived next door so that I could visit everyday!

  12. perennialgrdnr_z4b 07/06/2021

    Thanks for sharing your lovely garden, Eric. I also love to garden with foliage and can really appreciate your use of textures and colors as I use many of the same plants. It was interesting to learn about your planting strategy and color choices which you have used to great effect in your garden. Very relaxing and beautiful garden.

  13. Cenepk10 07/06/2021

    Love it !!! Next year, you’ll have 50,000 cypress vines and the year after, you’ll have 2 million. And so on. But that is a FABULOUS way to grow them. They are beautiful vines !!! Beautiful garden !!!

    1. nwphilagardener 07/06/2021

      I grew hot pink cypress vines from seeds since I only ever see red ones for sale in a pot. It's a shady location so I may not have too many flowers or seedlings to chase after.

  14. sheila_schultz 07/06/2021

    Eric, your waves of color and texture are very soothing and the design flow is quite comforting. I'm also a fan of the bedspring as functional wall art. We use a lot of rusted metal in the SW and this piece is quite fun!

    1. nwphilagardener 07/06/2021

      The stucco wall behind the bedspring is my neighbors recent addition - a big blank wall. It took me several years to figure out how to make "lemonade" with a wall I do not want to damage or fasten anything to

  15. User avater
    bdowen 07/12/2021

    How did I miss this post? Thinking about your comments about transitions between foliage colors and carefully studying your photos that give such good examples of that design plan. Thinking you must be an artist... and then I got to the teapot and bedsprings photos. Wonderful!

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