Thursday, June 15, 2017

Gardening with Foliage First: Book Review and Giveaway

I'd love to go plant shopping with Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz! In the introduction to their latest book, Gardening with Foliage First, here's how they describe their plant hunting expeditions:

"What do you get when you let two designers loose in a nursery? A car filled to overflowing with a wild assortment of trees, shrubs, perennials and more. It is a given that you will not be able to see out the rear window, and you should expect to have plants on the seats, on the floor and in the cup holders. It is only when the plants are precariously balanced on the dashboard that we think we have enough."

It might be tricky finding additional room in the car for yet another shopper, but somehow I think I would fit right in with these two plant enthusiasts! In real life, Karen and Christina are friends who encourage and challenge one another, which brings out the best in both ot them. Readers certainly stand to benefit from their passion for plants in general, and their love of foliage in particular.

Karen and Christina advise you to head to your local nursery or garden centre with a plan in mind. Without a wish list, you're much more likely to end up with a shopping cart full of pretty blooms. Once those flowers fade, you'll find that you have spent all your money on a bit of short-term glory.

I'd also add that most gardeners shop in the early spring. If you head home with a car load of spring bloomers, your garden is going to be pretty lack-lustre later in the summer and fall.

Focusing on foliage rather than flowers is a more novel approach to creating plant combinations. When you stop to really consider them, you'll find that leaves often have very attractive colors, textures, veining and variegation. In their latest collaboration, Karen and Christina show us how to use these unique features and create combinations that accentuate them.

From Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. © 2017 Published by Timber Press. Excerpted with permission of the publisher.

Gardening with Foliage First has two main sections: Spring & Summer and Fall &Winter. Within those main sections there are subsections for both sun and shade. As well as year round interest, the plant mixes cover a wide range of projects– everything from small patio containers to large borders.

The plant combinations are really well organized. A quick glance at the top of the page will tell you light and soil requirements, zone and seasons of interest. Each suggested combination includes a large glamour shot that shows the mix of plants to best advantage. Below the picture is a detailed explanation of how the elements work together. This takes some of the mystery out of the design process and gives the reader the confidence they will need to start to build plant parings of their own. "How the Design Grows" explains how each plant in a design changes through the seasons. Along with the overall shot of the full combination, there is an additional image of each individual plant and general information on what that plant needs to grow well.

From Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. © 2017 Published by Timber Press. Excerpted with permission of the publisher.

Shown above is a container planting that the authors have named "Dinosaur Soup" after the Dinosaur Kale, Brassica oleracea 'Lacinato' which is standout feature at the back of the arrangement. 

Most of the plants used in this container are not only evergreen, they change color through the seasons. Among the plants are: Heuchera 'Blondie', with pale ginger flowers and foliage that has shades of gold and brown; an Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, which has lovely coppery accents in the late summer and fall; and a Rheingold arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis that has golden foliage that turns orange in winter.

From Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. © 2017 Published by Timber Press. Excerpted with permission of the publisher.

Above is the low-maintenance combination called "A Queen and her Court". At the heart of this grouping is Heuchera 'Electra' with its golden foliage veined with red. The mix also includes a Golden Sedge, Carex oshimensis, a Primrose, Primula x polyantha 'Sweetheart' and a dark Heuchera 'Obsidian'.

Both authors hope their book will be appeal to gardeners with varying levels of experience. Certainly novice gardeners will find the book inspiring, but I think those who stand to benefit the most are intermediate to experienced gardeners. This book will help them add a greater degree of sophistication and finesse to their plantings.

It makes perfect sense to think longterm and put foliage first, but it's a mindset that requires practice. Gardening has such a long history of focusing on flowers! Gardeners almost need to reeducated themselves and that's where Gardening with Foliage First comes in.

With their new book Karen and Christina hope to give you the confidence to try new ideas, and in doing so, discover a fresh approach to creating plant combinations.

Thomas Allen & Sons has kindly given me a copy of Gardening with Foliage First to give away. Because this book will go to a winner through the mail, I will have to limit entry to readers in Canada and the USA. 

Please leave a comment below, if you would like to be included in the book draw. The draw will remain open for the until Sunday, June 25thIf you are not a blogger, you can enter by leaving a comment on the Three Dogs in a Garden Facebook page (there is an additional link to the Facebook page at the bottom of the blog). You are also welcome to enter by sending me an email (

About the Authors:

Karen Chapman has her own container and landscape design company, Le Jardinet.  She writes gardening articles for online and print publications and is a popular public speaker. Visit Karen's website: Le Jardinet.

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


  1. I would love this book! I love this concept and have been working to execute a woodland garden that is deer resistant. Could use this for inspiration!

  2. Count me in! I follow their blog. It is wonderful for inspiration and I have started to think about foliage first this spring for the first time because of them.

  3. what??!!? was not aware of this book and just came in from another landscape client talking with her about foliage, actually my same chat with all of them. and as a reader i know this resonates with you too
    fingers crossed!

  4. Looks like a wonderful book! Thanks for the review and the giveaway, I would enjoy it so much!

  5. Certainly an interesting book, good luck to all who

  6. That's ONE of my biggest problems is pairing plantings. I just don't know how to go about it. Sometimes I do a good job by accident but I can't repeat the success. This would be fantastic to win! Thank you.

  7. Would love to win this book! Thanks for the chance! I have really been focusing on foliage and texture as I renovate some of my older beds. This looks like it would have some great ideas in it!

  8. This looks like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.

  9. I would love a copy of this book! I have a copy of their previous book,Fine Foliage, and love their suggestions. I have a large shade garden and foliage is really important. I can't find enough information about this topic.

  10. I'm trying hard to think foliage as we choose plants. I love the color of flowers, of course, but when they aren't out in force (the in between times are sparse), interesting foliage is what keeps the garden looking good.

  11. Looks like a great read! Would love to win a copy. :)

  12. This sounds like a wonderful book, Jennifer, and it is really something I never though about.
    Definitely a refreshing change of pace.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Wishing you a fantastic week!

  13. Looks like a great read with good ideas...would love to win it! Really enjoy your blog gives me lots of good ideas.

  14. I've been a lurker for a couple of months and really enjoy your blog. I found it when I was looking for garden blogs, the title intrigued me because I also had three dogs in my garden. In any event I would love a chance to own a copy of this book. Good luck to everyone!


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