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?
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.

Thanks for Listening!

Still Growing,

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I never write reviews but this is the best gardening podcast out there. Jennifer has interesting topics and guests and is not one bit annoying like some others are. I love that she involves her kids at the end of the podcast - usually with poetry or music. Really good podcast.

- Barbcfc, Mar 23, 2016

Still Growing is one of the reliably informative gardening podcasts from North America. The format consists of an intro (personal gardening status chat, seasonal remarks), an extended interview with a guest, and an outro with funny outtakes, side remarks, and some chatter (poems, readings) from the host's children. The podcast is focused on reliable knowledge - the guests are typically experts like academics, master gardeners, gardening entrepreneurs or public garden leaders. The intro and especially the outro give it a homey feel. Given I live in the high northern region, just a little below the Polar Circle, I'm always looking for more cold-weather oriented gardening information. Jennifer Ebeling is in Minnesota, so that's helpful to me! Vegetable gardening (my main interest) gets a good share, but is not predominant. Most topics transcend your specific gardening interest and are applicable to many styles: landscaping principles, vermicomposting, greenhouses. The episodes are typically an hour long, which is just fine for me.

- cwaigl, May 29, 2014

Best gardening podcast out there. Her preparedness leads to a good interaction with the guests and brings out the best in them. Very informative and yet personable.

- Corn bug, June 15, 2016

This is a great podcast. Really well produced and organized with good sound quality. I love the mix of information and personal touches. Jennifer has great guests and asks the best questions. You can tell she really does her homework. I listen to several gardening podcasts and this is my absolute favorite!

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Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
Jennifer Ebeling
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