Mosaic Gardens Journal

news, photos and inspiration

Nature Nurture: Preserving our Plenty May 25, 2010

Filed under: events,friends — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 4:43 pm
Tags: ,

Pea Pods... gorgeous.

Our friend Robin Cushman graciously allowed us to share this announcement for her upcoming show and invitation to the opening!  This new “stained glass” photo at left is gorgeous, and we can’t wait to see more….

We’ll let Robin take it from here:

Dear gardening friends,
Below is an invitation to my solo show at the David Joyce Gallery at LCC. I hope you can drop by for the festivities. The show is up now and will be through the summer. Susan Detroy curated the show and the LCC culinary arts department will provide hors d’oeuvres.

The opening coincides with the “100-mile Meal” put on by culinary arts students. All the foods come from within 100 miles, some from their own LCC Learning Garden [Mosaic note: a member of the culinary school faculty shared that the students did such a great job sourcing ingredients for the meal, that all ingredients actually come from within *30* miles – wow!]. They felt my work would complement the theme, as all the images are from the bountiful Willamette Valley.

In addition to my garden/farm/market photos, I am exploring two new areas of foods – produce revealing more through being back-lit (think stained glass) and a series of “frisky fruits and voluptuous vegetables.”

Hope you can attend the opening & show. Please invite your friends – Robin




who wants mail? May 23, 2010

Filed under: events,News — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 1:41 am

If would like to be on our postal mailing list, please send your mailing address to mosaic (at)

We only send 2-4 postcards per year, and we think they’re pretty good lookin’.  They are all designed by Rebecca and are on 100% recycled paper.  Of course, we will never share your personal information with anyone.  A preview of the next card is right here ———>

If you’d like a heads-up about newsletters and Mosaic news, like new publications and events, join our e-mailing list here.  We write once or twice a month, at most (we’re not a fan of spam, either), and, again, we will never share your personal information.

Nothing is permanent – If you would ever like to unsubscribe from any of our mailing lists, we will be happy to immediately and permanently remove your name and information.  Just contact us any way you like, and we’ll only contact you once more to let you know that we’ve fulfilled your request.


ColorTextureForm – Mosaic Newsletter #8 May 19, 2010

Filed under: garden design,Newsletter,our garden,photos — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 8:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,


We hope our last newsletter was helpful in your spring garden work.  If you haven’t checked in since then, we expanded on our spring cleaning theme with a little about gardening tools, ideas for growing food in busy lives and tough spaces, and tips for making a beautiful garden scene. Beyond those ideas, we’ve posted some neat photos, a winter post-mortem and more, so be sure to scroll through the journal when you’re done.

In this newsletter, we’ll discuss how we use color, texture and form to select and place plants in our gardens.  The terms color, texture and form are used together so often in articles, books and lectures about planting design that they are almost cliche, but what do they mean for your planting design?  Even a quick survey of online articles shows a huge variety of ideas for designing with those terms in mind.  While one designer may prioritize flower color and structure, another focuses primarily on the texture and shape of leaves.

Plant color, texture and form at play in our front garden

In our work, color, texture and form carry equal weight, and we have strong ideas about the best way to see and use each one.  We select our plants to create a cohesive palette, sometimes subtle, sometimes high-contrast, that reflects the desired style and mood of the space.  Because the possibilities are endless, and the results should reflect you and your aesthetic, we will focus on how we think about color, texture and form, leaving the nitty-gritty fun of building a palette to you.

The gentle colors of our side garden carry from foliage to flower


Foliage first – While flowers are fun and part of almost every garden, foliage color is the foundation of our plant color palette.  We use foliage to create sweeps of color throughout the year, or at least the growing season.  The colors vary from bold, contrasting spots of yellow and purple to accents of silver and burgundy to shades of green.

Know when to hold ’em – Even in a bold palette of strong, bright colors (restraint does not mean boring), restraint is key.  We intentionally leave out some colors or save them for another area.  If you love every color, or are the sort of person who can’t leave a good plant at the nursery, try using different palettes in different areas of the garden.  As you can see in the first photo, our front garden has lots of bright, hot color, while the side garden, at right, tends toward gentler pinks, blues, creams and whites.

Contrasting textures make each plant stand out


Contrast – We may put two plants of similar color together, but we rarely match texture.  There are so many interesting textures to play with – spiky, fuzzy, big and bold, tidy, grassy (thick and thin blades)- and the possible combinations are endless.  Contrast of texture engages the eye and lets the qualities of each plant shine through, rather than fading into a clump of similar-but-different foliage.

Take a step back – To our minds, texture is best considered from a distance.  While differences in leaf shape are fascinating,, we are more concerned with how the plant looks from the window, pathway or street.


Nearly spherical Picea s. 'Papoose' in a planting bed

What are we talking about here? – What we mean by “form” is the overall shape of a plant – upright, round, conical, weeping, arching, and so on.  Sometimes form and texture overlap, as in spiky plants, like iris and Phormium, but for the most part, form has more to do with outline than texture.

Round, rounded, roundish – Every plant has a form, and some are stronger than others.  Not all strong forms are geometric, but those are the easiest to discuss.  For example, lots of plants have what we call a “roundish” form, where the outline more or less radiates around the center.  Other plants have a more perfectly rounded outline.  Picea sitchensis ‘Papoose,’ for instance, is almost spherical.  A stronger form makes a stronger statement in the garden, and can be used as a structural, almost sculptural element in planting.  We will shear some plants, like boxwoods and fine foliaged conifers, to tighten and perfect their form.

A Phormium dance

The dance – In many of our gardens, we select a plant with a strong form and “dance” three to seven of them through a layer of lower plantings.  The repeating, usually evergreen, forms have room to shine, while the lower plantings add seasonal contrast and interest.

Another perspective

Not all designers think alike (thank goodness), and if you are seeking a different, nuanced, and perennial-savvy take on color form and texture, we highly recommend designing with plants by Piet Oudolf with Noel Kingsbury.  Oudolf’s sensitivity to tiny differences in, say, flower shape helps him create ever-changing, intricate, romantic plantings.  What an inspiration….

That’s all for now, folks!  We’ll be back over the coming weeks with more ideas and, everyone’s favorite, new photos, so please check back soon.


busy week! May 14, 2010

Filed under: photos — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 3:24 am
Tags: , , ,

We don’t have much time to post this week, but we thought we’d post a couple of photos of the coast project.  These were taken last spring.  It’s almost photo season, so there should be lots of new images coming….

We’ll be back soon with a newsletter and more!


Plant Sales Tomorrow! May 8, 2010

Filed under: events — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 1:44 am

Don’t forget about the Hardy Plant Group and Avid Gardeners plant sales tomorrow!


More Spring Cleaning – Make a Scene May 6, 2010

Filed under: garden design — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 11:02 pm
Tags: , ,

The urn in this photo grounds the view from the window, the surrounding paths and front porch.

In this final follow-up to our Spring Cleaning newsletter, we  offer ideas for creating compelling scenes or views in your garden, with the goal of making the space more attractive and engaging.  In keeping with the theme of developing gardens, we’ll focus on ideas that work with smaller additions and changes here, but a taste of the larger possibilities of this concept can be found in our newsletter about features, among other places.

The most important part of creating a view or scene is to consider the viewpoint.  Whether we’re working on a new or existing garden, on a large or small area, we return over and over again to the pathways, windows, doors and other areas from which the space will be seen.  We can all get lost in our own perspective while working in the garden, looking at a planting or other element from right where we’re standing – even if we’re in the middle of a planting bed!  Take a walk around the area you’re working in, pausing at the important viewpoints, considering how changes will appear from each location, and prioritizing the most used points and pathways.  Be sure to repeat this routine often through design and layout,  as the view will change with each new element (or sometimes just a change in light).

Repeated forms, like these Juniper 'Gold Cone,' are a nice central focus

Creating or enhancing a central focus is the first tangible step in creating a view.  Whether you’re adding a hard element,  planting, or hardscape, consider that any of them will be balanced by your plantings.  Substantial, simple elements will ground your view, where smaller or fussier elements might be lost.  A few ideas for eye-catching elements for your scene are:

  • Specimen tree with beautiful form (go see the Baltzers!).  You may be able to use or improve on an existing specimen in your garden
  • A series of three or five striking conifers or other evergreen (sheared boxwood?)
  • Bench
  • Ceramic urn, planted or unplanted
  • Basalt bowl
  • Stone stairs or path

A simple addition to an existing bed.

Even small changes deserve a solid foundation.  Building a base of compacted gravel and leveling your hard elements will make a big difference in their effect and usefulness.  Don’t hesitate to move or remove plants or other elements that will detract from the long-term goal.

Whenever possible, we like to bring the finishing plants for a space after the primary elements are in place.  Often the best ideas for finishing the scene we’re creating comes  late in the process.  Although the urn in the photo at right was a beautiful element on its own, we didn’t think of the forehead-slappingly obvious addition of a big, blue hosta until after it was in place.  You can contrast or echo the color and form of your central elements, but be sure not to bury them in oversized plants.

We hope our ideas for spring cleaning have brought a little fun and inspiration to your garden this year.  We’re working out of town this week, but we’ll be back soon with the next newsletter and more ideas for your space.


Winter freeze postmortem May 2, 2010

Filed under: our garden — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 9:26 pm
Tags: ,

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' died in our warm garden, but is thriving in others!

Oregon had quite a freeze this winter!  Temperatures in most areas fell into the single digits, and the cold took its toll on our gardens.  Although we certainly lost some plants, others were tougher than expected, and a few are starting to sprout from the roots only now.  We suspect a few more may peek out before all is said and done.  Below are just a few notes from our observations.

One of the great mysteries of gardening is how a plant can survive one place, but not another.  Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ is emerging vigorously in an in-town garden and a garden off of Dillard Rd, but it is completely gone in our garden.  It was in a perfect, well-drained spot.  We’re thoroughly baffled, and planning to replant, but we’ll miss the big show this summer.

All Phormium were lost.  Last winter, many suffered or died due to cold, but I don’t know of any that survived this year.

We love bronze Carex, although most have a shortish attractive life span, even in mild climates.  This winter, we lost almost all bronze Carex in our garden and our clients gardens.  One notable exception was a well established mass of C. flagillifera that survived, looking great, in a cold garden in the south hills.

Many Miscanthus (maiden grasses) took a hit, especially those in newer plantings.  We’re trying to find further rhyme or reason for which lived and which died, but so far have not had much success.  In some cases, the failures were in a grouping of otherwise fine plants!

Most Gunnera froze back to the roots, but seem to be sprouting… slowly.  Given the mature size of Gunnera, we’re not sure that starting over is a bad thing.

Kniphofia were another mixed bag.  K. northiae froze to the roots, but seems to be creeping back in most cases.  Other varieties are hit and miss, with a higher percentage of misses among less established plants.

We had little hope for the Agapanthus in our gardens, but a few did pretty well.  Agapanthus ‘Storm Cloud’ survived reasonably well, but ‘Ellamae’ was a complete loss.

Here’s an interesting one – Salvia g. ‘Black and Blue’ does not survive most winters…. *but* the few that have managed to become established are quite alive and well this spring.

Phlomis russeliana

Phlomis russeliana seems a-o.k. everywhere.  P. italica and P. fruticosa were knocked back pretty hard, but survived.  We expect that the pretty, but tender P. lanata is lost again.

Many Ceanothus were just on the line… the ones in warmer areas made it reasonably well, while the more tender varieties suffered in the cooler hills.

Our shade plants seemed to be in great shape, overall, even those that are supposedly in the same USDA zone as sun plants that perished.

Two of our favorite evergreen shrubs, Viburnum awabuki and Trochodendron arailoides hardly missed a beat.

I don’t think we lost a single clump of bamboo (mainly from the genera Phyllostachys and Fargesia).

Herbs: At least some upright rosemary seemed to weather the cold fairly well where almost all prostrate rosemary are goners.  Too bad, as we prefer the prostrate for cooking!  We lost our thyme, but the sage, oregano and even bay (!) survived.

Vegetables: The kale and carrots have provided us some wonderful overwintered veggies, and our garlic is going strong, but the broccoli is long gone and our cover crop of small-seeded favas are nowhere to be seen.

Of course, there are a host of plants that seemed to almost thrive this winter, but those are the notes that leap to mind.  The only overall lesson that is obvious at the moment is the improved hardiness of established plants.  Now, if we could only figure out how to know if it will be a hard winter….  ; )

If we think of more losses and surprising survivors worth a mention, we’ll add them to this post.  Of course, if you have any additions or comments, we’d love to read them!