Want Brilliant Color In Your Winter Garden? Here's Our Picks

Don't let cold snaps and dropping temperatures reduce your garden to drab grey and boring brown! Here's our top 5 favorite cold hardy plants ideal for Orlando that will bring vibrant color to your winter garden.


1. Loropetalum Plum

A basic and hardy shrub with a unique plum leaf color, very low maintenance. Plant in part to full sun.


2. Knockout Roses

Blooms 9 months out of the year and resists cold much better than other varieties of roses. Very easy to grow and maintain. Plant in part to full sun.


3. Camellia

Flowers beautifully in wintertime, color varieties include white, pink and red. Has a long blooming season. Plant in part shade.


4. Cassia

Cold resistant and has vibrant flowers, grows well in garden beds. Hosts several species of butterflies including the Cloudless Sulpher and Sleepy Orange. Plant in part to full sun.


5. Coral Honeysuckle

A lovely plant that blooms in fall with showy yellow flowers that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden. Plant in part to full sun.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Professional Landscape Architect

There are several things to consider and prepare if you want to get the most from your experience in working with a Professional Landscape Architect.

Think about what you want so you can communicate clearly what you’re looking for. Are you creating a space for entertaining? A play area? A kitchen garden? Increasing curb appeal? Check out magazines, web sites, catalogues, or anything else that features items or ideas for outside your home. Also consider how much time you want to devote to maintenance. Perhaps landscapes are a hobby, or you want a design with little or no maintenance at all. 

Once you have some ideas, it’s important to make a realistic budget. Overall, landscapes can add as much as 15 percent to the value of your home compared to other houses on your street. If you’re unsure what to budget, one rule of thumb is to start with 5 to 10 percent of your home’s worth. While it may seem high, consider this: Research from Virginia Tech shows that landscapes literally grow in value over time, while traditional home additions or remodels start to lose value the minute the dust settles.

Fig & Vine is a professional Landscape Architecture firm licensed in the state of Florida and based in Central Florida and South Florida.  Our staff is qualified through Education, a Licensed Landscape Architects hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture, and licensure requires passing a rigorous exam.  Also, all of our design experts have many years of experience both locally and abroad.

Also remember its important to have a designer which will listen to you, the details and subtleties of your vision.  Our landscape architects are great listeners.  We will be happy to discuss your potential for the garden as well as your goals and budget.  Don’t hesitate to ask us for references – especially references for project types that are similar to yours. Our professional team will not hesitate to share references, fees, or answer any other questions related to services.

While there are many landscape architects, finding the professional for you ultimately comes down to the right balance of design ability, professional service, cost and personal comfort level.  We strive to provide those qualities to every one of our valued clients!

Texture in the Garden

In many gardens, the emphasis is mainly on the color of plants and their blossoms- especially during the Springtime, when most plants are in full bloom. While color is very important in any garden design, texture is equally important to the beauty and design of a garden. This is sometimes overlooked, but there are a lot of opportunities for creativity in using the wide range of texture that is available in plants.

Texture regarding plants is referring more to visual experience than physical touch. A plant with a 'fine' texture usually has small leaves and blossoms, and appears light and 'airy'. A 'coarse' or 'bold' plant has larger leaves and blossoms, and a more defined form. The texture of a 'fine' or 'bold' plant is also created by light, shadow, and bark, and there are many plants in between, with as much variation and diversity as any color palate. 

Using artful texture in a garden space provides extra depth and interest. Fine textures draw attention to the shape and contrast of the plants around them. They also create an illusion of more space. Bold plants emphasize their own shape and pattern, and have a more dense, tropical feel. Recognizing the advantages of each plants' unique texture in the garden creates the desired effect in a design. Fine and bold plants can really compliment each other when used skillfully.

Some examples of bold textured plants are Awabuki Viburnum, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Philodendron, Cast Iron Plant, and Fatsia. Some lovely fine textured plants are Boxwood, Dwarf Holly, Walter's Viburnum, and Indian Hawthorn.

Awabuki Viburnum

Awabuki Viburnum

Oakland Hydrangea

Oakland Hydrangea



Cast Iron Plant

Cast Iron Plant



Walter's Viburnum

Walter's Viburnum

This is a picture of a Fig&Vine garden which displays an excellent use of unique textures. You can see the use of Fatsia in the back contrasting with the small, fine Liriope in front.


Here's another Fig&Vine creation. Both color and texture are working together for a beautiful and pleasing arrangement.


Texture is a very important part of any garden design. Make sure it's given the consideration and care it deserves!


The benefits of delaying Spring!

The Groundhog has gone back in his hole, and it looks like an extended winter!  And based on the news we see about all the snow up north, we should all be scared to go outside and do any planting!

The good news is that we live in beautiful, sunny Florida and our worst winter days are about as delightful as it can possibly get!  Here a few reasons we should be celebrating this amazing weather!

1. The cool evenings create amazing opportunity to socialize with our family and friends around a lovely fire pit!  There are very few things as wonderful to do in the garden as to enjoy conversations with friends over a glass of wine or hot cider on a cool night, staring into a fire.  Its a time to relax and connect and laugh.

2. The days are fantastic to do gardening and maintenance work.  My children and I love being outside on cool days, raking leaves, shaping beds, even pulling weeds together! These times together create memories and photo opportunities which last forever.  Not to mention the actual work that gets done!  Its surprising to me how much little hands can do when directed appropriately!

3. The cool weather is great for the camellias, roses and hostas!  Believe it or not, the flowers on these shrubs bloom even better and stronger with a cold snap.  Why?  The cold weather knocks back the pests, the mildew and the fungus!

4. Maintenance work actually slows down.  As we all know, most of the plants in Florida grow more slowly, including the grass, which reduces the need to water and mow!  I mow my own lawn, or rather my kids mow, but I appreciate the break from maintenance just the same!

5. Finally, the cool weather clothing.  How fun is it that we can don our sweaters, jackets and boots, maybe even a hat or mittens on occasion.  It is a rare opportunity so lets take advantage of it when we can!  I know my wife especially appreciates the fashion!

So there you have it, 5 great reasons to enjoy the delay of full on Spring.  Now, its time for me to start preparing for the next 'cold' front coming this week.  So I plan on preparing the fire pit and inviting some friends over to hang out by the fire!  I hope you do the same.

If we can help you with your garden design, please don't hesitate to give us a call and setup an appointment today with a master garden architect at 407-433-5476.

Color in the garden

I'm a reluctant convert, but a convert none the less.  For many years I've shunned the typical 'color garden' that is so ubiquitous in the garden magazines and ads everywhere.  And with good reason, more color usually means more maintenance, more risk and often more disappointment if we have hard freeze here in Central Florida.  But slowly, I've come to the realization, after having designed and installed many gardens without an emphasis on color, and not having had entire gardens die after a cold spell, that it is worth the trouble.

Part of my change in perspective has come from the reality that despite the variety of textures and forms, a garden lacking color is a kin to always playing it safe in life.  At the end of our time on Earth, are we going to be sighing with relief, "I am so glad we didn't over do the color in our garden!", of course not!!  In fact, I'm convinced that life is SO short, we should really go for it while we can.  There are lots of great choices for those of us with a little higher tolerance for taking garden risks!

The reality however is that it can be touch to find good hardy perennials that will bloom consistently and are tough enough to hang in there season after season with minimal maintenance.  As with all garden plants, there is no magic bullet or reliable standby that suits all conditions.  However, I have a few great shrubs, groundcovers and perennials which I consistently go back to for a splash of color.

Shrubs are probably the easier choice to make, but when I want a special splash of color and texture, here are a few that I like to incorporate: 

1. Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'  or Mexican Bush Sage, full sun, dry conditions, butterfly attractor, violet blue coloration, silvery leaf.

2. Gamolepis chrysanthemoides or African Bush Daisy, full medium sun, dry to slightly moist soils, bright yellow cheerful flowers.

3. Jatropha integerrima or Cuban Laurel, big shrub, lots of bright red flowers, big butterfly attractor, can be a shrub or small tree, tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions.

4. Vinca minor or Periwinkle, colorful perennial ground cover, tolerates a wide range of soils, prefers medium sunlight but can take some shade, once established takes minimal water however can spread.

5. Hamelia patens or Dwarf Firebush, Native shrub that can take some shade and tolerant of a wide variety of soils, a beautiful texture of small leaves and a striking orange flower.  Grows rapidly and without regular pruning can get up to 20'.

6. Aechmea blanchettiana or Bromeliad, a very tropical looking accent with bright yellow and orange leaves, loves sun but can take some shade, prefers to be slightly moist but can take drought for short periods.

7. Tibouchina urvilleana and Tibouchina granulosa (Tree), the most amazing purple flowers I've ever seen are on this plant, slightly cold sensitive but in a protected area can survive cold, can take some shade but blooms best in full sun, great accent shrub or tree. 

8. Dianthus 'First Love', beautiful perennial flower that creates a vivid explosion of color as a groundcover in small beds.
9. Mandevilla 'Alice Dupont', a lovely dark pink flower on a hardy woody vine that does very well in the heat of Central Florida's summers.  A fantastic burst of color on a small vine trellis or a garden arbor and a great alternative to the ever present and thorny bougainvillea.  
10. Rosa 'Meimirrote' or Apricot Drift Rose, anyone familiar with the Knockout Rose, and their beautiful year round rose blooms, but not happy with how big they will get will love this smaller version called the drift rose.  The Apricot color is one of my favorites and I have one in my own garden.  They love full sun and take a variety of soil conditions.
I could make another list of 10 and probably will soon, but I wanted to encourage gardeners out there to use as much color as possible.  Maybe I'll tackle shade gardens, a real challenge one of these days! 
Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'

Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'

Gamolepis chrysanthemoides

Gamolepis chrysanthemoides

Jatropha spp.

Jatropha spp.

Vinca 'Heatwave'

Vinca 'Heatwave'

Hamelia patens

Hamelia patens

Aechmea blanchettiana

Aechmea blanchettiana

Tibouchina granulosa

Tibouchina granulosa

Dianthus 'First Love' 

Dianthus 'First Love' 

Mandevilla 'Alice Dupont'

Mandevilla 'Alice Dupont'

Rosa 'Meimirrote'

Rosa 'Meimirrote'

The Art of Business

The business of art and the art of business...

Designing gardens is an art and like any art there is an expectation of beauty, skill and value.

I am an artist who uses living things and outdoor space as a canvas.  As a professional garden artist and designer there is a promise that is implied when one is paid for the artwork they create.

The expectation is not only will be design be beautiful, meaningful and valuable, but also that it will be done in a timely and efficient manner.

Herein lies the difficulty: most artists are not very timely or efficient!

Many talented artists tend to focus all of their passion on the art itself and have very little consideration for efficiency or schedules!

Understanding the importance of creating art with integrity; having beauty, value, meaning as well as being timely and within budget, is a critical element from a business perspective!

Therein also lies the beauty of the garden design, artists who become business people and allow themselves to participate in the complexity of the business have the opportunity to turn the business into an art form itself.

One of the most valuable lessons that an artist / garden designer can learn is the incredible creativity required to run a business which creates valuable art. 


Garden maintenance

Most people don't realize the incredible importance of diligence in maintenance after the design is installed.  The maintenance and upkeep of a well-designed garden is critical for the growth and the beauty of the garden.

It is incredibly rewarding to see a beautiful garden that has been maintained well.  That means the scheduling and the management of the garden routine is considered in the design.  This is just as critical a part of the garden design as are the ideas that are drawn on paper.

What's amazing is how many people want a no or low maintenance garden and believe that it is possible.  In fact, it's actually impossible to have a low maintenance garden that does what a garden SHOULD, you must be there to do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you who is competent.

The less maintenance a garden requires... the less beautiful it will be.

There is an old saying that says:
 "the greatest fertilizer for the garden is the gardener's shadow".

I cannot express enough the power of this metaphor.

Life is so much like a Garden.  The same applies whether it is the life of your garden OR the life of your career OR the life of your relationships OR the life of your marriage.

We absolutely need to be diligent in the maintenance of our gardens;  ALL of them, if we want them to be beautiful.

The reality is that the work sometimes is easy but often times the work of maintenance in the garden is drudgery, backbreaking, hot and difficult!  But the result of our hard work and our diligence is beauty and prosperity...

As for me, my goal is to leave this life a more beautiful place, whether it's my little garden OR the relationships with those I love.

Paint & Politics

Paint colors are an incredibly sensitive issue!

As a landscape architect firm we are often asked to look at the garden as a comprehensive whole. A comprehensive approach includes ALL elements of the garden including paint.

We absolutely love to design all aspects of the outdoor space and the paint color of the architecture is an incredibly important element of the design. 

What we have learned over the years is how sensitive and politically explosive this color selection can be.

Very often we work with homeowners associations and architectural review boards, both of which are usually quite calm and cooperative.  However, there are moments that can become angry, combative and at times even violent. 

I've served myself for many years on architectural review boards and I have seen arguments occur over seemingly minor issues, including paint color selection! 

And maybe it should be that way some times because colors ARE important!  Unfortunately most of the arguments I have witnessed are not because of amazing paint schemes, but usually they are regarding avoiding anything creative or different, or dare I say edgy? 

Recently a client of mine, after taking many days reviewing several potential colors, chose a beautiful and conservative shade of cream. 

While we were painting the house a disgruntled neighbor came over to stop the painter and even accosted the homeowner saying they were not allowed to paint that color on that street and he was angry that they were doing it. 

After an argument and another meeting with the architectural review board it was decided to maintain the color. The color is primarily yellow but perhaps a half shade toward beige, very conservative, and it still looks yellow and is frankly beautiful!

The sad thing about the story is the argument really had nothing to do with architecture, the garden or even the architectural standard of the HOA.  It really had more to do with power, politics and I'm sad to say envy.

A lot of things transpired in that community that were unnecessary started by the politics of paint!  Moral of the story: Choose your paint wisely and make sure it gets APPROVED by your local jurisdiction BEFORE you buy the paint!!