Tag Archives: chez fonfon planters

Planted For Shade – Chez Fonfon Planters – Summer 2014

The large square planters outside chef Frank Stitt’s French bistro, Chez Fonfon, are my babies to plant each season, and it was interesting to see how things fared after a particularly harsh winter. Not surprisingly, even with the excellent maintenance their staff provides, it was time to redo for the summer heat.

Chez Fonfon Shade Planters - A New SeasonA testament to its common name of cast iron plant, the aspidistra looked amazingly good considering the bone-chilling temperatures Birmingham dipped to in January.  It only needed a few leaves cut out, and no thinning was required this season…probably due to the cold. A heuchera, that had been added in the winter planting for its beautiful leaves, was removed to be planted in a bed at another of the Stitt’s restaurants, Bottega.  I also removed the branches that had been added to give extra interest in the winter planting.

This year, instead of using the Aaron caladium of last summer, I switched it up and put in some caladiums that are all white, named ‘Garden White’. They should get quite large and work well with the kimberly queen fern, a tropical fern with an upright growth habit.  Next, a couple of white sunpatiens were placed. These will also add mass to the center of the planter and, with the trailing white torenia, add more color to this shady spot.

I love foliage in planters such as these, so I couldn’t resist using Carex ‘Evergold’ to spill over the edge, along with torenia and a pot of angelvine, muehlenbeckia complexa, a tough-as- nails little vine that will also trail.

Chez Fonfon Shade Planters...Caladiums and More For SummerTorenia is an interesting plant, useful in shade plantings such as this. The white one used here (They are also available in blue, purple, magenta, and a yellow.) will trail over the edge of the planter, but there are also plants in this same genus that grow more upright and are useful in garden beds and planters in light shade as well. This is a good plant to get to know, since regular bedding plant impatiens are susceptible to downy mildew of impatiens.

So…another planting finished. The best part is yet to come, though, as patrons and passersby can watch the transformation of small plants as they gradually  grow together and flourish with  a little help from the capable staff of this fine Birmingham restaurant.



Frank Stitt’s Chez Fonfon & Bottega Restaurant’s Planters…Done!

Each spring and fall I have the pleasure of designing and planting the containers at Frank Stitt’s
Chez Fonfon restaurant next to his acclaimed restaurant, Highlands Bar & Grill.

The aspidistra (cast iron plant) is thinned out each season...

The aspidistra (cast iron plant) is thinned out each season…

Pardis Stitt, Frank’s wife, likes Chez Fonfon to have a simple color scheme of white and green, and she and I both love different foliage colors, textures and leaf patterns, so it’s always fun to put together combinations of foliage with a few white flowers to  brighten things up. The planters are in quite a bit of shade, both from the building and from trees planted there, so for flowers it’s violas for winter.

Frank Stitt's Chez Fon Fon Restaurant PlanterThe emphasis is on foliage, though, and I’ve included curly parsley for it’s fresh green color, a small blue fescue grass, and a shade loving heuchera for this planting.  Holdovers from the summer are aspidistra, which I thin out each season,  and a tiny leaf green ivy. After planting, I added birch branches to add more height and winter interest. (Branches are an easy way to get color in planters during the holiday – red twig dogwood branches would also be pretty.) While it looks a bit top heavy with the tall aspidistra at first, the parsley and heuchera will add fullness to the composition as it grows in. I’m also trying the Cool Wave white trailing pansies here this year, hoping they get enough sun to bloom well.

These planters get more sun...

These planters get more sun…

Franks Stitt's Bottega Restaurant PlanterThis fall Pardis asked if I would also take a look at the planters at Bottega, their other wonderful restaurant.

They are smaller and placed in the courtyard.  I’ve included pictures of the two on either side of a wall fountain and shade garden. Because they’ll get more sun than the planters at Chez Fonfon, I’ve included one of my favorite ornamental (and edible!) kale, ‘Red Russian’, for height, a dark leaf heuchera on the shady side of the planter, trailing rosemary and more of the Cool Wave trailing pansies. I especially love the contrast of the birch against the lightness of the wall. It will be fun to watch all of these grow out, knowing their dedicated staff take great care to keep them looking their best.


Shade Containers…No Impatiens? No Problem!

Because of the threat of downy mildew on impatiens, this year has seen all of us having to rethink what to plant in our shady beds and planters. In an earlier post  I explained what downy mildew is and offered some alternatives. After planting these pots (located in a very shady spot in front of Chez Fonfon downtown), I thought they offered a good example of a planting that utilizes different foliage and blooming options.

imageOwners Frank and Pardis Stitt prefer white and green for the front of this  French cafe, located next to their acclaimed restaurant Highlands in downtown Birmingham. These are fairly large, tan colored  cast stone planters  with nice clean lines.  A mix of contrasting green and variegated foliage with a touch of white add light to this shady spot,  and the stone wall adds a pleasing backdrop to the planting.

The photos shown here were taken right after planting, so you can imagine how much they will grow up, out and over the planters. By the end of the season they should be quite lush…and the folks at Chez Fonfon do a great job maintaining them.

The cast iron plant, aspidistra, stays in these planters year-round and is the backbone of this planting. Occasionally in the spring  it needs to be pulled out and thinned; at the same time any damaged leaves from winter are cut off. Once that is done, the planters are topped off with fresh potting soil, Osmocote is mixed in,  and they’re ready to plant.image

I started with the ‘Aaron’ caladiums first. (These will work in full sun as well!) The white center on the leaf really brightens this planting and is the direct opposite of the Algerian ivy leaf with its green center and white outline…foliage is so fun to work with! The tiny needlepoint like ivy is a big contrast – a much smaller and darker green leaf than the first two. Difficult to see, but, right up against the aspidistra, I added a blue-green grass-like juncus – it picks up the gray-green color in the Algerian ivy.



Next, the blooms – white New Guinea impatiens (These and the Sunpatiens are NOT affected by the downy mildew disease.) and some Euphorbia ‘Silver Fog’ to brighten this spot even more. The euphorbia is difficult to see in these photos, but it is a very nice filler for sunny spots too – I’m hoping it will get just enough light to bloom well and add its airy texture to this composition.


Last, a bit of the tiny, low growing baby tears – a lighter green to brighten the very lowest level of the planting, next to the dark green ivy. Eventually this will get engulfed by the rest, but until then it will be another lighter green in the mix…

So…no impatiens? No problem!  Want to see another example? Take a look at this massive moss hanging basket – it’s planted all for shade too!