Beauty of Foliage

Caladium and Begonia

Caladium and Begonia

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Consider how beautiful foliage can be;  whether the brightly veined leaves of a Caladium, the dark ruffled leaves of Anglewing Begonia, or the velvety leaves of Coleus.

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Coleus

Coleus

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All of the these plants produce flowers, but the flowers aren’t the main event.  These plants produce bright, beautiful stems and leaves month after month.

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Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii”

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Many people head to the garden center looking for flowers to plant in their gardens.  This is fine, but flowers are only a tiny aspect of what makes a garden beautiful.

Flowers open and fade- sometimes very quickly.  Many flowers last only a day.  Many perennials flower for a week or so, and then are finished until “same time, next year.”

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Angelwing Begonia leaves, larger than my hand.

Angelwing Begonia , whose leaves grow  larger than my hand

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Although perennial  flowers are often followed by interesting seedpods, somehow it isn’t the same.  Annuals give a longer season of bloom, but again are unreliable.  Many of the geraniums I planted with great hope in spring are a brown soggy mess at the moment, barely hanging on to life, because we’ve had too much rain.  They may come back in fall, or they may give up for the season.

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July 30 2013  Foliage 001

The flowering Verbena is only a foil for the beautiful lime green foliage in this planter, a gift from a master gardener friend.

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Foliage plants are far more reliable.  Even tender perennials like Caladium can be brought inside for the winter.  Although they will go dormant for a few months, they will come back with fresh leaves to amaze you.

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August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 056

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A few years ago I left some Caladium tubers buried in a pot of other plants I’d brought into the living room for the winter.  Somehow, the Caladiums woke up and shot up bright new leaves right after New Years Day.   We enjoyed them until spring.

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Caladiums

Caladiums

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They took another rest when the pot went back outside in May, and then came back for the end of summer and fall.  Caladiums are tough and have a strong will to live.  As long as you don’t let them freeze, they are very forgiving.

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Fern, hosta, purple Oxalis

Fern, Hosta, purple Oxalis, and a Hydrangea

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Coleus have been hybridized again and again to create amazing colors and strange leaf shapes.  Many are textured, deeply ruffled or fishboned,  striped, blotched, or shaded.  No two leaves, even on the same plant, are quite alike.

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Coleus and Creeping Jenny

Coleus and Creeping Jenny

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Coleus are tough plants who prefer shade, but have been selected to tolerate sun.  The newer hybrids give much better colors in sunlight.

Their flowers are insignificant, and many of us snap them off when they appear to keep the plant branching and producing more beautiful leaves.  We have noticed that when Coleus flowers are allowed to open, they attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

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A favorite tender lady fern, living inside with us this winter.

A favorite tender lady fern, living inside with us this winter.

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Ferns, which never flower, are another wonderful foliage plant.

Ferns come in many sizes, forms, and colors.  They uniformly prefer shade, but will thrive in partial sunlight.  All prefer to be moist, but can live in varying degrees of dry soil.

In general, the more light ferns ge, the more moisture they will need to stay hydrated.

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Fern with Creeping Jenny.  Both plants are winter hardy.

Autumn fern with creeping Jenny. Both plants are winter hardy.

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Whether used as a filler, or as the main attraction, ferns are tough, reliable, and beautiful.  There are many hardy perennial ferns which will return year after year.

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July 7 2013 succulents 012

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Succulents are also grown for their foliage, although they produce small flowers once or twice a year.

These plants prefer bright light, warm temperatures, and like their soil on the dry side.  They can go a fairly long time between waterings.

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Most succulents won’t survive  freezing temperatures, and so need to come inside for winter here in Zone 7b.  In warmer climates, they put on a beautiful display year round, growing bigger and bigger as they form colonies.

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July 30 2013  Foliage 015

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In many cases, succulents look like flowers because they form rosettes in shades of blue, green, burgundy, and gold.

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succulents

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If you are looking for fresh design ideas for your pots and gardens, try designing with foliage.   Watch for interesting colors, textures, patterns, and forms in the plants you choose.  Select plants which will look fresh and healthy over a long season.

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Many of the plants in these photos will survive from one year to the next indoors.  They keep getting better with age, and are always interesting plants we want to  include in our garden.

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 Photos by Woodland Gnome

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

7 responses to “Beauty of Foliage

  1. Pingback: Beauty of Foliage | Potted Plant Society

  2. Pingback: Begonias, Begonias | Forest Garden

  3. Pingback: Ferns are Fabulous in a Forest Garden | Forest Garden

  4. Pingback: Decorate For Less With Caladium | This Diva Saves

  5. Forest So Green

    Some people seem to overlook foliage but I really love it. Nice post. Annie

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