Unusual Leaves: More Texture

'Silver Lyre' Afghan Fig

‘Silver Lyre’ Afghan Fig

Unusual leaves bring a wonderful texture, as well as interesting colors, to the garden.

Coleus

Coleus

 

The variety available to an adventurous gardener feels infinite… and probably is infinite when one considers how many interesting new cultivars of plants like Coleus,   Heuchera, Begonia, Hosta, fern, and Caladium come on the market each year.

 

Heuchera

Heuchera

In addition to these perennials, there are a few new introductions of trees and shrubs with interesting variegation or unusual leaf color each season.

‘Black Lace’  Eldeberry, Sambucus nigra; ‘Ruby Falls’ Redbud, Cerceis canadensis; and ‘Maculata’ Lacecap Hydrangea come to mind immediately.

‘Black Lace’ Elderberry is on my “wish list” at the moment.

 

A variegated Lacecap Hydrangea

A variegated Lacecap Hydrangea

 

Some of these perennials, trees, and shrubs also offer beautiful flowers.

But the flowers are just a little something “extra,” compared to their beautiful leaves.

And while the flowers may add interest in their season, the fabulous foliage brings beauty to the garden month after month.

 

Buddleia, "Harlequin" sports beautiful variegated foliage all season long.

Buddleia davidii, “Harlequin” sports beautiful variegated foliage all season long.

 

Do you experiment with unusual  foliage in your garden?

So many residential gardens rely on a few standard, well known plants commonly available in “big box” shops.

This Begonia, purchased from The Homestead Garden Center several seasons ago, is similar to Plant Delight's "Pewterware" Begonia, hardy to Zone 8B.

This Begonia, purchased from The Homestead Garden Center several seasons ago, is similar in appearance  to Plant Delight’s “Pewterware” Begonia, hardy to Zone 8B.

 

These commonly used plants are easy to find, and we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from them.

They bring their own beauty, but overuse can also dull our appreciation of them.  Like white paint on a wall, we hardly ever notice them after a while.

 

A Begonia Rex, with fern.

A Begonia Rex, with fern and other Begonias.

 

Searching out a variety of plants with interesting foliage adds novelty and a touch of the unexpected to our garden.

 

Scented Pelargonium

Scented Pelargonium graveolens

 

Most any gardening “need” can be filled, whether we are creating a drought tolerant garden nourished only by a few inches of rain each  year, or a Forest Garden, unappetizing to deer and rabbits!

 

Collection of succulents.

Collection of succulents.

Small local nurseries, web nurseries, and specialty nurseries offer the most interesting varieties.

( I’m writing this within just a day or so of receiving Plant Delights Nursery’s fall 2014 catalog!  Yes, I’ve been closely studying it!)

 

 

It is the thrill of the hunt, and the fun of curating a collection, which fuels my search for unusual foliage plants.

 

This interesting Sedum, which I've not noticed before this year, was purchased at The Homestead Garden Center.

This beautiful Sedum, which I’ve not noticed before this year, was purchased at The Homestead Garden Center.  It will grow much like an Autumn Sedum, but with more interesting leaf color.

Plants with unusual leaves often grow best in  shady gardens.

Heuchera, ferns, Hosta, and Hydrangeas generally perform best in partial shade.

 

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Newer cultivars can often withstand more direct sun than older varieties; but shade, especially during the heat of the day, is lit up by the outrageous foliage of these  flamboyant plants.

 

August 3, 2014 butterflies 047

Layering them creates interesting and complex compositions; dynamic living sculpture in the garden.

 

August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 055

 

But wonderful foliage plants grow in full sun, also.

 

Siberian Iris, a gift from a dear friend, in a sunny garden

Siberian Iris, a gift from a dear friend, grow in a sunny garden area with Lavender, Comfrey, variegated iris, Eucalyptus, Artemisia, and other herbs.  Planted this season, the area is still filling in.

 

All of the amazing varieties of succulents enjoy sun to partial shade.

 

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Variegated  Cannas, Hibiscus cultivars like ‘Kopper King” and nearly all of the herbs thrive in sunny beds.

 

Sage Officinallis, "Tricolor"

Sage Officinalis, “Tricolor”

 

Whether you search out the most interesting varieties of a particular group of plants, like Hostas or Ferns; or amass a collection of silver foliage plans, variegated plants, or purple leaved plants; you may discover that the more you work with foliage in your own garden, the more satisfied you feel with your efforts.

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.

Author Unknown

 

Staghorn Fern with Begonia

Staghorn Fern with Begonia

 

As for any artist, an expanded palette of plant possibilities inspires new ideas and presents novel solutions to site based problems.

 

Caladiums and other poisonous plants can grow mostly in peace in gardens plagued by deer.

Caladiums and other poisonous plants can grow mostly in peace in gardens plagued by deer.

 

It helps me to remember that,  “Gardening is the slowest art form.”

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Wonderful effects can be created in the garden using just foliage; and they just keep getting better and more fully developed over time.

 

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way — things I had no words for.

Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 066

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

6 responses to “Unusual Leaves: More Texture

  1. I am a huge fan of the foliage plants and think they are the backbone to a good garden. I’ve gotten more pleasure out of my shade garden this year than my sun garden. If that giant oak which provides all the shade ever falls, I am in big trouble!! Lovely photos, WG.

  2. I love your plant combinations. My shade gardens are mostly leaf textures. A favorite plant has become the large leafed hostas – I have ‘Sum and Substance’ and ‘Bressingham’ hybrids. They resist slugs and their giant size never fails to illicit comments.

    • Thank you, Eliza. We are always tweaking the combinations, and plants seem happier in communities than when set out as individuals 😉 I love Hostas, too, and also have “Sum and Substance.” Reading the notes on it in Plant Delights Nursery catalog last night, I don’t fall into any of their categories of “good gardener” because mine is still fairly small 2 years on from planting. ;-( But beyond potted Hostas on the deck, I wouldn’t show photos of them this year. They have been grazed too many times and look very sad this season. I’d like to know more about the ‘Bressingham’ hybrids- not a group with which I’m familiar 😉 Hostas have such beautiful leaves and form- one could populate an entire garden with little more than Hostas, ferns; and of course trees for their shade!

  3. You have a beautiful garden, love the variegated Lacecap Hydrangea, did you have blooms on it this year? Your ferns still look good for August too! 🙂 How are the Lemon Lime hosta doing and the iris? The iris and begonias are doing good!

    • Michael, I’ve been watching the hostas and Iris daily, and will post a follow up soon. Most of the Hostas have thrown up a little crown of new growth- all are alive. The Iris has sent up new leaves which are nearly 10″ tall now. It is fun to watch them grow. So happy to hear your Iris and Begonias are doing well.
      That Lacecap is one I started from a cutting before we moved 5 years ago. It has been chewed by deer so many times it is a wonder it has survived. Of the 6 rooted cuttings we moved, it is one of 2 which made it. It is in a lot of shade- and hasn’t given us blooms yet. It may have formed blooms- which got eaten early in the season…. I had a huge collection of lacecap and other hydrangeas in VaB, and miss them so much in this garden. Our season has been moist enough to keep the ferns growing strong 😉 Best wishes, WG

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