‘Silver Lyre’ Afghan Fig
Unusual leaves bring a wonderful texture, as well as interesting colors, to the garden.
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.
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
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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
Layering them creates interesting and complex compositions; dynamic living sculpture in the garden.
But wonderful foliage plants grow in full sun, also.
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.
Variegated Cannas, Hibiscus cultivars like ‘Kopper King” and nearly all of the herbs thrive in sunny beds.
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.
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.
It helps me to remember that, “Gardening is the slowest art form.”
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.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014