"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Color in my garden that isn't blooming.

Who needs flowers when there is so much pretty foliage to enjoy?  Okay I do, especially right about now when there isn't much blooming.  But, one thing I've really come to appreciate is the importance of interesting foliage in the garden.  I've tried to add interest in the shrubs, perennials, ground covers and trees.  I remember when I first started gardening I thought it was only about flowers.  If it didn't bloom, I just passed it by.  After seeing other more experienced gardeners using different shades of leaf color and shapes mixed in with their flowers I began to see how important they were.  So, now as I plant shop I not only look at when a flower will bloom, but at how much interest it will add when it's not blooming.  Of course, sometimes a flower is so pretty I don't care how the leaves will look when it's not blooming!
Here are just a few examples of interesting leaves that are growing in my garden right now.  

Stachys (lambsear)
tall spikes of dark pink flowers

Oakleaf hydrangea 'Pee Wee'
creamy white flower clusters

Heuchera 'Firefly'
hummingbirds love the bright red, long stemmed flowers

Heuchera (unknown variety)
very long stemmed, small white flowers

Centaurea dealbata (Persian Cornflower)
lavender/blue bachelor button like flowers

Pulmonaria 'Roy Davidson'
clusters of blue flowers that change to pink

Tiarella 'Neon Lights'
tall clusters of small, white, fragrant flowers

I've tried to find different colors, shapes and textures to add interest throughout the seasons.  I like leaves that draw you over to touch them.   Some of the plants add an interesting backdrop to showcase the flowers planted around them.  I've found that I've been drawn to more chartreuse and variegated foliage lately, they really seem to pop.  If I'm really lucky I find plants that have both wonderful flowers and interesting leaves.  Even luckier still is a plant that also has a great scent. 
What are some of your favorite plants for foliage?
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  1. I'm in full agreement- I just wish I had some pretty foliage! Ah, well i can always visit your blog and get great ideas- happy almost spring, it won't be too much longer! Hope you were spared the awful wind!

  2. Very nice, you would like the Bunny Tails Grass, it is so soft!!

  3. Three cheers for fragrance, especially in a leaf!

    I appreciate the strappy leaves like daylilies, irises and grasses.

    I also like itty bitty leaves like my creeping thyme and others that I can't think of because my coffee index is low!

  4. I so agree with you! It took me awhile to figure out the foliage thing. I like to mix spiky leaves with round leaves with lacy leaves. I'm so fond of chartreuse, too!

    Great post!

  5. We have a lot of lamb's ears - mama was blind and she loved to "feel" of the velvety leaves and we also like herbs like wooly thyme, lemon balm, rosemary and lavender because she could rub the leaves and smell the fragrance. You have a nice selection of foliage.

  6. Nice foliage.

    I really like the Oakleaf hydrangea, It's on my list for this season.

    Love Stachys too. It's got a real mediterranean twang about it.


  7. Absolutely LOVE your garden, and it seems we share a love of foliage, too. I'd never seen Persian cornflower, but many of your others are old friends. Thank you for sharing such wonderful pictures.

  8. Even tho Hostas bloom I love their foliage. I also like any kind of woodland ferns, icicle plant, many grasses, black elephant ears and probably lots more that I can't think of right now. Blooming plants are wonderful but so is great foliage.

  9. Your 'bloomless' plants are looking lovely, too;-)

  10. I enjoy combining different leaf textures of plants. You named a few favorites, especially the lambs ear, but also another gray one called Powis Castle. It goes well with everything and is fragrant. I have others but won't bore you today. Gotta get in the garden. Nice plants!

  11. Tessa - Yes just a few more days until spring! We had terrible winds last night too. Lots of fences down and broken branches :(

    Darla - I'm going to look for that one, I haven't heard of it before.

    Lanny - All great ones too. I forgot about the strappy leaves, and the little tiny ones too!

    Cameron - It's amazing how much all the shapes and textures can add to a garden!

    Mildred - Yes, those all add such great fragrance to the garden. I love rosemary.

    Rob - I hope you find a spot for the oakleaf. It's a real winner all the way around.

    vbdb - Thank you! The cornflower was new to me a couple of years ago, really soft leaves on it.

    Susie - Oh those are all great too! I'm glad mentioned the elephant ears, those are really neat.

    Jan - Thanks :) Kind of fun to go out looking for color now and see what is popping up.

    Tina - I forgot about Powis Castle, that is a good one! Have fun gardening!!

  12. Catherine:
    Shady gardeners rely on foliage,and look at flowers as an added bonus. Here are some of my favourite foliage plants:

    Syneilesis palmata- six ir seven leaflets on plant that reaches 3-4'
    in height, with a tall spire of insignificant white flowers, but they emerge in spring looking like hairy little palm trees.

    Deinanthe bifida is a relative to Hydrangea, with large wrinkled arrow shaped leaves.... it does have small Hydrangea shaped blooms that are magnets for bees

    Diphylleia cymosa is an umbellifer with huge leaves, easily 2-3' across, reminds me of rhubarb, with red petioles and blue berries in the fall.

    Artimisia lactiflora 'Guizhou Group' is a taller sepcies with almost black stems between 3-4' with leaves that remind me of the Tiarella you have posted. It does well in partial shade and its tall spires of tiny white flowers are great for fall...... drop by my blog and pick 'dramatic foliage' from my Labels list for more..... I love gardeners who realize that in most cases foliage supercedes flowers, which tend to be so fleeting at best!

  13. Catherine, Some of my favorite foliage plants are the Lady's Mantle, various sedum, heuchera, ferns, siberian iris, liriope, hosta and daylilies, columbine, penstemon- oh, it also sounds like I'm listing my favorite flowers! ;-) (true)

  14. Wonderful greens! I've been working on a photography project (for school) on "green" - I'm discovering so many shades and nuances as I focus in. Spring greens are my favorite, always, and especially backlit leaves like jewels - so hard to photograph!

  15. So true about the foliage, Catherine. When combined with the right size and shapes different plants would look great in combination, like passion flower vine and Gaillardia. Though it sounds crazy, believe me, the bright green of the passion vine and the dull green of gaillardia would make a great view even when they don't have flowers! I'm still learning about the leaf shapes and how to combine them...

  16. Teza - Thanks for your great suggestions. I plan to look them up as I'm only familiar with the last one. It's so true that shade gardens rely on foliage, especially since most of my shade bloomers are spring flowers and then it's just down to the leaves. I will check out you list.

    Shady Gardener - Those are all great ones! I forgot about the lady's mantle, a very pretty one for sure. They do all have nice flowers too!

    Country Mouse - Pretty amazing at how many greens there are. I'm with you, the spring greens are always the freshest to me!

    Chandramouli - I don't think that combination sounds crazy. I think it's fun to experiment and you never know what might end up looking really nice together. I'm definitely learning too.

  17. I agree with you on the need of intersting foliage to add texture to the garden. I've got to remind myself of this often - thanks for the reminder. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  18. Like you, it took me a while to realize I needed foliage plants too Catherine. I've been such a sucker for the pretty flower faces. I'm rectifying that every year now tho so maybe someday my garden will look good no matter the season. I do have quite a few of the plants you featured but I also love the leaves of lady's mantle, filipendula, lupine, tanacetum, & verbascums. I am really wanting some color right now too tho. Hurry up spring!

  19. Wow, you have some wonderful foliage. Now you've got me wanting to get out with my camera to take pictures here. Great posting and pictures.



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