I’m a day late, but I wanted to join in on Pam’s Foliage Followup to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.
Foliage is an important element in spring garden design. Before many flowers bloom, foliage is strutting its stuff by emerging and glowing in the sideways slant of April sunlight; unless, of course, it is raining like today. Water droplets gather on leaves and magnify colors.
Taking photos while it is cloudy is another way to make the color in photos look better. That’s why, if you’re touring a botanical garden on a bright, sunny day, you’ll often see photographers shading plants with umbrellas, and using shades on their camera lenses. Bright sunlight is often too harsh. However, we, gardeners, take the shot however and whenever we can. Even in the rain.
There are other ways to make foliage appear even more beautiful to the eye.
Mix it up. Use compound leaves like these on my tree peony and mix in some sword-like leaves like these iris.
Then, add some ferns for their lacy appeal and smaller leaves. People spend a lot of time talking about iris blooms, but I think the foliage is just as important. Iris don’t bloom for a long time, and to maintain their place in the garden, they must offer something more.
Color. Today’s gardeners are blessed with a riot of color, and it doesn’t just come from flowers. Reds, purples which are almost black, blue green, yellow, really the combinations are endless. Below, is a Black Lace™ elderberry. It will grow much taller than this, but I keep mine severely pruned because I have it in such a tight place next to the ‘Miss Kim’ lilac. Therefore, mine doesn’t bloom as well. I love this plant, but it needs really good drainage and lean soil. I nearly killed it three times before I moved it to a raised bed of barely amended native, sandy soil. All that purple lacy foliage was worth the trouble.
When you visit the local nursery, or order something online or out of a catalog, think about how its foliage will work with the other plants in the garden. Some things are happy coincidences like the yellow combination of a passalong flower mixed with chartreuse creeping jenny below, but most are planned.
In my case, I like a particular color palette with a lot of red, purple and chartreuse notes. However, I balance these with repetition of a particular color, along with some lovely dark green to hold it all together.
Variegation. I also love variegated leaves, but a little variegation goes a long way. One of the best places to find variegated plants is Bustani Plant Farm. Steve Owens also loves variegation, and he and his wife, Ruth, search the globe to find plants which perform well in sunny Oklahoma. Many of these are also variegated, and he sells variegated sports of natives like Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Duet’. I bought my Caryopteris divaricata from him years ago, but I don’t think he’s carrying it this year. TLC had it last summer.
My friend, Debbie, gave me this variegated Weigela florida several years ago when it outgrew her garden space. I don’t know the cultivar, but it is a multi-season plant with beautiful pink blooms in spring along with foliage that keeps its variegation spring through fall.
Thanks to Pam at Digging for the foliage followup. What are your favorite foliage garden combos? I’d like to see.