Tag Archive: foliage


Sedum 'Chocolate Drop'- the foliage as attractive as the flower- and what a combination!

Sedum ‘Chocolate Drop’- the foliage as attractive as the flower- and what a combination!

We tend to think a lot – some of us almost entirely – about flower colour when we consider planting in the garden. Leaves last far longer than blooms, so why not go for a combination of flower and foliage that will add texture to flower colour and shape?

Some leaves are striped, others marbled or speckled, while others range from purple, silver and blue, to butter-yellow or lime-green. Geranium (Cranesbill) and succulent-leaved Sedum are good examples of plants that pack a punch with their leaves, as do Hostas and Lamium.

Stipa gigantea- wonderful

Stipa gigantea- wonderful

You can creat a soft, billowing effect with plants that have feathery foliage, such as Bronze Fennel, or those with masses of leaflets, such as Aquilegia and many of the ferns. Ornamental grasses can also be used to soften displays; many are particularly useful because they are drought tolerant. I grow several here at Old School Garden, and I love the variety they add to a herbaceous border with an evergreen structure of shrubs; Stipa gigantea is especially lovely when the late afternoon sunlight catches its stalks and waving awns.

From flower to seedpod- Agapanthus

From flower to seedpod- Agapanthus

To sum up….

  • Blend foliage plants with flowering ones to keep the border looking at its best over the longest possible time.

  • Combine foliage and flowers that contrast with each other in colour,shape and texture.

  • Use plants with ornamental seed pods, such as Agapanthus, Feathery grass heads, such as Pampas grass and evergreen foliage.

  • Use plants with variegated leaves, such as striped, blotched and marbled, to their full advantage.

  • Choose flowering plants that have attractive foliage, such as Alchemilla mollis and geranium so that they add interest to the border over several months.

Hostas are usually grown for their foliage- which comes in all sorts of patterns and hues, but the flowers can also be very attractive

Hostas are usually grown for their foliage- which comes in all sorts of patterns and hues, but the flowers can also be very attractive

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’- Reader’s Digest, 1999

Old School Gardener

 

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Sedum caeruleum
Sedum caeruleum

So, I’m getting close to the end of the alphabet and thinking about if and how I should follow up my current ‘A-Z’ series with another- what do you think? Any ideas? Maybe trees or shrubs? Or perhaps bulbs? Let me have your ideas!

S caused me a moment of uncertainty. I thought, it has to be Salvia, then I thought, Sedum is obvious as many are at (or close to) their best at this time of year, and I do love the larger forms which add so much to the garden with their chunky, glaucous foliage and shields of flowers, especially in autumn and on into winter as the flowers fade and their strong shapes give structure to the ‘close season’ border.

Sedum (common name ‘Stonecrop’) is a wide genus of some 400 species, encompassing annuals, biennials, deciduous, semi evergreen and evergreen perennials, subshrubs and shrubs- from both hemispheres! What you might call a botanical success story!

Their habitats in the wild vary from mountainous areas (where most come from), to arid regions of South America. As a result, they vary widely from dwarf, rock garden plants (the predominant type) to fairly  tall plants, very suitable for beds and borders. Some of the smaller species can be quite invasive. Sedums prefer sun, but some will tolerate light shade. They are drought tolerant, and prefer light, well-drained soils. The border types  will grow in almost all soil types, but do become rather lush and need to be staked if grown in over fertile conditions.

The foliage of ‘stonecrops’ is usually thick, fleshy and succulent, although the arrangement of the leaves varies. Individual flowers appear in summer and autumn, are mostly 5 – petalled and star shaped, and are borne in a range of different forms: corymbs, panicles or cymes.

Butterflies love the flowers- especially Sedum spectabile. The green buds on this species look good from midsummer, then colour pink into autumn. Stems are succulent and frosted, hence the common name “ice plant”. Unfortunately slugs and snails are fond of the leaves . All parts of the plant are poisonous, and contact with the sap may cause skin irritation.

Smaller, rock garden types are used extensively in ‘green roofs’. The ever popular Sedum spectabile ‘Herbstfreude’ (also know as ‘Autumn Joy’) goes well with many other autumn flowering herbaceous plants such as Michaelmas Daisies (Asters) and some of the shorter grasses such as Stipa tennuissima (‘Pony Tail’ grass). Carefully chosen cultivars of Japanese anemones, penstemons and phlox will also look good with them. They can also be used to good effect massed below a sun baked wall or hedge where other things might struggle, perhaps intermingled with spring bulbs and backed by early – mid summer ‘floppers’ like Perovskia (‘Russian Sage’). Leave the faded flower heads on over winter for some interesting garden shapes, especially after a ‘hoar’ frost.

Further information:

Sedum spectabile

Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’- BBC

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’

Herbaceous Sedums- trials and awards by RHS (pdf)

Living sedum roofs

Sedum photos

Sedum Society

Old Schoool Gardener

All about the leaves- Fatsia japonica

All about the leaves- Fatsia japonica

This latest  ‘snippet on style’  focuses on leaves. You might think that gardens designed around leaves would be boring. Not a bit of it. Foliage comes in all shapes, sizes and many colours (or shades of green). With the occasional splash of floral colour and other focal points thay can provide a  wonderfully soothing, and sometimes exotic air.  Foliage gardens are typified by the use of leaf and plant texture and shapes as well as subtle variations in leaf colour to provide interest, rather than floral display at different times of the year, which tends to drive other garden styles or at least their planting plans.

Sometimes the whole garden is about foliage, punctuated with flower or other colour (for example The Exotic Garden in Norwich – see link below). Sometimes specific areas in a larger garden are devoted to foliage, with the emphasis on contrasting varieties and plant forms. These gardens are typically organic in shape, with no hard edges and informal in layout and feel. They can also feature items such as sculpture or garden furniture made out of rustic materials and used as focal points set off against the foliage. Other key features of foliage gardens include:

  • Bold foliage

  • Colourful highlights

  • Pools and reflections

  • Containers

  • Locally sourced, rough materials

  • Height and structure

Links:

Other articles in the ‘Style Counsel’ series:

Family Gardens

Productive Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Country Gardens

Modernist Gardens

Formal Gardens

Mediterranean Gardens

Cottage gardens

Old School Gardener

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Hosta shoots

Hosta shoots -courtesy Marcus Bawdon http://www.countrywoodsmoke.com

‘Everyone has Hostas’… OK so you may think them unfashionable, but I love them… the whole growth process –  new shoots spearing up above the soil surface (right now in Old School Garden), the unfurling leaves, the full blousy foliage and the delicate flowers of pinks, lavenders and whites.

Otherwise known as the ‘Plantain lily’, Hostas come originally from eastern Russia, China, Japan and Korea. They are very hardy. Most of the 40 – 70 or so species (there is disagreement over the exact number) and over 7000 cultivars are grown for their foliage, though for many the flowers are also noteable. True perennials, their foliage dies back and they descend underground over winter, to send up new growth spears in spring and achieve their full glory in summer with some varieties flowering into early autumn. Some species also give a second, albeit brief, display in autumn.

 

The leaves vary between round, ovate, lance or heart – shaped and are between 12cm and 50cm in length. They come in all shades of green, some solid in colour others with margins or centres variegated in shades from white to golden yellow. Flowers range from bell to trumpet shaped, and are held in one-sided racemes or ‘scapes’.

 

Hostas will grow in full sun to full shade – they flower better if in the sun and the yellow-leaved varieties also do better in full sun. Overall, however, they tend to do best in dappled shade and where they are away from the hot noon-day sun (the blue – green leaved varieties have more intense colouring in the shade). They need moisture at their roots and this is even more the case in full sun – so they need watering in dry spells and generally do best in moist ground which is rich in organic matter and neutral to slightly alkaline . Foliage will start to wilt if they are too dry. They can be easily propagated by division at almost any time of year – a sharp spade or knife thrust down to split the roots is all that’s required.

Slug and snail damage

Slug and snail damage

Pest problems focus on slugs and snails which can nibble the emerging shoots – such damage can scar the leaves for the rest of the season, so preventative and quick action to remove slugs and nails is crucial, especially in early spring. Sometimes, especially in water – logged ground, the plants can be susceptible to ‘crown rot’ and if this is the case they should be moved to a more suitable site. Hostas have low levels of allergens. Some Hostas are edible, their young shoots being forced and harvested in the far east, eaten sauted or rolled in proscuitto!

 

Hostas look good in groups around ponds and damp areas, and are particularly useful in areas of medium to light shade.   Their foliage makes for a bold texture so they are good as focal points, contrasting well with grassy – like leaves and stems. They are also good in containers where the leaves and flowers can be seen close up. I grow most of mine this way, in black planters in our Courtyard Garden – the black provides wonderful contrast to the rich greens and yellows of the foliage. But it’s important to keep them well watered once growth starts. Other ideas for using Hostas include:

  • ‘Plant different varieties in large masses or drifts for reliable color and texture in the garden.

  • Brighten shady garden areas with gold or variegated hostas.

  • Use hostas to bridge gaps in seasonal perennial bloom.

  • Variegated hostas with white or cream margins paired with other white flowering plants glow in “moonlight gardens” when homeowners arrive in the evening from work.

  • Hosta leaves emerge just as spring bulb foliage starts to fade, hiding it from view.

  • A single hosta in a container is dramatic and sculptural. Hostas look great in containers paired with other foliage plants or annuals. Remember to provide adequate water.

  • Plant fragrant hostas close to paths and walkways for best appreciation.

  • Use small hostas for edging along walkways and flower borders.

  • Hosta leaves and flowers are attractive in floral arrangements.’

Source: University of Minnesota Extension

Images from:  Newtonairds Lodge Hostas and Garden (the national collection), Wikipedia and other sites as shown on picture titles.

Further information:

RHS- Growing Hostas

British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society

Slug resistant Hostas

How to lift and divide Hostas (video)

Hosta varieties and where to buy etc.

The National Hosta collection

Winsford Walled Garden, Devon- success with Hostas

Hosta shoots wrapped in prosciutto

Hostas and their flowers

 

Old School Gardener

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IMG_5170As I sit and look out of my window this cold January day, the snow has started to fall once more- looks like the heaviest fall will be later today. So the firewood has been stacked and fortunately the week’s shopping was done yesterday…

At this time of year you could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much of interest in the garden. We tend to focus on the other seasons when we think about (or impulse-buy) plants. The weather itself isn’t exactly encouraging us to visit the nursery or garden centre. And anyway, they seem to be rather  forlorn places at this time of year, especially the bigger ones that have ‘diversified’ into Christmas tat- the shelves are either emptying to make way for spring gardening stock or they’re full of half price Christmas cards and tinsel…

Well, we should perhaps think about how our garden looks in every part of the year, especially the important views into it from the house, road etc. In the winter, it’s these views that count, as it’ s less likely you’ll want to venture into the wet or cold garden itself.

The choices are significant – yes you can have:

  • beautiful flowers
  • powerful fragrance
  • colourful fruit
  • vibrant stems
  • interesting bark
  • strong  form
  • fascinating  foliage

Here are seven examples of the sorts of plants that can be a winter wonder in your garden.

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

1. Dogwoods (Cornus species)- vibrant stem colours make this a winner especially where you can group several plants together and maybe combine them for subtle effects (try C. alba ‘Sibirica’ (red) surrounded with C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’– amber- orangey red). Prune the stems back to the base of the plants in spring or leave one or two stems to grow taller and then pollard it for extra height (prune ‘Midwinter Fire’ less)- you will also get some lovely autumn leaf colour.

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

2. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis in many different varieties)- beautiful spidery-like flowers are magical in woodland edges. Grow as specimens or focal points under trees or in open ground – will grow about 2 metres high and wide over time.

Crab apple 'Red Sentinel'- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

Crab apple ‘Red Sentinel’- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

3. Crab apple (Malus species and cultivars – but not the ‘orchard’ apple Malus x domestica)- some of these smallish trees are suitable for smaller gardens with their columnar growth – e.g. M. tschnoskii (which can grow to 12 metres high but only 7 metres across). The main reason for growing them, in my view, is their fruit. Plum – sized apples which seem to be just the right size to not interest birds, so you’ll hopefully be left with a great show throughout winter. I particularly like M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ (can grow to 7 metres high and wide). And Crab apples give great spring flowers and autumn colour too.

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

4. Oregon Grape (Mahonia species and some cultivars)- this is a winner on several counts, but mainly through its winter flowers and foliage. It’s evergreen  leaves (some spiky) will burnish orangey-red if exposed to the sun. My favourite is the hybrid M. x media ‘Charity’ which is an erect evergreen shrub with sharply toothed leaves and dense yellow flowers that cascade from the stems. One ideally for part shade, so a woodland edge is perfect.

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

5. Viburnum x  bodnantense ‘Dawn’ there are many different Viburnums, and they make a wonderful addition to the garden for their flowers, fragrance and foliage at different times of the year. This one is a hybrid and is chiefly grown for its wonderful scented flowers which grace the medium-sized deciduous shrub through winter on bare stems.

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong  topiary shapes

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong topiary shapes

6. Box (Buxus sempervirens or if you want a slower growing, more compact form go for the variety ‘Suffruticosa’)- one of the great plants for shaping into strong forms that help to carry your garden’s structure through the winter months. Also, don’t forget that some perennials will add form and structure to your garden through their dead stems and shapes. For Box start growing small and gradually develop your desired form, or buy (at some expense) some of the ‘ready- to – rock’  topiary at nurseries and garden centres. There are some wonderful examples of historic topiary in Britain such as Levens Hall, Cumbria.

320px-Paperbark_Maple_Acer_griseum_Bark_3008px

Paper-bark Maple- bark peels into subtle tones

7. Paper bark Maple  (Acer griseum)- a fantastic, slow growing tree which can reach 10 metres high and broad. Like most Acers it gives great autumn leaf colour, but it’s main attraction is the peeling bark which looks especially magical with low winter sun shining through it.

Further information;

Guardian online

Winter containers

Winter vegetables

Quizzicals:

answers to the last two-

  • Our monarch continues to work hard – Busy Lizzie
  • Nasty spot causing urination problems – Bladderwort

A couple of gardening ditties:

‘Whose sorrel now?’

‘Don’t leaf me this way’

(thanks again to buddie Les for these)

Old School Gardener

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