Accent Plants: Herbaceous Perennials
5. ACCENT PLANTS – HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS
Polygonatum multiflorum (hybridum) (Solomon’s Seal) A quiet accent plant for shade with gracefully arching stems set with rounded leaves and hung all along with white, green tipped bells in May. 2-3ft (60-90 cm).
Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern) This is a tall dramatic fern that can reach 6 ft (1.8m) in moist soil in sun or half-shade. ‘The young unfolding fronds are brownish and the autumn colour yellow. A magnificentwell worth seeking out.
(Crown imperial) This is a large bulb formed of a lot of small overlapping scales and has a foxy smell. The accent it creates is due to its reaching 4 ft (1.2 m) by the time it flowers in mid-spring. There are large drooping cups of yellow, orange or dullish red arrayed at the top of the stem around a tuft of leaves. In all but very well drained soils they need planting on their sides as soon as possible after they have died down in summer. Heavy soils need lightening with compost and 2 or 3 in (6-7.5 cm) of grit under the bulb. They prefer full sun when growing (mine only get late afternoon sun and have survived).
Rheum palmatum ‘Atrosanguineum’ (ornamental) This species has even bigger leaves than ordinary rhubarb and the lobes are sharply pointed. ‘The young leaves are deep red and this colour stays on the undersides of the leaves into summer. The leaves can reach 3-4ft (90cm- 1.2m) across and from the centre of the clump 6 ft (1.8 m) plumes of tiny reddish flowers rise in summer. These can be cut off if they interfere with your scheme. Grow in sun or light shade.
Acanthus spinosus (Bears’ breeches) The acanthus is the plant woven into the leaf pattern on classical Corinthian columns. The long dark green leaves are very divided and each division ends in a sharp point. They make a dense cover about 3ft (90 cm) high and the flower spikes rise two feet (60 cm) or so above them. Each flower is protected by a spiny hood. Needs full sun.
dalmatica One of the wild bearded , this one has broad leaf blades that are grey all through the summer and need to be in full sun. The pale blue flowers are scented and reach about 3ft (90cm) in May and June. In ‘Variegata’ the leaves are broadly striped white or pale yellow in beautiful soft colouring against the grey leaf. In fact there are two different forms that don’t seem to have separate names.
sibirica The Siberian is an easy-to-grow leafy tuft of straight sword-shaped leaves up to 2 ft (60 cm) high. The flowers are in shades of blue, white or red and come in May and June and named varieties should be chosen by colour. They thrive best in a moist soil in sun or light shade.
Miscanthus sinensis This grass is a stately 6ft (1.8 m) clump of leafy stems. ‘Silver Feather’ is a plain green form that flowers in autumn. ‘Zebrinus’ is the zebra grass that has regular yellow bands across the leaf. ‘Gracillimus’ has very narrow, long leaves, very elegant. All reach 4-6ft (1.2-1.8m) and the pale brown dead stems can be lift in winter or cut down in autumn.