Foliage Plants for the House and Garden
There are somethat are not flowering plants, in the generally accepted sense. Their appeal lies in the colour and/or shape of their leaves. Mostly they have insignificant flowers, which for the sake of the appearance of the plant should be nipped off as soon as they form. Obviously they are retained and allowed to set seed if a fresh stock is required.
This is one of the most spectacular foliage plants known. One strain, Amaranthus tricolor splendens (Joseph’s coat), is aptly named, for its green leaves, arranged star fashion, turn to a mixture of crimson and yellow. As it grows to about 1m (3ft) or more you can imagine the spectacular effect it has in a border. Another version, Amaranthus caudatus, is the famous love-lies-bleeding, producing long tassels of green, crimson, or white — a great favourite with flower arrangers.
Beetroot may sound unexciting as a potential decoration, until you think of its dark purple-veined leaves. Ask for seed of Beta vulgaris and you will be rewarded with a display of green, yellow and red foliage.
Borecole (ha) Cabbage
You can get an extremely ornamental cabbage, with fringed foliage in pink, crimson or purple, and one described as white. Other ornamentalhave a pink centre and red or white outer leaves. It almost seems a shame to cook them, and in fact they are very useful in flower arrangements.
Perhaps the most widely known foliage plant, this is aperennial but is often used as a bedding plant outdoors. It throws up spikes with a little blue flower, looking slightly ridiculous yet quite pretty.
Milkweed, spurge, bottlebrush are names applied to various euphorbias. Rather fleshy leaves in differing shades of pale and dark green, veined paler green or white; an excellent mixture of green and yellow foliage in one fairly large plant. At most it will reach only about 120cm (4ft). The name ‘milkweed’ is somewhat euphemistic. It refers to a whitish milky juice in the stem that can cause irritation, so be careful how you handle the plants.
Molucella (hha) Bells of Ireland
A free-growing foliage plant, up to 1m (3ft), with rather strangely formed spherical-shaped leaves that vary from green to cream. It is good for cutting, makes an attractive foil to more colourful flowers in an arrangement, and dries well for use as decoration through the winter.
A lesser-known annual grown expressly for the beauty of its foliage, Perilla frutescens is not unlike the coleus: green with pink variations when young, turning to purple-bronze. Perilla grows to about 60cm (2ft) and is well worth using in the border as a dot plant. Some catalogues and nurseries ignore it, but it will repay any trouble caused in searching for it.
Ricinus (hha) Castor-oil plant
Dark green stems topped by bronze or purple leaves make this a most handsome foliage plant growing from 60 to 120cm (2 to 4ft). It is adaptable for indoor or outdoor work and can be sown outside in May. It can also be used as a pot plant. Soak the seeds for some hours before using, to help germination. There are tiny flowers, but the attraction is in the foliage. Don’t let children eat the seeds: they are poisonous.
Statice (hha) Sea pink
This doubles as a good border plant in a sunny position but is even more useful as a dried flower. It bears small lavender-like blooms in yellow, pink, mauve and blue.
Zea rugosa (hha)
Evenhas its colour variations. There is a special ornamental variety that produces cobs ranging from yellow to purple. It is edible and the flavour is said to be as good as the agricultural variety.