Interesting Foliage Plants
A garden can be made more interesting not only by having features such as statues or fountains, but by the deliberate use of different shaped and coloured foliage. It is easy to make the mistake of planting six similar darkleafed shrubs together. No matter how beautiful they are individually, they will appear unimaginative and ‘samey’ and make it hard to distinguish one plant from the other.
I have been guilty of putting too many similar leafed grey plants together such as Ballota, Senecio ‘Sunshine’, Phlomis fruticosa, sage and Stachys lanata (Lambs’ Ears) when choosing plants for a silver and white theme in. But whatever the theme the plants must be of different heights, with as much variety in the leaf and habit as possible.
It is not necessary to have a large number of dramatic and unusual plants in any one bed. But one or two such plants certainly do draw the eye and make an otherwise unexciting area visually vibrant and interesting.
Interesting Foliage Plants
Fatsia japonica has huge fan-shaped shiny dark evergreen leaves, is a hold and dramatic plant to dominate the hack of the bed. Large heads of tiny pale green flowers light it up in the autumn. It is a most undemanding, trouble-free plant which is better in shade and can survive under a tree.
Phormium Tenax purpureum is a spiky plant like a hugeand is splendid punctuation in any border of a town garden. There are many new varieties with colourfully striped leaves. Yucca gloriosa will have the same striking effect.
Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Atropurpureum’ has feathery copper red leaves; Senkaki is taller and not so rounded, with pale green leaves and coral twigs.
Medium height plants such as royal ferns, clumps of hellebores or the tall upright and thin leaf of the iris make a good contrast against softer plants for the middle of the bed.
Bamboos are most striking plants and can be used to great effect, but many bamboos are extremely robust so it is best to choose Arundinaria viridistriata which has a good gold and green striped leaf and needs full sun or the leaves will go shades of pale green. It grows to 3ft (90cm) and is an exciting plant if you have the space.
The broad mid-green or grey leafed hostas and bergenia are excellent for use at the front of the bed as they break up hard lines when spilling over on to the terrace orand the grey leaves of Senecio or Stachys lanata add another colour and texture.
Other excellent possibilities are:
Rheum palmatum Atropurpureum (ornamental), Acanthus (bears’ breeches), Polygonatum multiflorum (Solomon’s seal), Fritillaries (Crown Imperial), Rhus typhina (sumach), wulfenii, , Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silver Feather’ or ‘Zebrinus’, , Mahonia, Paeonia lutea Ludlowii (tree peony), Prunus laurocerasus Zabeliana (spreading laurel), Magnolia grandiflora