Shrubs Grown for their Foliage

Shrubs with Special Qualities

As has been mentioned, many shrubs are grown for other qualities as well as flowers. The most important of such qualities are foliage, climbing habit and attractive fruits; and they are so grouped in this section.


Shrubs with Good Foliage

One of the most exciting aspects of modern gardening is the increasing realisation that it is possible to ‘paint’ just as attractive pictures using plants whose leaves are their main attraction as it is using plants whose flowers are their most outstanding beauty. The architectural value of leaves can be one of their best qualities and this is used to striking effect by some gardeners, who combine shrubs, herbaceous plants, grasses, conifers and trees.

The colours of leaves are astonishingly varied. The greens alone contain an extremely subtle range of shades, very nearly impossible to reproduce in a painting, but besides these, leaf colours may be purple, red, yellow, blue, white, silver, grey and orange — in fact nearly every colour imaginable, exactly as they occur in flowers. True, colours tend to be simple, ie. red, orange or blue, with little variation in tone, whereas in flowers the range in each colour is as great as the range of greens in leaves, but nevertheless the colours are there, and only need looking for; they are certainly not restricted to green as one usually imagines.



The variation in the colour of the foliage of conifers has to be seen to be believed. Thuya orientalis has golden tips to its fan-shaped sprays of ‘leaves’ giving it an all-over sunny effect; Taxus baeeata fastigiata aurea, the upright-growing variety of the golden yew, gives a much more golden effect rather than a yellow-green appearance. One or two conifers in the garden can add immeasurably to the setting for the flowering plants and are most attractive in the bleak winter months.



The Hazel Nut family has a member with striking dark purple leaves — this is Corylus maxima atropurpurea. It reaches a height of 12-15 ft. and makes a handsome specimen. It is deciduous.



A shrub with the tongue-twisting name of Cotinus coggygria foliis purpureis has deciduous purple leaves, becoming reddish towards autumn; they make a good foil for silvery-leaved herbaceous plants, or other shrubs. C. e. atropurpureus, also deciduous, is another shrub known as the smoke bush because of its feathery inflorescences — pinkish in colour — which, from a distance, resemble clouds of smoke all over the bush. The leaves turn brilliant yellow in the autumn.



These are handsome evergreen shrubs, with oval pointed-tipped leaves. They make good barriers against the wind. Elaeognus pungens variegata has narrow, light yellow leaf margins, and E. p. maculata has yellow spots and patches on the leaves. E. pungens dieksonii has deep golden variegation and is rather slow growing. E. maerophylla has leaves which are silvered on both sides, the upper side turning bright green as the summer goes on. It has also yellow, rather insignificant flowers in November, which make up for their smallness by their fragrance. Height of all these is about 6 ft. The deciduous-leaved species are not so useful since, besides losing their leaves in winter, the flowers are very small and rather pale, although scented.



Elaeagnus - shrubs grown for their foliage The common name for Euonymus europaeus is the spindle tree, and its orange and rose-pink fruits are well known. However, there are some evergreen species which have most attractive foliage and help to improve the look of the garden in winter, as well as giving it a framework in the summer for the brighter and more varied colours of herbaceous plants. E. fortunei Silver Queen is one of these, a shrub to be used either as ground cover or for growing on walls. The leaves are variegated with white and are most effective in dark places. E. japonicus aureopi etus has dark green shiny leaves with a central golden yellow blotch and makes a good hedge or an attractive individual specimen. E. j. maerophyllus albus has a leaf with a wide margin, very conspicuous, and E. j. ovatus aureus has leaves with large patches of yellow and a generally yellow tone. No pruning is needed except to keep the shape, or to remove the occasional reverted, plain green-leaved shoot.



For autumn colouring, on the right soils Fothergilla major would be hard to beat as a choice of shrub with its orange, brown and yellow leaves. This is a shrub for soils with an acid reaction, preferably containing sand and plenty of peat or leafmould.

Height is about 8 ft.; it has the additional merit of rather fluffy yellow and pinkish-white ‘flowers’ in spring. The flowers are in fact the stamens, the petals being so reduced as to be insignificant. Prune after flowering.



shrubs grown for their foliage - salvia officinalis The common or garden ivy, Hedera helix, is in itself attractive with its evergreen three-lobed leaves, but there are now some even more interesting ones to be grown. For instance H. colchica dentata variegata makes a striking covering for a wall or fence or for scrambling over dead trees, pillars and other supports. It can even be allowed to trail along the ground. Its pale yellow variegation on the leaves stands out well in shaded situations or makes a most attractive addition to the colour of a mixed border. H. helix purpurea is exactly like the common ivy, but in winter the leaves turn a deep purple. H. h. marginata has leaves with creamy-white margins; these turn pink in winter. Cut back only to keep under control.



A low-growing shrub, Salvia officinalis purpurascens has the typical greyish-green leaves of sage, but they are blotched and marked with creamy-white and purple, and have an all-over purplish tinge. This sage is definitely for those who like something different. Height is 2-1/2 – 3 ft., and it needs dividing and replanting every few years to prevent it becoming thin and straggly. A sunny position suits it best, with protection in cold areas.



These are low-growing shrubs generally from New Zealand, mostly with attractive silvery foliage, particularly in the variety Senecio cineraria White Diamond. This has almost white leaves, deeply cut and serrated at the margins, providing a perfect contrast to bedding plants or any brilliantly-coloured herbaceous plants. S. laxifolius has greyish-green leaves, not cut and serrated, but oval-shaped with entire margins. It has yellow daisy-like flowers in June—July on a bush to about 3 ft. high. Neither of these is deciduous and both do best in sun and rather dry soil; White Diamond in particular should be protected from winter damp and cold. Prune S. laxifolius in spring.



For really brilliant colouring of the leaves in autumn, Vitis coignetiae is hard to beat. This member of the ornamental vine family has large, deeply-veined and indented, lobed leaves, as much as 9 or 10 in. across and is invaluable for covering walls or fences. Parthenoeissus henryana is another delightful vine, with silver and pink variegation on the leaves. It is self-clinging and is best coloured if grown in light shade. The leaves become red all over in the autumn and fall later. All will grow in any reasonable soil and in shade or sun although they prefer the latter.

04. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Foliage Plants, Plants | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Shrubs Grown for their Foliage


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