Color with foliage, not flowers

Color with foliage, not flowers

Years ago I started buying plants for the yard, and if I saw it and it was pretty, I bought it. The result was areas full of bits and pieces and mostly flowering little plants that were pretty labor intensive. Then I went to a gardening lecture at our Beaumont Botanical Center where the speaker spoke about a plan for the yard. Crazy talk. He suggested a list of attributes that you would want in any plant in your yard. He also talked about the possibility of using no flowers at all in your landscape!

Most landscape architects and long-time gardeners urge us to have the discipline to stick to a list and use it as a guide whenever you are buying new things for your yard. Little potted flowers are cute but are often short-lived while the green elements and the landscape can last longer and give it form all year long. Rather than a flower that lasts for three to six weeks, you can have foliage that lasts for months.

Some of the most interesting gardens we visit the world over have appeal because of the form and foliage, not the flowers. Maybe we can look at the flowers in our yard as the “icing on the cake,” as suggested in The Plant Hunter blog. Just start to really look at the variety of color in just foliage of plants today. You can find yellows, chartreuse, whites, oranges, reds and dark maroon.

Perennials look great when they are in bloom, but after they are finished blooming they don’t offer much. Perennials with interesting foliage are hosta, artemesia and heuchera among others. Can’t you just see an area of your yard with foliage plants that are tall and flowing while another area is full of plants that have texture? Some foliage plants have shiny leaves while others are fuzzy. Others just glow in the sun. Some foliage plants have lacey leaves.

Plants with blackish or purple foliage can add drama to your yard, too. Look for the darkest of purples, browns and dark black to green options. Dark foliage shows up best in full sun and tends to disappear in the shade, so find them a sunny location. Variegated plants look striking beside dark plants or in all green areas. They give it life and beauty without a flower one. Dark foliage gives a level of “sophistication” to an area with flowers.

Other wonderful foliage options are Amaranthus, Basil cultivars, Ajuga, Sedum, ornamental pepper like “black leaf,” elephant ear, Persian shield, coleus or sweet potato vines. After you have gotten a color boost from foliage plants in your yard, then you can add in a few wonderfully colorful Japanese maples to extend the dreamy colors up into the sky.