Leave It to the Foliage

Rosa ‘John F. Kennedy’

A tempered enthusiasm for the weather has started to grow within me this weekend. I’m not getting too far ahead of myself, but I’m not so jaded by this summer that I can’t sit back and enjoy the cold front that has stalled over the central part of the country. It’s refreshing to spend the morning out in the gazebo without feeling the heat of the day slowly building toward claustrophobic proportions.

This morning’s wispy overcast brings out the garden’s more saturated side, allowing vibrant, less exposed colors to emerge. In response to the cooler weather, many plants in the sunnier areas of the garden have put on a new flush of blooms. The ‘John F. Kennedy’ rose I planted this spring is finally starting to display the blooms that were among my grandmother’s favorites. Milkweed planted along the driveway has taken on new bloom vigor, even as its first flowers are releasing seed on wind-blown silks. Butterfly bush shines alongside Rudbeckia in one of the remaining sunny spots of the back border, providing nectar for an unfortunately reduced crop of butterflies.

Asclepias ‘Silky Deep Red’

Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’

But flowers are becoming less of a factor in my garden. As the trees have grown, there are few spots that remain full sun. I struggle to find places where sun-loving, flowering annuals and perennials truly thrive. It’s taken me a few years to admit that most of my landscape is part-sun at best, rapidly increasing to part- to full-shade. This is the first year where I’ve truly faced — and embraced — this reality.

A look around shows that foliage has become my primary design element. The large, bold leaves of tropicals, the shocking colors of coleus, the variegated arches of ornamental grasses, and the textured mats of groundcovers all contribute to the overall design. The colors, shapes and textures of all these foliage plants often makes me forget that large swaths of my garden don’t have a single flower in bloom.

Colocasia esculenta

Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’

Begonia ‘Black Fancy’

Pelargonium ‘Mrs. Pollock’

Alternanthera ‘Red Thread’

Solenostemon ‘Festive Dance’

Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’

Solenostemon Wizard® ‘Coral Sunrise’

Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’

Strobilanthes dyerianus

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’

Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’

Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’

Solenostemon ‘Strawberry Drop’

Caladium ‘Pink Symphony’

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanilla Strawberry’

Dieffenbachia

Euphorbia

I may always have a soft spot for flowers, but when it comes to late summer interest in my garden, I leave it to the foliage.

3 thoughts on “Leave It to the Foliage”

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