Your garden doesn’t have to be a flamboyant display of bright colourful flowers to be a “garden”. Some of the most interesting garden in the world relies on foliage to give it colour and interest.
Green is not the only colour of leaves either; the plant world is full of varieties of colour, texture and form that can carry a fun whimsical space, a minimalist or the most formal and elegant of gardens.
Some plants have leaves of a single colour; others are variegated with stripes, spots, splashes or infusion – like or colours that are electrifying and flamboyant.
Leaves texture may be soft, hairy, puckered, leathery, while forms could be round, heart – shaped, lobed, straight and spiky, strappy or feathery, big, medium or tiny.
A great foliage border gives a garden a rich layered look that doesn’t depend on flowers for dramatic effect.
The key to success: pick the right blend of shrubs and small trees whose leaves and branches create contrasts in colour, texture, shape and size.
To make each plant stand out, set the big – leafed plants beside fine leafed ones, and light up a mostly green palette with variegated plants that provide hints of gold, bronze, and purple.
How and why would we garden with just foliage, not flowers?
Foliage plants are the hardworking chorus line of a well – designed garden; they serve as a key part in creating a multi – dimensional landscape with lots of interest.
Foliage garden require less maintenance, since they don’t require the deadheading that flowering plants do.
Green is one of the most visually calming colours, so planting a garden with foliage tends to make a space worth relaxing or meditating in.
Without the distraction of flowers, a visitor in the garden will tend to look closer, appreciating interesting discoveries such as, the texture of a leaf, and the variations in colour and form; in short, a foliage garden can be a plant lover’s dream.
An ‘all foliage’ garden will look pretty all year, while plants with ‘flash-in-the-pan flowers’ are displayed just for a short time. Flowering plants use so much energy that they grow quiet a good part of the year when not blooming.
Designing a Foliage Landscape
First of all, the same rules of design apply to foliage plants.
Plant in groups of 3 or more, and contrast texture, form and colours. This is easier to do in a foliage garden because you don’t have to think about the changing colours of flowers in the garden at different times of the year. To think about when planting the original design, what you see is generally what you get all year long with minor exceptions.
Plant sun plants in sun; shade plants in shade.
Plant water loving plants together so they can get the extra attention they need from the hose and drought tolerant plants farther out where they might not get watered as frequently.
Learn what coloured foliage looks best with.
There are all kinds of guidelines out there, in other words, you can get almost any look you imagine. This is the place to experiment and learn about basic design by trying different combos.
Some places to start?
Gold/green varieties tend to contrast with gray or purple leaved plants. Variegated or patterned leaves look best next to a solid green for contrast without looking too busy. Brightly coloured foliage such as red looks best as focal or accent plants with simple leaves nearby to set them off.
Don’t forget about form and texture, which is very important when using just leaves for your garden interest. Large, bold leaved hostas look amazing next to the feathery like leaves of maidenhair fern. A tall ornamental grass may be a great “exclamation point” to break up a bed of low growing sedums. Use contrasting colours to create bold accents.
A good choice for creating a contrasting and exciting colour scheme in the garden is to use plants with black foliage. The visual contrast in the black and gold garden will make your landscape pop and sizzle!
Another idea for creating contrast in the garden includes using variegated foliage.
Some variegated shrubs and perennials have brightly contrasting colours in themselves and the white accents add foliage colour all year long. For example, the variegated foliage of the Tri-colour Sedum (Sedum Spurium ‘Tricolour’) is an excellent perennial for adding colourful accent to the garden. Other bright colours that create exciting contrast include, chartreuse or silver to accent maroon or dark green foliage.
Create exciting contrast include, chartreuse or silver to accent maroon or dark green foliage.
When it comes to splashy colours, modern art has nothing to compare with the crotons. Crotons are easily grown garden or house plants which give multicoloured foliage that comes in different leaf-colour: yellow, orange, green, red, copper, purple which are used for colouring the garden.
Colour combinations are very personal creations. Different colours have different personalities. Warm colours – related to red, oranges, and yellow – are bold and strong. They are stimulating and appear closer to the viewer. Cool colours – related to violet, blue or green – are more calming and tranquil and also appear to recede from the viewer. Mixing warm amd cool tones will add interest and depth to the planting.
Thrillers: Use dramatic eye-catching centrepiece, accent or focal plants. Thrillers are big, bold, and beautiful. These architectural plants are usually tall, and upright with outstanding traits as colourful foliage or intriguing shape or form. Examples are Banana, Colocasia. Alocasian palms, Yucca, Phormium, Fountain grass and Bamboo.
Now you get the idea contrast. Try foliate plants for gardens, or try a small foliage garden in a corner with just three.
Tip: Some foliage plants do produce flowers, which you can leave or clip. Removing flower stalks when they are still small produces minimal garden waste and keeps leaves lusher, since all the plants energy goes into them. This also prevents plants from forming seeds, so you don’t need to worry about unwelcome offspring.
Now you get the idea contrast. Try foliage plants for gardens, or try a small foliage garden in a corner with just three.
Focusing on foliage can reduce time and trouble and your garden works well.
Tip: Some foliage plants do produce flowers which you can leave or clip. Removing flower stalks when they are still small produces minimal garden waste and keeps leaves lusher, since all the plants energy goes into them. This also prevents plants from forming seeds, so you don’t need to worry about unwelcome offspring.