I was delighted when Christina announced that she was going to start up a foliage meme. I know that Pam@Diggin hosts a Foliage Follow-up meme the day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, but I can’t really cope with two posts on consecutive days, and somehow I never quite get around to doing the post that has been in my head for months now about my love of all things leafy in the garden. I hope the meme takes off, and promise that future posts will be shorter, but I have a lot of pent up leaf love to express – you have been warned!
Foliage is actually my first love when it comes to gardening. When we first moved here over fifteen years ago and I was searching for inspiration for what to do with my first ever garden, I read an article in ‘Gardener’s World’ magazine that has shaped my gardening ever since. It was all about the value of foliage, on combining shapes and textures to give all year interest. It was illustrated with lots of black and white photographs showing the power of contrasting leaf shapes and plant forms in creating a great garden. Written by someone from Architectural Plants – Christine Shaw maybe? – it set me off buying the bamboos, shrubs and trees that still form the backbone of my garden today.
Two of the very first plants I ever bought, a Fatsia japonica (False Castor Oil Plant) and a Phyllostachys nigra (the classic black stemmed bamboo), still form one of my favourite contrasts in the garden.
My north-facing back border is full of evergreen shrubs with interesting leaves that bounce the light around, like this Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ and the wonderful Aucuba japonica crassifolia (courtesy of the aforementioned Architectural Plants).
It’s not all big shrubs either – this back border is also enlivened by the shiny rosettes of Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae and large clumps of hellebore leaves.
The back left corner of the garden, where the compost bins live – and which I never really show – has a carpet of geranium macrorrhizum, the huge-leaved Hedera canariensis (Architectural Plants again), and ferns.
The heart-shaped purple leaves are from the wonderful Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, a plant I fell in love with at a garden festival held at Westonbirt Arboretum some years ago. Christina chose a great month to start her meme, the leaves are already starting to turn, and soon will be all shades of red through orange to buttery yellow.
I confess I have something of an obsession with purple leaved plants. Another anchor plant in the garden is the purple vine, Vitis vinifera purpurea, that sprawls all over the pergola. It was difficult to photograph this morning, I kept finding myself trying to shoot into the sun, but the rich purple leaves break up the space and form a great backdrop to the leaves of the magnolia tree.
I was going to try to avoid the plants I show a lot anyway, but frankly both the veronicastrum and the oakleaf hydrangea are too wonderful to ignore – and hopefully both will become more and more dramatic as Autumn arrives in full force.
I think that contrasting leaf forms, whether enhanced by flowers at times or not, can be the making of a garden. I wouldn’t personally want an entirely evergreen garden, I love the seasonal transitions too much, but certainly a backbone of such plants anchors the garden through the year, allowing the other, more ephemeral delights to shine even more.
I got sopping wet pyjamas taking these photographs this morning, but there were compensations. I will leave you with the bejewelled crocosmia leaf that made me forget my cold wet knees, and the encouragement to check out Christina’s Garden Bloggers Foliage Day post. Better yet, join in, with a post of your own!