I’m a little late with my post for Christina’s foliage day meme, but not as late as Autumn is proving to be! Looking back at photographs from previous years, things seem to be running around two weeks behind. The only real Autumn colour is currently coming from the Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, the purple vine and the miscanthus. Since I blogged about them in last month’s foliage post, I thought I would look elsewhere this month.
I’ve been realising the degree to which I choose perennials for the garden as much for their leaves (and stems) as for their flowers. Dahlias are a case in point. ‘Bishop of Auckland’ hasn’t performed very well for me this year, I don’t think it has enjoyed being in a pot, albeit a large one, so we’ve not had as many of the wonderful scarlet flowers with their bright yellow stamens as I would have expected. The leaves make up for it though.
I love both the shape and the colour, although like so many purple leaved plants, they begin to turn greener as they age. I love the contrast between the purple leaves and the scarlet flowers, and it means that even when the plant isn’t in flower (for what ever reason!) it still adds lots of interest.
I chose Eupatorium ‘Chocloate’ for the same reason, and in fact I don’t really like the fluffy white flowers. I have three of these plants in different parts of the garden. Even as the leaves start to grow green the stems and undersides of the leaves remain deep purple, which I love. However, it’s not a plant I will bother with in my next garden, I’ve just grown gradually more and more disenchanted with it. Usually by the time it flowers the leaves have gone a buttery yellow colour, which is lovely but I don’t like the yellow with the white. My other problem with it is that it comes into growth comparatively late in the Spring, and since it is quite a large plant it means there is a large bare patch for longer than I am willing to put up with. Ah well, we live and learn, it’s what gardening is all about for me. Like cooking, if you love it you never really stop experimenting, learning, changing your tastes.
Veronicastrum, by contrast, is a plant I definitely want in my next garden. I love the way the whorls of leaves climb the stems. It is a wonderfully statuesque plant, contrasts really well with my oak leaved hydrangea, and has beautiful Autumn colour. Usually by now, in fact… Oh, and it has lovely flowers and then seedheads too.
The magnolia border is actually full of lovely foliage contrasts at the moment, including this unplanned one between a rather ordinary pink geranium which has, nontheless, lovely leaves, and the self sown foxgloves. I’m not entirely convinced I should be leaving the foxgloves where they are to flower next year, but the foliage looks so good I can’t bring myself to move them. Who knows, it might work really well. The plant to the right with leaves just starting to turn yellow is a deep purple astrantia, ‘Hadspen’s Blood’, which I removed from the pond bed and put in a pot in case I want it in my next garden. I’ve been disappointed with the quantity of flowers (not many), but am hoping that if I found it a more congenial home it might perform better.
One benefit of the mild Autumn has been that the aquilegias are putting on lots of growth. These are the leaves of the lovely yellow aquilegias I bought at the Malvern Spring Show this year, so I hope this means I am in for a good long season from them next year. In the mean time their leaves look rather fine alongside the Stipa tenuissima.
Not all the perennials I love have good leaves. I am a big fan of nepetas, as are the pollinators they attract to the garden, but they do tend to have a rather untidy, sprawling habit. In an effort to add a little more structure to that area of the pond bed, I have added in some crocosmias to echo the ‘Lucifer’ that towers over the back of the bed. I went with ‘George Davison’ because in theory there is already a plant behind where I added the new ones, plus it is a shorter variety with yellow flowers that should go nicely with the deep blue of the nepeta.
I like echoing shapes in the garden, I think it helps add rhythm and cohesion, and although I do really like the crocosmia flowers, they were of secondary importance in this particular case. I’d like to add a third clump of crocosmia over on the other side of the bed to act as a backdrop to the achilleas, but as ever the phantom move raises its head.
We’ve been talking to non gardeners about the garden, about how there is no lawn, and a LOT of plants. I happen to know that it is actually a pretty low maintenance garden, but to most (non gardening) people it looks a little overwhelming, “I wouldn’t know what to do with it” being one comment. Since we will be trying to sell in a flat market, and in all likelihood to a family with young children (the schools in the area are a big draw), we would probably be well advised to get rid of the pond (aka child trap) and the central planting and replace it with grass. I could currently accommodate most of the plants in what I have been using as the dahlia bed, but not if I buy more. I have decided not to do anything else planting-wise until Spring, when hopefully we will have a better idea of what timescale we are trying to work to and will have taken more advice. In the mean time I will enjoy the plants we already have, and hope that by next month’s Foliage Day the lovely purple acer will be wearing deep red.
My thanks to Christina for hosting Foliage Day, do check out her post and the comments on it to see more blog posts about leaves of all shapes and sizes.