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.

Dahlia BIshop Of Auckland Leaves

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.

Eupatorium Leaves

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.

Not Yet Yellow Veronicastrum
Veronicastrum Seed Heads

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.

Geranium And Foxglove Leaves

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.

Aquilegia Leaves

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.

New Crocosmia

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.

Unturned Acer Leaves

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.

42 thoughts on “Foliage Day October 2011

  1. I’m happy to wait a bit longer for the Autumn colours if it means my veg have more time to mature – like my Runners, which are still producing.

    1. I’d like Autumn to hold off up at the allotment so that I get more beans, but to come to my garden so that I can lift the dahlias!

  2. Hi Janet,

    Autumn has been a bit strange. Some things began to turn a while ago and then sort of stopped… Like my Acer, it’s been stuck at this almost turning point with tinges of red for a while. But I’m not complaining as I’d rather hold onto summer for a little longer!

    Re: lawn, I understand what you mean. This is one reason I am not getting rid of mine; knowing that most people like neatly clipped lawns and such. Actually I do like lawns too, I love sitting on the grass, feeling it under my feet and such. I’m not so much of a fan of mowing them though. And reality is, that if you’re likely to be appealing to families then you do need to take that into consideration.

    I’ve planted some bulbs and a Weigela for my mum today and in the process did a bit of weeding for them (otherwise my dad will end up weeding everything including plants) and I was moaning at her for the masses of lawn my dad sowed and their rubbish little wall that wouldn’t keep even a toddler out of their house.

    1. Hi Liz, I love the feeling of grass between my bare toes too, I just hate lawn care! Love the idea of you doing pre-emptive weeding to avoid your Dad being too “helpful”… I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the trees around here will lose all their leaves before they get a chance to turn colour. I’m shocked at how many of the birch leaves came down in the strong winds over night last night, one of them is suddenly looking very bare.

  3. Very beautiful indeed; I’m just loving all the purple leaves in other peoples gardens, I wish I could find a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ as I’m sure it would do well for me here and I remember being knocked out by the autumn colour when I saw it at RHS Wisely ages ago. Christina

    1. Hello Christina, hope you find a ‘Forest Pansy’. I’m guessing you might be able to find a nursery that would post one to you, but they are expensive anyway, and with the postage… I’m hoping to take ours with us, but it depends what time of year we end up moving.

  4. Hi Janet, even up north Autumn has been strange, so many leaves have just fallen off without giving any show of colour, and it is so mild here today. I found out a number of years ago that the Dahlia’s in the ground would thrive but those in pots were always lack lustre. I think its hard to get watering just right for pot grown ones. I always liked the foliage of Bishop of Llandaff. Isn’t house moving totally frustrating, I think we have finally given up on it.

    1. Hi Alistair, our silver birches lost a lot of still-green leaves last night, so I think the same might happen here, which is a shame. Re dahlias in pots, I think watering is tricky, but we have three that have been very happy, I think it is just that the Bishop wants to be a much larger plant and so just doesn’t have enough space – or water. Not surprised to hear you have given up on the house moving thing, you are so settled and with such a lovely garden.

  5. hello Janet, I like your purple leaved plants and the grass and crocosmia in your pond bed, look forward to seeing your acer next month, the thought of moving must be very constricting when gardening, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I am getting a little concerned that my acer might do the same as the birches seem to be doing, skip the leaf colour change and go straight to “drop leaves”. Ah well, each year is different. And yes, this moving business, and the uncertainty around it, makes gardening rather more challenging than I like!

  6. I’m not a huge fan of lawns and the like having been brought up with cutting, edging, scarifying rituals. And it means more space for plants! Our last garden was a hindrance to selling as people just saw too much work! This time I would suggest that the veg garden could be easily grassed over.
    I do like your combinations especially the contrasts between the verticals of the crocosmia and the lower spreading nepeta. And that fine purple acer is stunning…

    1. Hi Janet, I’ve already told FIL that if we wind up with a lawn in our next garden that will be his job. Fortunately he rather enjoys all that primping etc, and is also rather enthused by the idea of a meadow, particularly if he gets to indulge his passion for bulb planting! I’m with you though, less lawn means more plants. Unfortunately the solution isn’t to grass over the veg patch because that is at the allotment rather than in the back garden, which is very small. So glad you like the crocosmia + nepeta combination!

  7. It is nice without the lawn, but hard to do in a city of wall to wall lawns or if you are selling to a family with kids. You are lucky non-gardeners ask about it, it encourages them to consider. I agree that it is pretty low maintenance once the plants fill in. No weeding and less watering. You have some very nice combinations and I like your design approach of repetition and rhythm.

    1. Hi Donna, what a nice compliment, thank you. The tricky thing about the lawn is that so many people nowadays make up their minds based on pictures on the internet, not even bothering to check the house out for themselves! There are so many similar houses for sale, and so few buyers, I think we will have to bite the bullet and put a lawn in before we advertise. Fortunately there are a lot of other jobs to do first, so I will enjoy the Autumn, Winter and Spring and worry about it around March next year.

  8. We bought five dahlias from the Happy series and they have lovely dark leaves. Not much growth or flowering this year but it has been very dry.

    Looks like I’m going to manage to get my oak leaved hydrangea too.

    1. Hurray, so glad you are getting your hydrangea Sue. I am a sucker for dark leaved dahlias, and your experiences with growing small ones has inspired me, particularly given the problems I keep having with Sarah Raven sending me the wrong plants.

  9. I have exactly the same problem with my garden. We got rid of any grass (takes up vital plant space) but people seem to think it makes for a high maintenance garden. In reality you’d spend more time faffing around maintaining a lawn that I probably do looking after my borders. We aren’t looking to sell yet but I think we will in the next year or so and I’m sure I’ll be advised to put in some grass by estate agents. Loving the photos. It has been a strange year, what with the hot and beautiful Spring, dire summer and then lovely Autumn. I’m surprised at how many plants are still flowering in my garden.

    1. I am trying to look on the bright side, by dismantling it all ourselves we will get to take pond liner, pebbles, gravel with us, all of which would probably cost to much to justify in our newer much more frugal life-to-come. Shame though, isn’t it, given how lawns can enslave people and the way the consume electricity/petrol to look after, not to mention chemicals if you get addicted to the whole “perfect green sward” look. Though in fairness, around here, lawns tend to be scraggy and unkempt with large bare patches from football practice. Plants are so much better! Though perhaps not for kids…

  10. I’d never noticed the leaves of dahlias that much before, but you’re right, they are stunning. I hope that when you get ready to sell the house, another gardener would be interested who would tend the garden with as much love as you have, Janet. Looking forward to seeing your Acer later, but I think it’s already lovely!

    1. Hi Rose, it would be nice to think a gardener would take it over, but it seems unlikely. The acer is one of the plants I will miss most when we move, not something we will be able to take with us.

  11. Janet, it’s amazing how a big garden can be a turn off to some isn’t it? To me a huge lawn is as daunting. I know how many hours of mowing and trimming that requires. I remember when my parents sold, they waited 2 years for someone to purchase. My mom had a huge garden that was a deterrant for many. Eventually though someone came and bought the house because there was a garden! (complete with pond and waterfall) I wouldn’t take out your pond too quick. Someone is sure to love it.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I think the problem may be that actually it is a very small garden, only 10m by 10m, and a lot of that is patio, decking, border, before you even get to the central pond area! If we could afford to wait for the perfect gardening buyers we would, but when we do come to sell we will need to to it as quickly as is feasible, which means I literally cannot afford to be sentimental about the garden. It’s a lovely thought though…

  12. I really envy your ability to say so much about your subject, which is beautiful by the way, I seem to be a woman of few words, not very good for a blogger. I also don’t have many shrubs so I can’t even do a post about autumn foliage – oh dear.

    1. Oh Elaine, you are lovely, I always think I end up “talking” too much and writing posts that are way too long!! I really enjoy your blog, so don’t do yourself down. I am really missing Autumn this year.

  13. Ha! So that is what a healthy Oakleaf hydrangea is supposed to look like! Mine was planted early spring this year and is holding on but its foliage looks nothing like yours! I like the whirled leaves of the Veronicastrum too. Very cool.

    1. Hi Cat, I think it is miraculous that your hydrangea is still clinging on to life! If it helps at all, I’ve had mine for five years now, and it is only really just coming in to its own, it didn’t enjoy the conditions in its previous home and wasn’t a very good plant to start with.

  14. I always enjoy reading your blog Janet, insightful thoughts that are well written and by no means this post is an exception :)

    Ok, you’ve sold me Veronicastrum and I’ve added it to our ‘next year’ list. Admittedly I’ve always admired it, I just needed that extra ‘push’.

    Amazing how many people assume that just because a garden has many plants that it is automatically high maintenance. In fact it could be the other way around especially with more mature gardens. It’ll be interesting to see that changes you’ll make to accommodate the housing market. Shame to see the pond go, but hey ho, you have to please your potential buyers.

    1. What a lovely compliment, thank you so much! Glad to hear I have won the veronicastrum another fan, it should look amazing in your garden with all your other wonderful foliage plants. I agree about the high maintenance issue, though in fairness when we bought this house I would probably have been scared witless by this garden as it is now, because I didn’t know anything about plants! I had the luxury of learning as I went along, so I guess I can understand why others might find the sight daunting, even if it is a doddle to look after.

  15. I feel that too many people don’t appreciate foliage anywhere near enough, but I’m certainly not one of them so really enjoyed this post.
    I’m not a fan of lawns, especially the well manicured sort, so if I had a garden I probably wouldn’t have one or if I did it would be small and unkempt! xx

    1. Hi Flighty, if we wind up with a “lawn” at our next place I will be relying on FIL to look after it and will be embarking on a stealthy “reclaim the ground” campaign. I find myself eyeing up the grassy front gardens of some houses and thinking “I could grow veg there. Or plant a wonderful prairie-style border”. Never, how great to have grass out front…

  16. I think that your comment about autumn being a bit behind this year is spot on Janet. Although it got of to an early start it seems to be stuttering at the moment. I had that eupatorium too but after a battle of wills I dug it up last year and divided it, thinking that I would put one of the divisions back somewhere else – it is still in a pot in the cold frame waving at me whenever I walk past. I think it and its relatives could well be heading for the garden club plant sale next year :)

    1. Hi Anna, glad it’s not just me, I always feel mean when I realise I just don’t want a given plant in my garden any longer. I will have to look out for a good cause to pass the plants on to. Or maybe flog them to make money to buy replacements with!!

  17. Autumn is rather out of sorts this year, isn’t it. There are blazes of colour in places, and sedate green still lingering in others, most peculiar. You do have some lovely foliage, I like the repetition of the crocosmia leaves; fingers crossed my small Lucifer bulks up a bit next year; an offshoot from my mum’s, it was hastily planted when already flowering and its long leaves flopped rather. The next month should see a lot of changes in the garden!
    Sad to dig up your planting to replace with grass, but I suspect you will need to do this, unless a lucky plant-lover happens upon your place! I do like a bit of lawn, though I have plans already to eat into ours with ever-extending beds (shhh, don’t tell my husband!) that I’m sure will become more compelling once the first borders are too full to poke any more plants in!

    1. Hi Sara, I can certainly see your lawned areas shrinking over the coming years to accommodate more plants! I’m sure your Lucifer will be OK, they are terrifically robust plants, it is really quite shocking how huge mine has become in just one year. I think our allotment plot might gain a few perennials next Spring, so long as no one thinks I am trying to set up a nursery.

  18. HI Janet – I see what you mean, your autumn is much later than our autumn here in west Wales… but – shhhh – I think your acer is pretty damn gorgeous right now. I look forward to seeing it in its glory, but it’s beautifully understated at the moment…

    These foliage posts are great!

    1. Hi Kate, I am loving all the foliage posts too. And I completely agree about the acer, it is one of my all-time favourite plants, I will be sad to leave it behind.

    1. Thank you – autumn light is certainly the photographer’s friend.

  19. As you know we are a bit neglected for autumn here, gorgeous colous and forms here.

    I hear what you say about a lawn. Maybe if you do put one in, it will help you slowly separate from this garden, gently making it less like you’d have it and then you might find the transition a bit easier on you, preparing your favourites for their move and adding elements like a wee lawn that you’d not want yourself.

    Beautiful photos, as always

    1. Hi Fay, what a lovely way to look at it, thank you, I think that could work well!

  20. Love your foliage pictures. I have so much and have somehow just turned inside and turned my back. I think you are right to feel that the reinstatement of a lawn might help those potential buyers who feel intimadated. They are wrong to feel it is hard to have plants instead but you can’t explain this, people can only live it!

  21. Hi Elizabeth, like you I rather enjoy the seasonal permission to turn my attentions indoors. I agree about people needing to live the reality of plants being easier to care for than lawns – depending on the plants! I am going to have fun over the winter planning how to redistribute my plants around the garden as I clear. What I am not going to enjoy is removing the pond, but I need to do it before the frogs get frisky in the New Year. At least I will have a pond making kit for the new place!

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