I only remembered that it was Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day when I read Christina’s latest post, so I am slightly late to the party, but it is actually a really good way to introduce you to some of the plants I have been lucky enough to inherit in the back garden.


I’ve never had viburnam before, but there is a large one growing in the bed that runs down the side of the garage, leading to the back garden. I really like the texture and shape of the leaves – and the bonus of the fragrance. This is a large plant, that has obviously been pruned hard back before and responded well. It is in the wrong place, so I am very much hoping I can move it successfully.


I know that ophiophogon tends to divide opinion – personally, I really like it, and having discovered lots being choked by ivy, I plan to gather it into a dramatic clump somewhere.

purple beech

Moving in to the back garden proper, there is a lovely purple beech. It has been hard pruned to keep it within bounds, but seems to have kept a good shape, so perhaps I can leave it in situ. Mind you, it is being somewhat overwhelmed by what I think is Olearia macrodonta. Wonderful leaves, and was clearly smothered in flowers earlier in the summer.

olearia macrodonta

Moving on round, we have what I have christened “acanthus corner”. It’s not actually a corner at all, but I never did claim to be particularly logical! It is my favourite area of the back garden at the moment, providing lots of good evergreen screening – and shelter – with a great mix of colour and texture. The Pittosporum ‘Silver Queen’ is a little crowded out, but some pruning of the surrounding shrubs will sort that out.

acanthus corner
acanthus mollis

I love the architectural quality of Acanthus mollis, which is just as well, given how hard it is to dig up!

mystery shrub

I have no idea what this shrub is, and I have two of them, so any help welcome, but I really like the gently wavy edges to the leaves. Update: Miriam kindly identified this for me as Griselinia littoralis.

portugese laurel

A lot of the plants in the back garden have interesting leaf shape and/or coloured stems. This is a case in point – I think it is a Portuguese Laurel, Prunus lusitanica. But apparently I am wrong – again, thanks to Miriam, I now know this is Drimys lanceolata.

acer palmatum dissectum

And I have an acer! Not only that, it is exactly the same acer, acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Atroprpureum’. Not only that, but this garden has the same orientation (south facing) as my old garden, and the acer is planted in the same relative position, the back right corner. Spooky…

I wish I knew more about the man who gardened here so passionately before me, because I think he must have been almost as obsessed with purple foliage plants as I am, and he clearly liked bamboo too.


However, there is one plant, that I have wanted for years and never found room for, that when I saw it growing in the back garden made me literally squeak with excitement. Embarrassing, but true.

bamboo and sambucus

I have inherited a rather magnificent, mature Sambucus nigra. It is growing in the border that backs on to the playing fields, and is set against the plain white walls of the snooker hall, which is rather fortunate.

The border ends with a misshapen mahonia that I will try moving and pruning hard back, yet another purple leaved shrub, this time a berberis, and a mature ivy growing over the remnants of a long-gone shrub and a somewhat shaky wooden obelisk.

mature ivy

Happy Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day, and don’t forget to check out Christina’s blog for links to other posts about all things leafy.

35 thoughts on “GBFD August 2012

  1. I had a thought about the many plants you would like to move. Depending on size this is always a good option but you could also take cutting first then even if it will be a small plant you have some insurance. This will also give you a proper gardening job to do (I imagine you have itchy finger to get going) but will still give you lots of thinking time. now should be quite a good time for taking cuttings from shrubs likethe Viburnum. Thanks for joining in this month. As you say you do have some very good foliage plants in your new back garden. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, you know me too well! I have been itching to get sowing etc, and although I am pretty bad at cuttings you are right, I really should give it a go for some of the plants that might not otherwise survive.

  2. The purple foliage is especially lovely, but then so is everything. I have been wanting a viburnam but am worried about the size. Yours certainly is gorgeous. Must be exciting to discover so many interesting plants in your new garden.

    1. I must admit that viburnum has never really made it on to my radar until now, but the fragrance from the flowers is lovely, and the idea of having that in winter, when it normally flowers, is very attractive. My virburnam is currently around 2m tall, and about 1m wide, with a very tidy, upright habit. Not much help to you really, since I have no idea what type it is!

  3. some beautiful foliage you have Janet, I’m only a novice so am probably wrong but the plant/foliage you don’t know has some similarities to my Camellia except my camellia doesn’t have wavy edges to it’s leaves, it’s interesting how exploring a garden is like getting to know the gardening side of the person who created, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I don’t think it is a camellia, the form seems wrong, but it is pretty. I wondered if it was some type of Euonymous japonicus, but I’m not sure.

      1. hello Janet, I don’t know Euonymous at all though I have heard it talked about often so I just did a quick search, most were variegated varieties those that were green do look very similar to your plant, maybe you will have to wait until it flowers to know for sure, it was the light brown stems that prompted me to comment as that is very like the new stems on my camellia they change with age, good luck in your search, Frances

  4. You’re lucky to have so many well established plants and if you can move some and work with others it’ll give your garden that feeling of maturity from the start. I would love a sambucus too but haven’t the space. I do love its leaves. Christina’s idea of taking cuttings now is a great one.

    1. Yes, that is exactly it, the back garden already has that restful, established feeling, and I just want to tweak the main structure before adding colour and the kitchen garden. I will give cuttings a go, I always seem to get the watering wrong, one way or another, but it is high time I learnt! And thank you so much for the articles, which I have been reading avidly.

  5. Great foliage plants!! Wish Purple Beech could handle more heat and humidity, love that color! I like Ophiophogon ..like the darker foliage grass. That has to be one of the best Acanthus I have seen, must be very mature. wow!

    1. Hi Janet, the acanthus is giant, I have never seen leaves so big, so it is just as well I love it as I would never manage to get rid of it! I agree about the beech, a wonderful purple, I just hope I can keep it looking good. I know there is one type of purple beech that is fastigiate, but I have no idea whether this is one… Glad you are another ophiophogan fan!

  6. Hi Janet,

    Lovely to see so much foliage; I do think more grasses are needed though!

    I have a couple of Ophiophogon and like it – I have it set against some nice grey/white river pebbles so the black and green of the plant pops out.

    1. Hi Liz, I think these plants just provide me with a good strong evergreen background to whatever I end up doing in the rest of the garden. Which may or may not include grasses! I want to avoid the tempation of just reproducing what I had in my last garden, it would be very easy to go that route, given that the aspect is even the same. The shrubs also provide great shelter from the south westerlies and some much needed privacy – I like my neighbours, but I do want to be able to garden in my pyjamas!

      1. Hi Janet,

        Btw, you mentioned to someone else about Sambuccus – they flower on new growth and ought to be floored every year… Well, that is if you don’t want it to get too large!

        You could perhaps try sourcing some local species of grasses – again in an attempt to mirror the coast, i.e. some of that lovely long grass in the coastal walk post. Of course I’m not expecting you to fill the garden with grasses, and nice shrubs are always a positive addition to any garden, especially when they provide blooms and berries for wildlife; and of course allow us to garden in our pjs :)

        Oh yes and I forgot to mention that my Acer garnet is also in the back right corner of the garden……….. Must be something going on!

        1. OK, so we are clearly in the grip of some weird gardening voodoo that causes us to plant acers in the back right corner. I can live with that! But why doesn’t this same force prevent us from planting things where they won’t be happy?!

          I am currently engaged in a gentle tussle/negotiation/debate with TNG about how much grass is to be left. He wants space to pitch a tent, which is fair enough. I want lots of plants, a wildflower meadow, a large kitchen garden…

  7. WE have two lovely sambucus nigra on our allotment plot that everyone comments on. I really need to prune them but can’t decide when to best do this to avoid losing next year’s flower. Maybe should have done it already!

    1. Hi Sue, my RHS book says to prune them in winter while they are dormant, but I don’t know whether that would mean you would miss the flowers next year as I can’t find anything that says whether they flower on new growth or old. I assume that since they flower in summer it will be on new growth? Apparently you can cut back half the stems to the ground and just shorten the rest to keep them looking good, or just cut them all the way back to the base to rejuvenate them or to get a really good crop of leaves and make sure they don’t go leggy – which mine has. Good luck!

  8. A fine set of shrubs indeed, as others have commented, tidied up a bit and shifted around they’ll give you a really good framework to develop as you wish.
    I love the shape/texture/colours of viburnum leaves, we have a little V. plicatum ‘Pink Sensation’ with very similar leaves to yours, which flowers in late spring as a bonus. And you know I’m a fan of the Sambucus, have similarly heard that cutting it hard in winter keeps the plant in check and potentially with ‘better’ leaves, not sure whether that’s colour or shape.
    Fabulous that you already have that acer too – it’s also the same one that we bought in Malvern and planted here this spring, though ours is in quite an exposed spot (well, it’s in our garden for a start!) so looks a little more ragged at the minute.


    1. Hi Sara, visitors have gone, so catching up on blogs! I have rather fallen for the viburnum, as you say, the leaves are lovely, and that scent! I keep changing my mind about where to move it to though… I love sambucus so much I am strongly tempted to get another for the front, to contrast with the tamarix I am planning to plant having seen one down by the harbour wall. Hope your acer thrives despite the windy position – we have had gales here, brought a willow branch down over our fence!

  9. What a fantastic selection of foliage you have inherited, The previous owner must have been a very keen gardener when younger. Pruning Sambucus… I always do mine just after flowering, removing at least a third of the old wood, this give time for new shoots to be formed which will flower next year. I too like Ophiopogon p.n. I started with one plant in the back gravel garden so that it shows up against the gravel, it has now spread to about 4ft x 3ft, we call it our sheepskin rug! Your Viburnum has the same flowers as our Bodnantense New Dawn but that flowers in the winter, it takes quite severe pruning too, maybe yours is something similar.

    1. Hi Pauline, yes, I think he must have been very keen, or perhaps the gardener before him. When I was reading up on viburnums it said that they often re-flower in late summer, but only sparsely, which I think is what is happening to mine, so it might well be “New Dawn”.

  10. The design and color of your leaves is wonderful. I share your weakness for purple-leaved plants, and your acer would get me excited easily. If only they did well here on the meager rations of alkaline water that we can offer our plants!

    To find traces of yourself and your old garden in your new space must make it seem more welcoming and less foreign. For me newness is great, but I appreciate some pattern, some familiarity in it. It sounds as if you’ll have a fine head-start on planting your new garden since you have some elements that you like. Enjoy realizing the possibilities of your new space!

    1. Hi James, yes, the bits of continuity are lovely, and it helps that I already have years of experience of gardening with exactly this aspect in the back. I do really want to avoid the temptation to repeat too much of what I had before though, it is such a great opportunity to do something different. At least the backdrop will be good, which makes an enormous difference.

  11. Janet I love all the purple foliage and very dramatic foliage with large leathery leaves to delicate lacy ones…I look so forward to seeing so much more…it is so beautiful.

    1. Hi Donna, I do seem to have been very fortunate to have inherited so many lovely plants, it makes up for the bindweed and spotted laurel!

    1. Hi Flighty, I am rather taken with the Drimys too. And I will certainly have plenty to keep me busy. Every time TNG spots me staring off into the distance he knows exactly what I am doing – planning my next spot of gardening!

  12. This is so exciting seeing your new garden. How delighted you must have been when you first saw this house, I too love the mature sambucus. There are so many wonderfully big shrubs here, all the bones to add your own plants to.

    1. Hi Marguerite, it does have very good bones, plenty to work with, and it means I will have more money for the other bits, not having to start from scratch with the basic screening etc. Just as well, my head is buzzing with ideas…

  13. You’ve inherited some beautiful plants. I love that you literally squeaked ;) So much fun seeing your new garden.

    1. Hi Cat, the squeak surprised and slightly embarrassed me, but I don’t think anyone else heard… Of course, I then announced it to the blogging world!

  14. Not a bad selection of plants to inherit Janet, actually they are a very nice selection. Some of which will make a good back drop for for whatever new plants you will introduce in your garden (or new borders) :)

    1. Lots of new borders – all that grass is such a waste of good growing space! And if I am going to be all restrained and grown up out the front, to allow the view to speak louder than the plants, the back is going to be where I indulge my love of all things bright and vibrant…

  15. Just wondering if a mature garden was on the list of criteria when you chose your house. Some nice specimens there, but it’s the mature ivy that I’m most interested in as I’ve never seen one.

    1. Hi b-a-g, no, it wasn’t actually on the list, just size! I was torn about whether I preferred a blank state or a mature garden, but I am really happy with what I have here, it feels like a really good combination. I don’t have to spend money on screening plants in the back garden, but have plenty of scope for making my mark. I don’t think I would have liked to inherit a beautifully kept and complete garden, as I think I would have found it hard to rip things out and change them, even if the design wasn’t to my taste.

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