It’s been a while since I was organised enough to join in with Christina’s Foliage Day meme, so despite only having posted a couple of days ago here I am joining in. Foliage is really important to me, both evergreen and not. Whenever I am pondering a planting area, trying to select the plants to put there, I try to spend at least as much time thinking about how the foliage will combine as I do the flower forms and colours. A lot of the planting I have done in the first full year here has been of shrubs and trees, whose foliage will provide the main structure in the garden. Some, like the fatsias and my beloved Euphorbia mellifera (is that even, strictly speaking, a shrub?) are already making an impact. Most of the others are still very small, often barely visible behind the accompanying perennials. Inevitably, then, most of the structure currently comes from perennials and biennials. Of all of these probably the plant making the greatest impact at the moment is Bears Breeches (Acanthus mollis). Its totally evergreen here, and I remember being thrilled to see a large clump in the back garden when we first looked round. I am less thrilled to have an equally large clump growing in the front garden, where it steals the view. I have started digging it out, but the tap roots go down very deep and it will re-grow from small pieces, just like dandelions. I foresee a long running battle. I am happier to have it suddenly rampaging away in the very back right corner of the back garden, where it had clearly lain dormant while the conifers held sway.
In the past year it has suddenly erupted into a vast plant over 1.5m tall and wide, which is supposed to be its final size. I get the feeling that this one doesn’t feel like stopping. The huge leaves reflect the light quite wonderfully.
The plant towers over the neighbouring mahonia. It had better enjoy its time of triumph while it can, the mahonia may be small now, but it will reach heights the acanthus can only dream of!
My previous garden had very heavy clay soil, and was densely planted, a combination that meant few plants ever self seeded. Here, the free draining soil means I am getting all sorts of “volunteers”. I find myself a little torn. There are quite a few areas of the garden that I would like to mulch heavily to improve the soil, and this should help keep the weeds down – the wretched chickweed is flowering already, and I can’t eat it all! On the other hand, I am enjoying getting to grips with the better side of self seeding, like discovering forget-me-nots lurking in the back garden.
The foliage is welcome anyway, but assuming it flowers, I will love having pools of intense blue in the back garden as well as the front. And then there is the knowledge that I will be making the bees happy again this summer thanks to a veritable forest of self seeded phacelia.
They are so distinctive I will have no trouble telling them from other, less desirable seedlings, likewise the Californian poppies, but while I was weeding and cutting back in the front garden this morning I realised that I have no idea what the new seedlings of Greater Knapweed look like. Lots to learn.
Other foliage that made me smile this morning includes the feathery bronze fennel. I’ve never grown fennel before, and I left my three home grown plants in their pots far too long last year, so the one lucky plant that actually got a permanent home didn’t have much of a chance to have an impact. it is great to see it throwing up plenty of strong stems and feathery leaves.
I am a big fan of purple foliage, so no surprise that Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ features in my garden. I must sow more, but the plants in the front garden should hopefully flower this year, and you never know, might self seed themselves around a bit too!
Another plant I mean to sow again this year is Achillea ‘Cassis’. Its a little on the floppy side, which is a shame, but has wonderful deep cerise flowers and of course that lovely feathery achillea foliage, already making its presence felt. (You can tell I had a good day today, everything is ‘wonderful’ and ‘lovely’!)
One of my favourite plants from last year was the wonderfully dramatic sedum, ‘Purple Emperor’. Another plant with purple foliage, it has gorgeous deep pink flowers too, and I hope to propagate from it this year. So, I am delighted to see all three plants starting to push up fresh growth.
I grew quite a lot of perennials from seed last year, its a very cost effective way of being able to use multiples of the same plant, but most of them didn’t flower last year. I am really hoping Echinops ‘Star Frost’ flowers this year, the foliage is certainly getting a good start.
I could go on and on – already have, in fact, not that there’s anything unusual there – but I’ll finish with the welcome proof that the aquilegia I discovered when clearing the very front of the front garden has forgiven me for moving it in the middle of the summer…
…the equally welcome sight of the native English stonecrop spreading itself out a little at the edge of the circle bed…
…and the rather sad proof that Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Angustifolia’ is not, in fact, happy “in any moist, shady position”.
It doesn’t like salty north winds. At all. Its two friends are in an even worse state. So much for my ferny evergreen structure in that corner. I am having mercy on them and moving them to the back. And then I have to find some shade-tolerant evergreen plants that enjoy a moist but well drained neutral soil but will tolerate exposure to salt wind. All the plants recommended for exposed coastal sites seem to be sun lovers. Much research required – and all suggestions welcomed! Only the toughest of plants need apply…
Do check out Christina’s blog for links to the foliage other gardeners are enjoying at the moment.