I have watched our garden grow and change throughout the years. I now have sections that just make me smile. It’s not because of big showy blooms; in fact, I wouldn’t care if there were no blooms at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a sucker for a beautiful peony bloom or the newest color echinacea; so why wouldn’t I care about blooms? Am I crazy?
I might be a little crazy, but I really want to focus on plants with beautiful leaves. Leaves that have really nice texture and/or color. The blooms will be an added bonus. If you look at the leaves of plants, you will notice that many have that little something that makes them special. Whether it's the big bold leaves of some hostas, or the fine feathery leaves of fennel. Some even have profound veining such as Begonia grandis. There is an array of plants that add interest to your garden without blooms when paired next to each other. In other words: mix it up a bit!
In one of our shade gardens filled with hostas and ferns, I have added foliage plants that can stand out on their own or complement one another. For example, I have a hosta ‘First Blush’ planted near ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip.’ Those colors get carried through the garden by the red veining of the Begonia and again through the Japanese painted fern. Within this garden, there also is a tsuga canadensis ‘Moon Frost.’ This native hemlock cultivar has white new growth and offers nice texture against the bold leaves of the hostas in front of it.
In a sunnier bed, you can find a native yucca ‘Color Guard.’ This plant with its strong, spiky form and beautiful creamy gold and green variegated leaves looks nice in front of the softer leaves of the peonies. But it also contrasts nicely against the red leaves of the Japanese maple adjacent to it. These little noticeable combinations can really make a garden so special. I would like to get our garden to a point where, if you were to take a black and white photo of the beds, they would still look nice. Black and white photos have a nice way of showing texture and form.
There is a huge array of texture of foliage; smooth and fuzzy, flat and spiky, large and small, and so much more. (Photo by: Serome Hamlin)
So the next time you are in your local garden center, being amazed by all the new plants you want to add to your garden, think beyond the bloom, and ask yourself: “what will this plant look like in my garden when the blooms are gone? What will it look like against the other plants that will surround it?” Then get out there and get your hands dirty!