Entries in colorful foliage (8)


Gardening with Texture and Color

I plant the plants; God gives the light.

Late afternoon, when sunbeams wash over the foliage, is the best time in my garden. Sometimes I can capture the ethereal atmosphere on camera. I took the following photos just as I stepped out of my kitchen door. Individual plants aren't recognized so much as the impressionistic colors.

Colorful foliage is an important part of my landscape, especially now as summer arrives and spring blooms recede. Yes, I know, according to the calendar it is still officially spring, but when the temps climb into the nineties as they have done this week, I call it summer! Here in Alabama, green predominates through the hot months. Even the interior of my house has a green tint, from the verdant hues reflected through the windows. But green doesn't have to be boring! I know we want to ignore the garden and hunker inside our air conditioned buildings, but with some planning the exterior can be refreshingly beautiful enough to tempt us outdoors.

A shady woodland garden is a pleasant retreat from the hot sun. There are multiple layers to this garden. I am blessed with mature oaks, hickory trees, and pines. Beneath these tall trees is an understory of dogwoods, redbuds, and Japanese maples. Closer to the ground are many shrubs with various textures and colors. Then there are ground covers, perennials, and lush moss paths to cover the forest floor. The entrance into the Woodland GardenA view of the main planting bed in the Woodland GardenA view through the upper Woodland Garden

I am a tactile person. I like to touch stuff. In my garden are many textures, from pitted stone, hard concrete, rough wood, to soft moss, slick leaves and fuzzy foliage. I have added a few accents, such as the snail pot, for additional interest. The pot is made from a heavy, frost proof clay. I love the heft and smooth feel of it.

1st row: The fern in front of the bench is Autumn fern. Afternoon light has turn the fronds gold; The snail pot contains juncus, a twisty rush. 2nd row: Ground cover indigofera; wild violet and pitted rock. 3rd row: Painted Japanese fern with fuchsia in background; a mossy rock with wild violet foliage.Foliage combinations create character and encourage curiosity in the garden. Leaves have various shapes and colors. Some evergreens are not really green but are yellow or blue.Top: Japanese maple, weeping deodar cedar 'FeelinBlue', and mondo grass. 2nd row: Juniper 'Saybrook Gold'; Weeping Deodar cedar 'Feelin Blue'. 3rd row: Japanese maple 'Waterfall'; Groundcover indigofera in front of iris foliage.Other plants are variegated. They may have spots or stripes. Leaves can be purple, red, white, silver, or a mixture of all the above. Green itself comes in a wide range of hues.

Gardening is three dimensional painting, and the canvas is the earth. Colors and textures can contrast or complement. They should repeat in different degrees throughout the garden to provide unity. Don't be afraid to try something different. The colorful pink, white, and blue-green plant in the second row below is in a pot buried in the ground. I sited it to amplify the rosy stems of the adjacent hydrangea 'Lady in Red' and also to repeat the silvery blue color of nearby artemesia. It is a tropical plant that won't survive the winter, so I will move it indoors when the weather turns cold. 
1st row: An unnamed hosta seedling, possibly a cross between 'Elegans' and 'Francis Williams'. It has huge leaves; Blue stems of hosta 'Elegans'. 2nd row: Deodar cedar 'Feelin Blue'; Stromanthe sanguine 'Tristar. 3rd row: Variegated Jacobs Ladder; Calla lily. 4th row: Heuchera; Epimedium and pulmonaria. 5th row: Heuchra and artemesia; View of woodland planting bed. 6th row: Heuchera blooms.All of this together creates visual appeal. Despite the summer heat and my emphasis on foliage, I do have flowers! I have many flowering shrubs and trees which bloom at different times of the year. This is definitely the easiest way to have flowers throughout the seasons. 

Top: A little critter appreciates the bloom of a Rosa palustris, which is located in a sunnier part of the woodland garden. 2nd row: Rosa palustris; Hydrangea 'Lady in Red'. 3rd row: Goldmound spirea; Hydrangea 'Snowflake'.Soon gardenias will fill the woodlands with their glorious fragrance. And when the deepest, darkest, greenest part of the summer arrives, I will sit pots of annuals here and there. I also am not above cheating. I confess, RARELY, I have stuck artificial flowers in pots and put them in the garden!

There is just no excuse for having a boring garden.

Follow-up: Thanks goes to Rosie of Leaves N Bloom, who identified my tropical plant as Stromanthe sanguinea 'Tristar'. 


From the Patio

I am done with planting, pruning, fertilizing, mulching, transplanting, and all the other garden chores of spring. That doesn't mean I have completed these projects. In fact, there are a couple of big jobs I haven't even started. It's always a race to get the heavy gardening completed before the heat arrives. I never get it all finished, but I am grateful for what I have accomplished. And now the first, relatively gentle, wave of our Deep South summer has come. I feel it in the humid, warm days, with temps well into the 80s. I see it in the plants, the spring blooms receding, the deep green taking over. 

The great Southern Magnolia tree is blooming, a sign of summer's arrival.

Confederate Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, has taken over the former rose arch by the patio. Here is a view across the patio through the arch:

The sweet smell of the jasmine drifts upon the air. I like to sit in the shade of the big umbrella and take deep breaths of it.Near the arch is a candle-less lantern. (I put a candle in it when I first purchased it, but the summer heat soon completely melted the candle. It was a mess!) Behind the lantern is a large upright rosemary, which adds to the olfactory experience.

Another flower blooming near the patio in early May is Anthony Waterer spirea, a favorite low maintenance shrub.

From my vantage point on the patio I can get just a peek through the foliage of the Lady Garden down the hill. Peachy impatiens are blooming and provide some color amidst the textures and shades of green.
As much as I love flowers, I am most enamored by plants with beautiful foliage. Here are some that catch my eye from the patio:
The brilliant spring foliage of red Japanese maples is beginning to fade to more sedate rose and greens.

The lacy green leaves of a thread-leaf Japanese maple are also a delight. I love the feathery appearance of this small weeping tree.

Arborvitae fern is lush with new green growth.

And the silver foliage of Powis Castle artemesia will provide a cool accent through the summer.

There is weeding to do - that's like washing clothes and doing the dishes - and there's the vegetable plot to tend to, but nevertheless most of the chores are put on hold till fall. So now I have more time to sit on the patio and enjoy the sights. It's a great place to listen to and observe birds and other wildlife. I was lounging there the other day, and this little green lizard ran by my feet, across the patio, then up a small tree by the house. These lizards are called green anoles. They are native to the southeastern USA and live in trees. Males have a red skin flap called a dewlap on their necks which they extend for territorial display and courtship. 

 I think the green anole was eyeing a large green luna moth. Although its wing was a bit damaged, I was still impressed by its beauty. I know that lizards like to eat moths, but I think this one, which has a wing span of several inches, may be too much to swallow. I hope!

As I survey my comfy little world, I am reminded how fortunate I am that we were spared from the terrible tornadoes that ravaged Alabama and other southeastern states last week. For many, recovery will take a long, long time. My heartfelt prayers are with them and the tireless souls who work to bring relief and comfort. I recently posted about my visit to John's Native Nursery in Scottsboro. Check out the web site to see how these beautiful gardens came through the storm.  

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