While flowers get all the gardening glory foliage is really what ties your garden together. Blooms come and go but leaves last throughout the growing season. Foliage can help define the structure of a garden such as a boxwood hedge that is used to separate sections of a garden from one another or it can play a more subtle role such as a periwinkle groundcover. Foliage can also take center stage in the garden; try growing elephant ears and you’ll know what I mean. We’d like to share some different ways to think about foliage and how to use it in your garden.

One of the first things you’ll notice about foliage is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. Leaves can be rounded such as you would find on a hosta plant. There are also linear shapes better known as ornamental grasses or more complex leaves such as that of a fern. Leaves can also small be such as those found on herbs like rosemary or succulents like sedum or they can be very large like cannas and the aforementioned elephant ears. You can then group them together by size or shape in your landscape or contrast them together to create an eye-catching contrast.

Another important feature of foliage that is often forgotten is that not all foliage is green! Leaves can come in a variety of colors. Try black mondo grass as a groundcover between stepping stones or combine silver-leafed dusty miller with red salvias or yellow marigolds. Dusty miller can also be effectively used in containers along with coleus which is another foliage plant that comes in a multitude of colors. Variegated blends of green and white are also a great choice. For example, edging a flower bed with variegated liriope also known as lilyturf is a great way to draw attention to your garden and in many climates, it also provides year-round color. As you can see the potential combinations are only limited by your imagination.

Another nice feature of foliage plants is that they are adaptable to a variety of situations. They are equally at home in a garden border or in containers. Ornamental grasses are a great way to bring height, color, and texture to a garden border and Ipomoea or sweet-potato vine has become a very popular trailing plant in container gardens. You can even grow foliate perennials such as hosta in a container! I know this for a fact because I’m doing that at my own home!

It’s no accident that foliage plants have become increasingly popular with gardeners. Recent statistics show that sales of foliage plants make up almost 18% of all plant sales and each year there are newer and more dramatic varieties available. You can get some of these plants at Blooming Secrets so why not try some in your garden this year and let their “leaves dazzle you”!

Photos Courtesy of Jill Mazur.

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