The Value of Coloured Foliage in the Garden
by Myles Challis
(in-house garden designer at Paramount Plants – London’s premiere garden centre)
To many people colour provided by flowers in the garden takes a high priority. What many do not realise is that a great deal of colour can be obtained by the use of various types of colourful foliage plants ,some of which may provide interest throughout the entire year.
The main advantage foliage has over flowers is that the colour is provided for a much greater length of time. Most flowers are relatively short lived. Anything from a few days to perhaps a month of continuous flowers. Foliage on the other hand has interest for most of the year and, if evergreen, is year round.
There are many advantages coloured plant foliage can provide. Some examples include the shrub Photinia Fraseri Red Robin which, when carrying a flush of bright red new growth, is more colourful than any red flowered bush . One of the most popular trees is the Japanese Maple especially the red and purple leaved varieties, despite their being deciduous.
Varieties such as Acer Palmatum Bloodgood give stunning colour in the summer months. The colour of Japanese Acers, together with their interesting shaped foliage, makes a lovely contrast planted next to many other shrubs and plants.
Other nice purple leaved shrubs are Cotinus Coggygria Royal Purple, Cotinus Grace and Cercis Canadensis Forest Pansy. Also Pieris such as Pieris Forest Flame have vibrant leaves changing from colours of red, pink and cream.
Some trees especially Acers are well known for their spectacular autumn colour but are deciduous . There are, however, some evergreen shrubs which become very colourful in winter. Nandina Domestica takes on fiery reds and oranges in late autumn while Leucothoe Axillaris Red Lips has rich dark red new growth.
Several evergreen shrubs such as Euonymus in golden or cream variegated leaves stand out beautifully in the winter gloom.
Many of the small phormiums possess vivid foliage with red, pink, orange or yellow striping. Phormiums are a bit tender but being ideal pot plants can be easily moved to shelter in cold snaps.
These are just a few examples of how colour can be provided other than by flowers or as a way of bulking up colour especially in lower flowering periods. The garden in general will be better with them due to the structure these shrubs provide.
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