Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April Foliage Follow-up

I drafted the following post prior to hearing news of the events at the Boston Marathon.  This is probably not the place to take a position on what happened but I find I can't ignore it either.  I want to express my profound sympathy for the residents of Boston and those who were in the city to participate in or observe the marathon.  Whether this was an act of domestic or foreign terrorism, it is both incomprehensible and unconscionable.  There is enough pain and sorrow in the world without its deliberate creation and I cannot understand why anyone would seek to add to this in an attempt to advance an agenda.  My prayers are with the victims, their families and friends.


Foliage Follow-up Day is an opportunity to highlight the foliage that often gets short shrift with all the attention given to flowers.  To be honest, after so many years gardening in a shady, postage stamp-sized garden, I'm afraid I went more than a little bloom crazy when we moved to our current, mostly sunny, half-acre property a little more than 2 years ago.  However, I've recently begun focusing more attention on foliage as, after all, it's a more persistent presence in the garden and also essential to preventing the busy look that can come with an excessive reliance on flower color.

I'm lucky to have inherited a lot of established hedges.  I also have quite a bit of lawn - I've been chipping away at that and plan to continue to do so but I'll leave some as it offers an opportunity for the eye to rest.

I brought a few foliage plants with me from our old house in the form of cuttings.  The Plectranthus I placed in a bed running along our living room did very well, although I've had a harder time establishing it elsewhere.  It gets about 2 hours of morning sun along the living room and the foliage stays a rich green with purple undersides.  It also flowers well in the fall.  I've had some difficulty definitively identifying the species.  It's most likely Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior', although some of the descriptions suggest this plant is shorter than mine has proven to be.  In my experience, this plant gets to about 2 feet tall and can easily spread twice that distance.

Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior'?

Photo showing the underside of the leaf on this Plectranthus

My cutting of Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' also took and, so far, has remained well-behaved in the same mostly shade bed.  I cut it back hard in the fall.  I'm thinking of trying it in another, somewhat sunnier location after seeing a vigorous example of the same plant in the Getty Center's garden.

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'

A friend gave me several divisions of a golden feverfew, which I've inserted in various locations that needed a jolt of chartreuse green.  It flowers but I grow it mainly for the ferny foliage.

Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'

In terms of major foliage accents, I've added Phormiums in several locations.  Here are a few of the larger varieties.

Installed shortly after we moved in, I kept no record of the name of this one

Phormium tenax 'Apricot Queen' (I think - I may have this and the next one confused)

Phormium tenax 'Yellow Wave' (I know - it needs grooming)

I've also added a lot of Heucheras, although their placement has posed an issue as I've found they don't do well in full sun here, where they can shrivel during the heat of summer.  Here are a few of the most interesting varieties.

Heuchera 'Miracle', returned this spring after partial die back last fall

Heuchera 'Melting Fire', a new addition

Heuchera 'Marvelous Marbles', still struggling a bit in an area that gets just morning sun

Heuchera 'Key Lime Pie', moved last year from a very shaded area to one that gets morning sun

The elimination of the large Eucalyptus tree from our side yard early this year, which I wrote about here, created a large new bed and an opportunity to add more foliage plants.  Two of the best additions are the Dryms lanceolata, inserted as the centerpiece of the new bed, and the 3 Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussy', inserted as accent plants.  The Dryms, also known as a Mountain Pepper, is still small - just over a foot tall - but it should eventually reach 10-15 feet tall and 10 feet wide.  True to its advertisement, it produced small greenish white flowers in early spring.  It's supposed to develop black fruit in the fall but, in the meantime, it displays the nice red stems shown below.

Dryms lanceolata, still an infant

The Coprosmas would show better against a green background.  As this is a fairly sunny spot, I'm thinking of adding a ground-hugging thyme as a backdrop.

Coprosma repens "Plum Hussey'

I'm going to have to be vigilant about cutting this plant back to keep it in scale.  The one I placed on the sloping edge of my dry garden is already getting too tall and skinny, which won't do in the other bed.

Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussy' living up to her name in the crowded dry garden

My final foliage offering will no doubt appear pitiful; however, I thought this Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense', the second one I've tried in this garden, was a goner.  I had a beautiful shrub of this variety at a rental apartment in Santa Monica many, many years ago and it's a sentimental favorite of mine but I'm afraid it doesn't like our current location much.  My first try died within 6 months - or maybe I just gave up on it too soon.  I started with a smaller plant on my second try and, while it produced it's trademark blue butterfly-shaped flowers, it declined soon after flowering last summer.  I cut it back, gave it a healthy shot of compost, and waited.  Last month, I thought it was dead but, as this picture indicates, there are now signs of life!  As the saying goes, hope springs eternal.

Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense'

Pam at Digging hosts this monthly foliage follow-up.  Please go to her site for more foliage photos.


  1. You may have heard us Pacific NW bloggers referring to the PKW's...those were the back to back Phormium Killing Winters. All the big lush mature clumps in our area were wiped out. Very few have been replanted, although as the memory of destruction fades we are starting to again. It's nice to see your beautiful mature plants as a reminder. There's an analogy in there somewhere, to the events mentioned at the top of your post.

  2. I have seen references to "PKW" but I didn't realize that it was a widespread phenomenon. Nature can certainly be brutal but she's perhaps easier to forgive as she doesn't act with malice of forethought.

  3. I love your foliage! The key lime pie heuchera is electric. That one is becoming quite popular! But the phormiums take it for me. I think danger said it best... reminds me of the pre PKW years.

    1. I can't imagine what SoCal would look like without Phormiums so I hope we never face a devastation of the kind you had up north. I lost an Arbutus unedo once to the fungal growth that causes sudden oak death and I went into mourning for months...

  4. Oh if only Phormiums were hardy here! And why can't I grow Persicaria 'Red Dragon'? It's supposed to be hardy in my zone.

    Maybe you could get some of that weedy Alyssum to seed around under the Cosprosmas (I keep thinking Crophyllus but that's what my ex husband's aunt used to call things when she couldn't think of the correct word).

    1. "Crophyllus" certainly sounds like something that should be a real work, doesn't it? Your ex-aunt-in-law must have been a character. Alyssum would certainly take hold around the Coprosma if I let it loose - I'm just afraid that I'd never get control of it again. Still, it's an idea...

  5. I am loving your phormiums!!! And I laughed at the name "Plum Hussy"! ha! But I do love that dark foliage. Wish I could grow heucheras, but they just don't do well here. I have certainly tried to prove that bit of local gardening wisdom wrong, but failed. Your dry garden area is gorgeous.

    1. Yes, I had to buy 'Plum Hussy' when I found her (even though I had no idea where to put her at the time).

      The dry garden's starting to come together but, as the larger shrubs spread, I certainly need to start exercising some discipline and thin out some of the more "expendable" plants so the shrubs can breathe.

  6. I love the Heucheras. I've been given a couple as gifts and try to find a place for them, but I think they would look nice as a little tapestry all together - just dont have room for that! Thank you for the wonderful photos!

    1. It can be a struggle to prioritize your plant selections, can't it? Who knows, Heucheras may prove to be just the right thing some time down the road. Thanks for visiting Jayne!

  7. 'Plum Hussy', 'Red Dragon', 'Zulu Warrior' -- I'd buy all these just for their cultivar names alone. I envy you your phormiums -- so gorgeous!