Friday, February 21, 2020

A look at foliage before flowers entirely take over

We're clearly on the cusp of spring here and flowers will be demanding more and more attention as the weeks go by - it's hard to ignore them when something new seems to pop into bloom every time I glance at the garden.  I decided that, if I was going to do a survey of the foliage that contributes so much to my garden but rarely gets the attention it deserves, the time was now.  At the outset, I also set myself a challenge, which was to skip all the usual suspects.  That means: no succulents, no Leucadendrons , no grasses, and no trees or tree-like shrubs.  When the list still got long, I also cut out bromeliads, the begonias and other foliage plants in my shade house, and even that attention-hog, Acacia 'Cousin Itt'.

So here's what I decided to share:

Artichokes are one of the few plants that have held up against the challenges presented by my back slope.  Even when they die back in late summer, they come back with our winter rain.

The small-leafed Coprosmas are often disappointing over the long haul but Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' has held up well for me.  I have 3 of these plants in different spots of the garden.  All are resilient and hold their color.

I'm not overly fond of the trunk-forming Cordylines but there are some trunk-less varieties I like.  Clockwise from the left are: Cordyline 'Can-Can', C. 'Design-a-Line', and C. 'Renegade'.

Phormiums look similar to Cordylines in many respects, although they're in a different family.  Many, like the 2 shown here, 'Apricot Queen' on the left and 'Maori Queen' on the right, can get big.

Grass-like Lomandra presents a similar silhouette.  It's in the same family as Cordyline.  Clockwise from the upper left are: Lomandra 'Breeze', L. hystrix 'Tropic Belle', and L. 'Platinum Beauty'.

Corokia virgata 'Sunsplash' is best appreciated close-up

Like other Hebes, 'Purple Shamrock' flowers but its foliage is the real draw

I'm featuring Helichrysum 'Icicles' largely because I thought I'd killed 3 of my plants with aggressive pruning but it's proven more resilient than I gave it credit for.  The plants on the left were lightly pruned and the one on the right was pruned down to to sticks.

I've mostly ignored this Ruscus hypoglossum (aka butcher's broom) since I planted it in 2014.  I think of it as a foliage plant but it produces tiny flowers in the middle of its leaves.  I'm not sure I've ever examined the flowers until now.  They look like alien insects, don't they?

Our Xylosma congestum hedges are at their best and brightest when the new foliage comes in following pruning.  The 3 plants we added to extend the hedge on its southwest end (right) are finally looking like they'll catch up with the rest of the hedge one day.

I'll end with the Yuccas scattered through the garden.  From left to right are: Yucca 'Blue Boy', Y. 'Bright Star', and Y. gloriosa 'Variegata'.


What foliage in your garden manages to compete with the flashy flowers of early Spring?


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

22 comments:

  1. Such great variety you have just in foliage texture alone. You are lucky to have so many choices. Have a great weekend ahead!

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    1. We're looking at rain this weekend, Eliza, which will be great! It's unlikely to be much but every little bit counts.

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  2. It all looks beautiful, as usual, but that first picture of the artichokes next to the steps were a real hit with me. I've always liked those steps, which must have been kind of a bear to put in.

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    1. My generous and industrious husband installed those steps during our first year here, Barbara, after I'd repeatedly fallen on my backside trying to navigate the slippery dirt path. It was indeed a miserable job as there are BIG rocks embedded there in places and he had to work around them as best he could. In the 1940s before our house was built, our entire neighborhood was a rock quarry.

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  3. I liked this post so much that I am going to put up something similar this weekend(following the rules you imposed on yourself) and link back to yours. I've got lots more foliage than blooms right now.

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    1. I was surprised at how much foliage I had to drawn on, even with my self-imposed restrictions, Kathy. I look forward to your post.

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  4. You have so many interesting plants in your garden. I enjoy seeing the diversity. Does that row of artichokes produce a fruit that you can eat or is it ornamental? I love the look I also like hot artichoke dip. I have never seen or heard of Butchers Broom. I have also never seen a plant with a flower coming out of a leaf. That would be an awesome conversation starter. A pretty little bloom too. I have a few evergreens in the garden that perk up during spring. My favorite is a small shrub Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Silver Lode’. It has tips of white on it that captures your eye. The Hellebores and Epimediums have interesting foliage that hangs in there pretty good. Our winters are so severe that things look pretty drab until spring really kicks in.

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    1. You don't know how I wish I could grow Epimediums, Lisa. I tried them in my former garden but I'm a bit too far out of their range for success. Yes, we do eat the artichokes, at least some of them. I allow others to flower as the bees and I both love those too. The only downside to cutting the artichokes are the earwigs. I've learned to carry a bucket to soapy water with me down the slope and drop the cut chokes into it immediately!

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  5. Kris, your garden is so impressive. I’ve seen your vases weekly but am just coming to understand how extend your plantings are. Masterful. Love the little flowers on the Ruscus.

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    1. The Ruscus is very intriguing. I can't believe I never looked more closely at the flowers, although they're very hard to see clearly without the assistance of the camera's lens.

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  6. What foliage? Nothing green here except the evergreens. You'd be so bored Kris, with the selection of available plants if you lived in the east or midwest. Most of the plants you've shown, I've never heard of.
    Again, I marvel at your genius to remember all their names. Have you ever taken a count of all the different plants you have? I would love to know if you've ever done a count.Thanks for continually educating us and sharing your year round beauty.

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    1. There are over 2000 lines in my Excel spreadsheet BUT that includes plants that are no longer a part of the garden. One day, I'll at least tally the number of genera even if I'm not up to an actual census!

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  7. Oh this was fun! I love your Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' and your Corokia virgata 'Sunsplash' is so mch more compact than mine. Do you prune it?

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    1. The Corokia gets pruned in a haphazard fashion in that I periodically cut stems for vases. I noticed that it bulked up considerably after last year's heavier-than-usual rainfall so perhaps it'd get bigger if it got more water.

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  8. Loved the foliage post, Kris! I really depend on my broadleaf evergreens and evergreen perennials (my 5 penstemons that are dotted through my back garden stay green all winter so I don't cut them back much - I'm in Portland, OR zone 8b) to keep things interesting in the winter garden!
    I had the chance to acquire a Cordyline 'Can-Can' for 50% off at local plant sale last fall. After seeing yours, I'm kicking myself for not grabbing it! And I have the perfect place to put it...

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    1. I'm pretty impressed with Cordyline 'Can Can' thus far, Colleen. I've got a second one in a pot, which came by mail order from Annie's Annuals & Perennials at a reasonable price - in case you're still in the market for one ;)

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  9. So much lovely leafiness in your garden, Kris, reminding me I need more in mine. Lomandra would be a good place to start as I believe it’s an Australian native. I think your artichokes look great in their pale green loveliness. I think mine died in the heat of summer as it went brown while the flowers were still on it. I’ll have to wait and see if some new shoots appear. Fingers crossed.

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    1. My fingers are crossed with yours, Jane. My artichokes have been hit by serious heatwaves (106-110F or 41-43C) on a few occasions and came back in response to rain. That area of the back slope gets little in the way of irrigation so they're resilient plants.

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  10. Hello there ! I was going to say looking at these amazing plants it is like they are from another planet to me .. I am zone 5b and limited for the out of the ordinary types .. but having heard you don't have luck with epimediums ? that is a shame because they can be magical .. Niveum with the tiny white jewels is my favorite . I'm going to look at them in a different light now and appreciate them more ! LOL (I actually have three more coming by mail order because I am such a fan of them) .. but this has been a wonderful read with great pictures ! Thank you ;-)

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    1. I love Epimediums and tried growing them in my former garden with minimal success. My current garden provides a harsher environment yet. I like to push my zone but it appears Epimediums are earmarked for hardiness zones 5a-8b and I'm in zone 10b/11a. Sunset often provides more wiggle room for western gardeners but, even there, the comparison is Sunset zone 17 vs 24. Still, given my general greed when it comes to plants, I expect the day will come when I'll push the envelope on Epimediums once again.

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  11. You Xylosma hedge looks much improved, much healthier, or am i misremembering it?

    The artichoke foliage is so striking. I wonder if one paired with Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' would make a stunning combo?

    I will go have a trek around and see what foliage catches the eye here--it sounds like fun.

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    1. The Xylosma always looks its best when it gets a fresh flush of leaves a week or two after being clipped, HB. Luckily, that happens every three months or so.

      I'm actually on the look-out for another 'Platinum Beauty' or two at a reasonable price. However, I'm targeting them for the moderate front slope (where I already have one). The plants will get more water there - most of the plants on the back slope have to get by with very little water. The artichokes can handle that but I'm not sure about the Lomandra.

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