A Corner Full of Foliage

With the blossoms of blooms that spring inevitably gifts our gardens, it’s  easy to overlook the foliage of spring.  New foliage emerges from winter-dormant perennials, evergreen plants flush fresh foliage distinct from older leafy brethren, and gardeners take notice at the greening of their space.  In one corner of my garden, there’s little floral interest at the moment, but plenty of foliage fanfare.

The focal point of this part-shade garden rests on a blue pot full of an eye-catching silver-green American century plant, Agave americana.

Garlic chives (bottom left), Pale-leaf yucca (center), and Autumn sage (bottom right) round out the perennial plants in this garden.

Hugging the fence line is a large clump of emerging-from-winter native Turkscap, Malvaviscus arboreus.   I like the bright green leaves and softer form of Turkscap neighboring the spiky, silvery agave.  Another North American green-grey foliaged native, Heartleaf skullcap, Scutellaria ovata, accompanies the agave and fronts the Turkscap, as well as filling in other spots of this garden.

 

The leaves of Turkscap are wide and mallow-like, which makes sense because Turkscap is in the mallow, Malvaceae, family.

A closer look at Heartleaf leaves and bloom spikes against the Turkscap leaves.

 

Heartleaf skullcap is an aggressive, but easily controllable perennial sporting beautiful, soft-to-touch foliage.

Heartleaf also flowers lovely blue/blue-violet bloom spikes from spring to early summer. The plant is at the beginning of its flowering season and in fact, there are some blooming in other parts of my garden.

Oops–I meant to talk only about foliage for this post!

Blue-grey in color and barb-sharp in form is this Pale-leaf yuccaYucca pallida, sitting alongside the Heartleaf skullcap,

…and photobombed here by the same plant.

I like this yucca: tidy, hardy, and attractive year round, it’s also one of the few yucca plants that is happy growing in shade and part-shade–and that’s a win for my sun-limited garden.

An emerging Big muhlyMuhlenbergia lindheimeri, just in front of the silly bird, tolerates the Heartleaf buddying-up to it.

The Big muhly complements both agave plants with its similar shape and slender, grass-like foliage.  Unfortunately, this specimen struggles a bit and doesn’t grow as large or as full as it should; it would thrive with more sun.

Shy, retiring muhly is nearly hidden and definitely overshadowed by the garish Turkscap and the elegant Heartleaf skullcap and Pale-leaf yucca.  The bird shows well though, don’t you think?

Like the juxtaposition of the the silver foliaged agave with the brilliant green Turkscap, Turkscap and Heartleaf (and Pale-leaf yucca!) are opposites which nicely pair with one another.

The Heartleaf continues–yes, there’s plenty of it in this garden– beyond the Turkscap and fronts yet one more yucca-type plant that’s actually another species of agave:  Red yuccaHesperaloe parviflora.

Garlic chives fill in the bottom right of the photo.

Red yucca’s graceful, slightly arching foliage is a genuine, deep green, rather than the silver/grey/blue greens of Heartleaf skullcap, Pale-leaf yucca, and American agave.  It’s also a gentler plant:  no sharp needles in which to poke the gardener when she’s bumbling around the garden!

Heartleaf drifts into and around three groups of Garlic chivesAllium tuberosum. The chives look spiky, but are soft and malleable. They’re a cheery green, harmonizing well with the Heartleaf, and fragrant too, when stepped on or handled.

 

At the end of this corner bed, one last vivid green foliage perennial partnering with Heartleaf is Fall asterSymphyotrichum oblongifolium.

The new aster leaves trend chartreuse, which brightens this particular combination.

There are a few blooms happening in this garden–the large volunteer sunflower and a couple of red blooms on an Autumn sage, Salvia greggii, but right now this bed is all about foliage and structural plants–both valuable assets in a garden.

Whatever foliage is gracing your garden this April, please check out Christina’s lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.  Also, happy Earth Day!  Christina’s advice about planting a tree (or two or three!) is excellent; native trees are best, but trees are the life-blood of this planet. Additionally, funding for and promotion of science and research institutions will be this planet’s saving.

 

Soft-n-Spiky

Promoting Texas Native Plants Week, I’d like to put in a good word for Texas plants known for lovely or interesting foliage.  Foliage is often overlooked when planning a garden and it shouldn’t be; foliage is the bedrock of most winter gardens and sets the tone and backdrop for all blooms.  In my gardens, it seems like plants fall into three foliage categories:  scratchy, spiky, or soft.   I won’t give scratchy plants attention for now (looking at YOU, Lantana and Barbados cherry!), but I will profile a few foliage beauties from the other two categories.

The soil in my gardens is clayey, so I haven’t had much luck with the soft-as-a-baby’s-bottom leaves of the Wooly stemodiaStemodia lanata.  This plant  requires excellent drainage and a good amount of sun.  I am successful with a couple of individuals planted in containers and they’re  thriving.

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This Wooly stemodia gracefully cascades over the cherry-red pot, while its partner, an American century plantAgave americana sits firmly in the pot and the spiky category.  Both plants share a beautiful gray-green coloring, which is a characteristic of foliage of many Texas native plants.

In this photo, spiky dominates the scene with a second and larger American century plant, this time complemented by a deep blue pot that is its home.

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A spiky garden buddy, Pale-leaf yuccaYucca pallida, echos the gray of the agave, though I think the color suggests more blue than the gray-green agave.  The yucca also doesn’t have “teeth” like  the agave, though the ends pointedly exhibit their own danger, especially when the gardener is careless and/or forgets about the needling yucca while pruning or weeding. Ouch!  Truthfully, I’m not a member of the spiky-plant club that so many Austin gardeners belong to.  However, native yuccas and agaves provide low-maintenance beauty and structure and every Texas garden should showcase at least one.

The softer plants in the photo–Turk’s cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, and Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, all exhibit larger, “tropical” leaves, and are typically considered shade-dwellers, although all three thrive in full-to-part sun.  The Zexmenia, Wedelia texana,  has small, hairy leaves, which are an adaptation with allows the leaves to absorb atmospheric moisture.  The Zexmenia is an extremely drought-tolerant perennial.

Another spiky native is this Twistleaf yuccaYucca rupicola, here haloed by blooming Zexmenia.

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A true green,  the Twistleaf yucca, like its cousin,  the Pale-leaf yucca, bloom in the spring and sometimes, later in autumn.  Four foot blooms stalks  topped with clusters of fragrant, creamy flowers, provide for many interested pollinators. For the most of the year, handsome foliage dominates.

More gray-green in the landscape comes from Big muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri. 

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RICOH IMAGING

A yearling Big muhly fronts a crown of blooming White tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)

I’ve struggled to find a good spot for the three specimens in my garden as they love full, blasting Texas sun and my garden is hampered by shade.

Really, I’m complaining about shade?  In Texas?

Big muhly is an elegant native grass.  I’ve contented myself with appreciating those that grow in other gardens (or in open spaces).  I’m crossing-fingers that the few in my garden will prosper–I believe I finally have good spots for each.

I am successful with this far West Texas native, Mexican feathergrassNassella tenuissima.

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These grasses are gorgeous in containers and planted in the ground, as well as happy in sun or shade–a win for the garden!  Stunning in the spring with  frothy, silvery-green foliage, they evolve into a toastier autumn presence as the growing season advances.

Texas beargrass, Nolina texana, is one more “grass” that is beautiful in a pot or directly in the garden.

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This slow-grower is in the Liliaceae family and works well as an ornamental grass. Evergreen with a draping habit, it makes a statement, especially when planted in groups of two or three. This is another plant which flourishes when planted in containers.

Native Texas Plant Week is winding down, but the use of native plants in commercial and home gardens is on the upswing, not only in Texas but in many other places.  Now is a good time here in Texas to plant trees and perennials and to plan for next year.  Whether you live in Texas, or not–go native!  Native plants are easy and special because they belong in and to the unique place you call home.

Whatever foliage you grow, please check out Christina’s lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.  See interesting foliage from many gardens and from many places, and then share your own leafy loveliness.

Foliage Follow-up, September 2014

As with our blooms, the Central Texas foliage perks up with September rains, shorter days, and the suggestion of cooler temperature ahead.  I join with Pam at Digging to celebrate the end of summer, new beginnings for autumn, and all things leafy.

The pond garden is a riot of fascinating foliage.  Just take a look! P1070046.new

Lots of foliage action in this shot!  Clockwise from the bottom, the actual water plants include the lily pads of the two lilies I grow (Colorado and Claude Ikins), the Ruby Red Runner, and the showy leaves of the Pickerel RushPontederia cordata.   All three pond plants contribute to the biological filtration of my pond, though I also have a mechanical filter.

Continuing with the tour d’ foliage, the plants adjacent to the pond include tropical Yellow Bells, Tecoma stans, Soft-leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia, Firecracker Plant, Russelia equisetiformis, Martha Gonzales Roses, Iris, Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii, and Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima.  All of these perennials sport differing widths, textures, and colors of leaves.

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Ruby Red Runner dies back in the winter, but by late summer into fall it’s full-on lovely and spreading.

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It’s seeded out in several places around the pond. This plant, usually used as a waterfall biological filter and prized for its attractive foliage, produces teensy puff-ball flowers,

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…which go to seed, thus, the spread.

Another view of the plants near the pond…

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Not much blooming in those photos, but a variety of leaf beauty.

I particularly like these water shots with the creeping roots of the Ruby Red Runner, spreading its spidery fingers toward the lily pads,

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…as if the roots are creeping outward to grab the pads.  Or maybe they’re just reaching out for a watery hug!

The soft, elegant foliage of Lindheimer’s Senna, Senna lindheimeriana,

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lends structure to, but also softens the back of my garden.  Combined with the bright green leaves of the Yellow Bells and spiky, but matching-in-color American Century Plant, Agave americana,

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…the Senna fits well in this spot.

The morning after a recent rain,  the foliage of the Purple Heart, Setcreasea pallida, retained droplets along its edges.

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With “traditional” autumn coloring, (which doesn’t happen for Central Texas on a large-scale until late November/December), the plumes of the Maiden Grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’, beautifully complement the flowers of Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus, and the orange blossoms of Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii.

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Here’s a closer look at the inflorescence of the Maiden Grass.IMGP0268.new

Along with the orange-y and autumn-y color theme, this new ceramic container is planted with the ‘Color Guard’ YuccaYucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’, accompanied by Woolly Stemodia, Stemodia lanata.

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The container sits amidst a nest of blooming and berrying Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis.

What interesting foliage is gracing your garden space now?  Celebrate foliage in your gardens and learn about other foliage by visiting Digging for September Foliage Follow-up.