Celebrating Foliage

Foliage adds a serene atmosphere to the garden. The soothing calmness of greenery is enlivened by the play of light and shadow on fronds, needles and leaflets. There is always something interesting to view when there is a variety of textures and colours of leaves in the garden. In the shade garden, this is especially important. The photo gallery at the bottom of the post shows a variety of perennial and tree leaves, and some interesting combinations.

Since the leaves are usually around for longer than flowers, it’s important to think about how they look. Placing foliage that contrasts with nearby plants, or compliments the other plants makes the garden a visual tapestry of green. A garden doesn’t have to look boring when the flowers are gone, leaves can be enjoyed for their own beauty. A few flowers might have sneaked into the photos, but mainly the foliage takes the stage.

There are many ways you can emphasize the wonderful detail in foliage. Alternating shiny leaves with matte ones, large leaves with small ones, delicately textured foliage with bold foliage, round leaves with long leaves, and smooth edged leaves with scalloped ones makes them stand out on their own. Placing plants with patterned foliage by solid coloured leaves adds subtle texture in the garden that is pleasing to view. Smooth leaves adjacent to fuzzy leaves makes them both more appealing. In the shade garden, it is  especially important to play up the difference between leaves, so there is always something to catch your eye.

Here are some photos of the foliage in my garden in June. Some of these perennials are topped with beautiful flowers at other times, and some have been planted mainly for their leaves.

You can find some more foliage ideas in this earlier post.

If you like photos of interesting leaves, there are some more pictures in this post.

25 thoughts on “Celebrating Foliage”

  1. Lovely pictures, I particularly like the the silver leafed Pulmonaria which I hadn’t seen before and the Brunnera, which I have and love.

  2. Zoe, the Pulmonaria is P. x ‘Samourai’.The leaves are all silver, except the small leaves on the flower stalks which have some speckles. It shows up nicely at dusk.

    Victoria, I liked the Big Green Leaf theme. On my plant spreadsheet, I’ve thought of adding another column to keep track of leaf colour.

    Jane Marie , thanks. I had fun taking the pictures, but afterwards noticed that one flower sneaked in.

  3. I love these photos, thank you so much for showing all this lovely northern shade planting. I have really especially fallen for those Matteuccia… going away to further investigate…

  4. This is a lovely selection of leaves.
    The Athyrium niponicum ‘pictum’ is really interesting. And I do like Brunerra.
    Thank you for the visit to my blog – and for leaving a comment so that I could find my way here to see these lovely photos.

  5. Hi there Northern Shade :-D

    What a great presentation of plants. It is almost like a catalogue!

    Hands down it is your selection of ferns that gets me! I seriously envy you being able to name them all too. I have had mine for many years and can only name a few now – I must sort that some day ;-)

    Jack Frost I love too but he never made it to my posting. I had difficulty in deciding which ones to show and finally opted for the most green. Jack has appeared in my silver foliage posting and will return again in the future :-D

    Have a great week :-D

  6. Hi Northern Shade,
    You have such a wide range of greens… I’m especially attracted to the silvery or bluey ones you’ve featured here. But then again I really love the ferns too.

    I’m very curious if all of this beautiful greenery goes away every winter and does it come back on its own?
    Very nice post!
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  7. Beautiful leaves! The way you presented your pictures is lovely. I went outside twice yesterday to take pictures of leaves and was distracted by butterflies. I have lots of pictures of butterflies on leaves…
    Nice collection of ferns.
    Loking forward to reading your journal and getting to know you.

  8. Shirl, thanks. Every time I went to take a picture, Jack Frost would poke his little leaf under or over another leaf (his version of bunny ears).
    When I dig up a new bed extension and think of the plants I want to put in, the thought, “wouldn’t a fern look nice there?” frequently pops into my head.

    Meems, the plants I showed were perennials ( and a couple of trees and shrubs). Most of the leaves of the perennials start to deteriorate about the end of September. They gradually die back with the frosts of October, and are usually covered in snow by the end of October or mid November. A few plants, such as the Dryopteris fern and the Campanula portenschlagiana keep their green even after the frost, but they are short and soon covered in a white blanket. Usually things start to poke up again in late April, when the snow melts.
    My gardening period is much shorter than my gardening enthusiasm. That is why, in April, I keep making the rounds of the garden, looking for signs of new shoots, and I love the spring bulbs.
    That’s also why I’ve been planting more shrubs with interesting stems too, for winter interest. My large spruce and pine trees provide the main greenery for the winter. They look beautiful with snow on their branches.

    Sherry, thanks. Some of my leaves wanted to put on silver eye shadow for their portraits, but I think that butterflies are the perfect accessory for a leaf to wear.

  9. I see your shady garden has made you our greenery expert especially in the fern department. Thanks for stopping over at my place and commenting a few days ago – I’m still catching up with everyone!

  10. I liked reading this post, looking at the pictures. Your post is superb and helpful for visitors. I read your other articles too.
    Thanks for sharing.


    Amelie Wakelin.

    1. Amelie, thanks, I’m a big fan of foliage plants in the shade garden. There are so many perennials with varied leaves that add a great deal of interest to the garden, even when they are not in bloom. Heuchera and Tiarella are some of my current favurites.

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