Foliage Follow-up - January 2016

The day after Garden Blogger's Bloom Day is dedicated to foliage, hosted by Pam at Digging in her Foliage Follow-up meme. I've always loved foliage and knew its importance in the garden, but this year I really started focusing on foliage over flowers. Certainly, I have a lot more to show this time of year for Foliage Follow-up than I do for GBBD. I woke to a heavy rain shower, but the sun came out just long enough today that I actually got out to take photos and even got a little work done in the greenhouse preparing hardwood cuttings of Ribes sanguineum. Then the clouds and rain returned, so I retreated back inside.

I'll start out with a houseplant, since that's how I began my GBBD post. I could make several Foliage Follow-ups just with my houseplants, but I'm especially happy right now with the new growth on Begonia 'Old Blue'. It was looking a bit stressed and washed out most of the summer, but finally seems to have revived after a much-needed move to a larger pot. This is one of the most beautiful foliage plants I own. The leaves have an oily sheen that gives off shimmers of blue, purple, and sometimes a glowing emerald green depending on the light and angle of view.

Moving outside, Cyclamen coum could open its flowers any week now, but frankly I grow these plants mostly for the foliage. The smaller leaves dotting the ground belong to seedlings. I now have dozens of seedlings of this species and Cyclamen hederifolium scattered through several shady beds. Unfortunately, they're all still very small. Someday, when they grow up, it will be a beautiful sight.

My first cyclamen ever, a C. hederifolium, seems smaller this year than normal. The longer summers of the last two years may have made this location a bit too dry for it. Or a mole tunneled under it and damaged the roots. It's their favorite pastime.

Cyclamen purpurascens is the third species in my garden, which I added this summer. So far, the two plants seem to be doing well and are loaded with seed capsules.

Though this all-silver clone seems to have taken a bit of damage during the cold spells, with a few blackened leaves.

The epimediums are looking good. I must add more of these to the shady areas of the garden this year. Such invaluable plants for the shade garden.

Of course my favorite is this big Epimedium wushanense. These leaflets are around 9 inches long and have kept their mottling all fall. They came up at the end of summer after a couple thunderstorms dropped unexpected but welcome rain. I almost feel I should move this plant to a more prominent location, but it seems to be doing really well here and is picking up speed after its first couple slow years. Maybe I'll just take divisions from it once it gets a little bigger.

Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' remarkably still has some structure even after pounding rains and snow. It provides a tawny contrast to the dark green rhododendrons behind it (obviously not pictured here). More than that, though, I love the texture, which is even more noticeable now that the foliage is dead and the colors have faded.

Stipa gigantea is another plant with great texture. I love looking out from the living room window and seeing this burst of foliage. I have a lot of seedlings I'm planning to spread around the drier parts of the yard.

After my first attempt at growing Convulvulus cneorum met with a literal flood of failure, I tried again this year in a different area of the same bed. This spot doesn't get puddles even during heavy rain, and it's not in the flood zone if a gutter overflows. Looks like a success! There is perhaps some speckling of cold damage, but overall it looks great, especially with the ridiculously brilliant foliage of Cistus 'Mickie' behind it. I know I've shown this combo multiple times already, but it deserves an update after the two freezes we've had.

Also still going strong, though with a bit more color, is Geranium robustum. It's added some purple tints and a few peachy yellow leaves to its shimmering silver foliage. At this point, it will probably stay evergreen all winter.

Daboecia cantabrica has attractive, dark green foliage, but what I had forgotten until I divided my plant and moved it was that the undersides are a brilliant white.

The foliage of Elaeagnus pungens 'Maculata' glows in the dark days of winter.

Ok, it's not foliage, but I love the white and grey patches on the bark of this Clethra barbinervis.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snow Queen' is still holding on to a few leaves. The low winter sun comes in through the thin branches of the Douglas firs to the south and lights them up like stained glass.

My silver mahonia hasn't been silver all summer, except a little bit in the interior of the plant. This color is more normal for winter, but still more red than usual. No matter how much I watered this bed during summer, the plants seemed to dry out immediately. There are multiple causes, some of which I may be able to address, but I may be moving this particular plant anyway it's too special to lose while I try to get some moisture into that bed.

This mahonia, on the other hand, is exactly as it should be this time of year. It was a bit redder than usual this summer, but overall I think it handled the dryness better than the silver one above. This one is just a bright green in summer, not silver, but I still like the texture of the leaves and the winter color.

Cistus 'Snowfire' has taken on some purple tints since the second round of cold at the beginning of the month.

This picture doesn't quite capture the color of this heather, making it look more orange than it is. In reality, the branches that look a bit washed out are a brilliant vermillion. I don't think I've ever seen this plant get so red before.

I moved several heathers to a new border along the dry creek bed this fall. They've all, to varying degrees, taken on this unusual purple brown color that is very difficult to photograph. It was entirely unexpected and unusually welcome. Still, this purplish brown color is somewhat difficult to use in the landscape. I still need to figure it out.

In my GBBD post, I mentioned I kept one heath with pink flowers because of the foliage. This is the plant I was talking about. In spring and summer, it is a beautiful chartreuse. As the weather cools, it takes on hints of orange, bright yellow, and coral pink.

The yellow, almost white, highlights make it look like sunbeams are constantly striking it, even on the cloudiest days of winter.

I have three plants of this heath, two divided from an original plant. One of them, in a hotter, drier location below the front ramp, is even more colorful, turning almost entirely red.

And finally, I'm really loving having sedums back in the garden now that the deer can't eat them. One of my favorites is this Sedum forsterianum 'Antique Grill'. Glaucous blue summer color blushes purple in cold weather.

It pairs nicely with the rich green winter foliage of Prunella vulgaris. I think I had forgotten that prunella maintains an evergreen clump of basal foliage in winter. Another reason to appreciate this native I once disdained as a weed.

Off topic, but I also want to point out that all the photos in this blog post were taken with my phone. I'm slowly learning to use it. Two big improvements I discovered have really improved the experience. One was setting the size of the photos to have a 4:3 ratio, meaning I don't have to either post oddly long, narrow photos or go through the trouble of cropping them all. The second, even more important discovery was shooting in "pro" mode, which allows me to adjust the white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation. I still have trouble focusing where I want to at times, but I'm learning. Still, I can't wait to get my new camera.


  1. Your Epimedium wushanense is gorgeous. I feel like every single one of these plants is different, no two look the same. I wish I knew what determines the splotchiness factor.

    I need to go look at my silver Mahonia and see how it's doing. Not to mention start thinking about where to move it again. Poor thing.

    1. They are extremely variable in size, color, and spikiness. I don't know what determines the splotchiness. I just know I got a good one. Seems we're both abusing our silver mahonias. I have a second one that's even smaller than yours that I think I have in a good spot.

  2. Thanks for the tips about taking photos with your phone. They look quite professional to me. I'm looking forward to having a device that is less intrusive than the big camera.

    1. I kind of like being the weirdo with the big lens, but that's my contrary nature. It is convenient having a decent camera on my phone, now that I'm learning how to really use it, but I still want a real camera. These picture are good enough for blogging purposes, but they quickly lose resolution if you blow them up much larger.

  3. You have a wealth of great foliage to show off this month! I'm a big fan of silver-leaved plants for shady areas for the moonshine light they seem to give off, so I particularly enjoyed seeing the ones you use. And grasses -- yes! So much wonderful winter texture.

    1. I can never have enough silver foliage in the garden. Blue and grey are great, too!

  4. I loved all the plants in this month's collection, Evan. I so wish I could grow Epimedium. I tried once, in my former shady garden. It didn't die outright but I can't say it thrived either. Maybe one day I'll try pushing my zone again in this garden.

    1. Hopefully one of these days someone will come up with a more heat/drought tolerant Epimedium for you.


  5. They're all lovely but your silver Mahonia blew me away! Is that your 'Indianola Sliver?' Mine has been silver all summer and is still silver now. Not complaining as it's an incredible color but that red is delicious!

    1. Yep, that's my 'Indianola Silver' seedling. It should have been sea green silver in summer and a very silvery lavender in winter, but the drought stress this summer made it turn almost completely red. It might look good if you don't know the cause, but to me it's just worrisome. I need to find a spot with more moisture for it.

  6. We seem to have a lot of plants in common. I planted Convolvulus cneorum again this fall (after killing a couple): the foliage is so amazing, it would't bother me if it didn't flower. I adore Epimediums as they look great year round. Epimedium wushanense is going on my wish list. Finally, Hakone grass is the ultimate grass, especially for smaller gardens. They add so much grace and movement with the slightest wind even when they turn brown. I don't sheer them till I absolutely have to.

    1. Great minds think alike. :) I leave my Hakone grass until the stems start to detach naturally, so I don't even need to sheer them.

  7. Lots of great foliage, Evan, I like all your Cyclamens, I have some on my wish list. I just have hederifolia, which is surprising in its toughness and ability to spread itself around. I enjoyed the Mahonia and Epimediums too, people have been developing such interesting forms.


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