Foliage Follow-up - August 2016

Today is Foliage Follow-up, held on the 16th of every month after Bloom Day to remind us what really carries a great garden through the seasons: foliage! While my lengthy bloom day posts give the appearance that my garden is full of flowers, in reality they are mostly quite scattered and are equal partners, or sometimes mere accents, to the leaves and living architecture (mostly trees and shrubs) that are the true stars and backbone of the garden. Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting this marvelous meme to help us appreciate the foliage in our gardens and others'.

I tried to avoid repeats, but there are more than a few plants that I just can't seem to stop photographing.

This combination in the greenhouse was an accident I didn't notice until later. The green bromeliad is a smudge-patterned Vriesea ospinae-gruberi, the dark red bromeliad in front is a Neoregelia hybrid. I was separating the Neoregelia from the mother plant to trigger the mother into producing more pups. I put the separated pup closer to the mist while it rooted in, and that happened to be right next to the new Vriesea, also rooting in after arriving in the mail. I didn't notice until the next day or so, but the green spots on the Neo. are a near-perfect echo of the Vriesea.

Showing beauty in age, the senescing foliage of Nigella damascena makes a delicate web of purple and chartreuse.

My Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca' is really taking off in its new home. It's grown more this year than in all the previous years in the first place I planted it, which was far too dry. I cut off the two horizontal branches at the base to send more energy into the two would-be leaders. I think next year I'll be cutting off the one on the right to allow the one on the left to take over. It seems to be the most upright. This isn't something you can do with most conifers.

I love seeing this plant healthy and successful.

The already grey leaves of Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten' look even better covered in morning dew.

A perfect example of the importance of foliage. The Nigella blooms are lovely, sure, but what would they be without the backdrop of chartreuse heath?

 A wider view of the driveway island shows how much color can be achieved with foliage and just a few flowers as accents.

One of those plants I just can't stop photographing: Seseli gummiferum.

I'm also in love with the red stems on the new growth of this Clethra.

The velvety new leaves are blushed red, too.

I've been wanting to show one of these silvery Sarcococca orientalis seedlings for some time now, but the resulting photos always failed to show their true color. I finally managed one that does a decent job of it, thanks in part to the true green foliage of Prunella vulgaris providing a reference.

I do love silver foliage, but it doesn't look nearly as nice without plain green to play off of. This is a silver Mahonia seedling I've been raising from a tiny plant less than an inch tall, not the one I usually share in these posts. That one has mostly recovered after going entirely purple-red from drought last summer, but still looks a bit peaked. That entire bed would benefit from a hefty dose of compost, but I'm still leaning towards moving the mahonia to a better location regardless. Plants like that deserve the best.

The blue, dew-enhanced foliage of a very young Rhododendron cinnabarinum, growing up through a patch of prunella.

This scene is no more, as I've since removed the top of the Viburnum plicatum providing the red foliage. It was a rescue plant with damage to the stems. Obviously not enough to kill it outright, but enough for a slow, lingering decline that allowed it to color up for a wonderful contrast with the silvery Carex comans.

Luckily, the viburnum is sending up suckers from the undamaged areas at the base of the plant, so the above scene will return for future displays in autumn.

 That silver sedge is a valuable filler in my garden. Here it complements the variegated foliage of Stachyurus praecox 'Sterling Silver'.

I thought my Orostachys iwarengae had disappeared over winter, but a few tiny pieces survived and have been slowly spreading this summer.

The birds seem to be trying to "help" it spread, tearing up bits in their search for insects. It would work in a climate with more summer rainfall. Here, it's just obnoxious as these plants will simply wilt if not replanted. I'm happy the birds are managing the invertebrate population in the garden, but they've really been a bit overzealous this year, flinging things about and scratching soil away from the roots of young plants.

I've been watching this patch of ajuga begin to mingle with the Satureja douglasii, or yerba buena, with much interest. I love the satureja, but it doesn't make a particularly dense ground cover. It's better at winding through other plants, popping up through them. I'm hoping these two plants will play nicely and the ajuga won't just smother the yerba buena, as I love the effect of the rich green and purple foliage together.

I know I've shared photos similar to this one before, but it's another of those plants and combinations I just can't help but stare at and photograph. The brilliant new growth of Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold' contrasts marvelously with the blue foliage of Euphorbia rigida. An old Allium christophii inflorescence provides another contrast in shape and texture. I even like the old brown flowers on the Erica.

Another combination I love, a particularly silver selection of Helleborus x sternii from Cistus, poking up through lime thyme and contrasting with the dark foliage of a weeping Acer palmatum.

 Shadow-play along a stem of Euphorbia rigida.

I've been photographing Comptonia peregrina a lot this summer, but had to share this photo after I noticed the wonderful contrast between the comptonia and juncus foliage. After asking the advice of a friend who propagates plants for the New England Wildflower Society's Garden in the Woods, I'm going to try digging some of the copious suckers produced by the comptonia this year to plant elsewhere in the garden. I think winter will be a good time to dig them, check for roots, and relocate them or pot them up to share in spring.

I've shared Matthiola fruticulosa ssp. perennis 'Alba' before, but captured these photos under much better lighting. These photos really show off the velvety texture of the leaves.

In part of the Acer griseum bed, they're giving the Mimulus cardinalis a run for its money in vigor.

This evening shot highlights the golden hairs of Magnolia globosa, which completely cover the buds.

Evening light is wonderful for photographing Rubus lineatus. I recently noticed a sucker a few inches from the base of the main plant, which has me in a sudden panic that I should move it to a spot where it can spread more without crowding its neighbors, and where conditions are harsher so it won't spread quite as fast as it's capable. I did cram rather a lot of shrubs into this one bed, so it really should be thinned out.

I picked up three silver-leaved Pulmonaria the other day and wasn't entirely sure where to put them, though I knew they'd be great small-scale groundcovers in several shady spots. I ended up planting them beneath this variegated Cornus alternifolia 'Wstackman'. I was drawn to the combination even as I feared the silver pulmonaria and variegated dogwood would be too busy when combined. Yet, at least to my eye, the combination works. Others might not agree, but I won't be offended if you tell me so.

I'll finish this post off with a patio plant combination: Begonia 'Little Brother Montgomery' and a new frond on Phlebodium pseudoaureum


  1. Excellent photography and write-ups! To ignore the beauty of foliage is to miss an opportunity to fully appreciate the garden for the majority of the year.

    On that note, what advice would you have for recouping the leaves of a cattleya orchid that my cat decided to taste-test? several leaves are frayed, punctured and withering.

    1. Thanks, Lukas! Ouch, I can sympathize. My family's last cat was a frequent chewer of foliage. Unfortunately, those leaves are done for. You'll have to wait for new growths to produce new leaves. If the damaged leaves don't die completely, leave them on the plant to provide as much energy as possible for the new growths.

    2. Thanks... It's not easy to accept, especially since I packed that orchid home from Hawaii. It looks like the plant on the whole will pull through, as there is a new leaf coming up from the crown, but I am stuck waiting for a bloom until who knows when.

  2. You always have great foliage picks, Evan, but these foliage combinations up the ante even higher. They're all wonderful but I admit to being fixated on the bromeliad mix at the top of the post. I'm very afraid I'm developing a bromeliad plant crush.

    1. Thanks, Kris! That's a worthy plant crush. Don't fear it, embrace it! I got the Vriesea on ebay and the Neoregelia from a nursery in Florida that doesn't seem to be doing mail-order anymore. But I recently saw one that looked a lot like it on

  3. You must have had a lot of fun putting this post together, it's filled with such great foliage and inspired combinations. Of course you could have stopped with the Vriesea ospinae-gruberi and Neoregelia and I would have been happy.

    1. Thanks, Loree. I did have fun putting it together, and taking the pictures for it. The morning and evening light is beautiful.

  4. Great combo pictures throughout. The Nigella blooms against the chartreuse heath is my favorite as I love cool colors during the summer heat. Ajuga and yerba buena is another great combo. Two years ago, after reading your blog, I planted yerba buena and it's looking great this year. Working around them in the garden has the added bonus of terrific scent!

  5. Several of your photos failed to show up for me, but the ones that did are stunners, especially that last one.

    1. That's odd. Sorry you didn't get to see all of them.

    2. Great foliage, stunning combinations!


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