Under colorful blankets of blooms and tall inflorescenses, our plants’ foliage can remain overlooked. This isn’t entirely fair. Afterall, foliage faithfully absorbs light, makes food, breathes, and releases excess water for our plants. It is, in a word, essential.
Lucky for gardeners, foliage isn’t only utilitarian, but also often beautiful. Why not celebrate leaves, these heroes of photosynthesis and landscape interest, with a feature on some fantastic foliage?
Leaves We Love
Heuchera, commonly called coral bells, are known for their colorful leaves. Varieties come in pinks, purples, reds, bronze, chartreuse, and greens- and that is just the short list of color choices. Want more? How about spots, splotches, streaks, and squiggles? Branch out and try Tiarella (aka foam flower) for even more exciting patterns and colors. And don’t forget Heucherella, a cross between coral bells and foam flowers. Great for shade with certain varieties tolerating more sun.
Tiger Eyes Sumac is nothing but striking. Deeply cut, chartreuse leaflets almost drip from the upright branches. The feathery foliage and architectural form create an elegant look in the garden and make a superb focal point. The fuzzy reddish stems add even more interest, and the vivid orange and red fall color is stunning. Less aggressive than its parent, staghorn sumac, Tiger Eyes is a beautiful addition to gardens in need of some fantastic foliage.
Ninebark has nice flowers, but it also has incredible leaves. In fact, the foliage and exfoliating bark of this shrub are the real showstoppers. Leaf colors vary from bright green to burnt orange to nearly black. The naturally open form is best left to its own devices, with minimal pruning needed only every few years to remove dead or damaged stems and improve air circulation. For best vigor, leaf color, and flowering, plant ninebark in full sun.