July 27, 2006

Leaves and garden design

An intriguing new (for me) idea in garden design has been changing the way I look at my garden, and seems to be making a long-term change in the way I will choose my plants in the future. I learned a long time ago to think about the different heights of my plants, and their bloom times and colour. Then I got a little more sophisticated and I started thinking about playing up the contrasts in the size and shape of plants and the size and shapes and colours of their leaves. Ferns and hostas are a natural combination in this department with the broad, bold leaves of the hostas contrasting so nicely with the tiny, lacy leaves of most ferns.

But though I had paid lip service to the idea of varying leaf sizes, I realized after reading a posting in a forum some time back that I spent much more time looking at leaf shape and colour than I did at size and that my garden was indeed chock full of plants with small leaves - long, slender ones, finely dissected ones, tear-shaped ones, but - with the exception of a couple of hostas - all small ones.

For those of us who live in more northerly areas, this is an easy situation to fall into. There just aren't many large-leafed plants that grow naturally or easily around here. Gunneras, bananas and taros just don't figure in the natural flora. And that's a pity. Because the more I mull it over and the more I stare at my gardens, the more I realize that all those small leaves contribute to an overly busy, cluttered effect. What I really need is a lot more large-leafed plants to provide a break from all the fine details and give my garden a better balance.

In honour of this new-found wisdom, I went out and bought a couple of bergenias to replace some ground covers and chose a trio of coleus with huge leaves to fill in the gaps in my front bed. I will also be eyeing some of my under-performing plants and contemplating replacing them with some of the bigger hostas. Those cannas may move out of the pots and into the beds (yes, I know, this isn't novel but I'd never thought about it before as a leaf issue) and who knows, maybe a rhubarb patch in the ornamental border might be an idea worth playing with.

On the other hand, that datura may have nice big leaves, but I do think it's time to make a little less room for it nonetheless. Where did my secateurs go?

Datura taking over the flower bed

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good/bad girl said...

your plants are amazing. they are all beautiful.

Kasmira said...

I really like brunera for large leaves in the shade. I'll have to take a picture of mine with my hand for reference. They're huge!

Please keep us posted on your bergenia. I REALLY want some, but I've heard they can be fussy and I haven't been able to find them at a price I'm willing to take a chance with.

Sigrun said...

No no, kasmira, Bergenias are the best plants, you can buy. For sun ore shade, dry or wet, for each place. I love them very much because they are green in winter, and red.


Janet said...

Good/bad girl, why thank you. *blush*

Kasmira, I'm very fond of brunnera also. I've raved about my Jack Frost more than once here, and I'm eyeing Haspen Cream.

The little bergenias I got (nice and cheap) are doing pretty well, although one of them was attacked by my cat early on, so it's visibly smaller than its neighbour. They will probably get their own mention in here sooner or later.

Sigrun, you are going to have to show us photos!