26 Aug 2014

Thursday Garden Review: Foliage - Shady Characters

 It would appear that the adage, 'time flies when you're having fun,' should be applied to this weekly meme! Joy is one of my earliest [if not the very first] readers of my blog, and through the years we have pontificated and likewise commiserated over our gardens: 'What is that crazy tall Thalictrum?' to 'How do you keep track of all of those Heuchera?' and lets not forget those damned masked vermin that took a liking to her property, but lets not dilly dally on that debacle fear we jinx her luck of late!

This week, [yes Joy, we've been at it for a month now! YAY!!] I want to talk about some of my most favourite shade loving foliage plants. When you garden in predominant shade, you get used to the idea that flowers will be fleeting, and as is the case with my garden, they are very late to appear, aside of the early blooming ephemerals! For me personally, there is nothing as important as bold, dramatic, unusual foliage when you are creating a shade garden. The photo above shows one of my favourite planting combinations that includes Acanthus hungaricus, Diphylleia cymosa, Syneilesis aconitifolia and Fallopia japonica 'Milk Boy.' Each can be considered a showcase plant in and of itself, but when placed within close proximity to one another - even I have to admit the results are nothing less than dramatic!

Syneilesis aconitifolia is also known as 'shredded umbrella' - which is perhaps a perfect moniker for a plant that emerges from the ground resembling an army of diminutive, tomentose, shredded umbrellas. As he matures, his sublimely serrated foliage expands, creating the perfect textural contrast for the more ubiquitous Hosta. I admit to loving him most when he is covered in soft, downy silver hairs in the week that he makes his appearance known!

Diphylleia cymosa is a North American native that is vastly under-used and under-appreciated in shade garden designs - perhaps due to the fact that I have only stumbled across two garden nurseries that stock him! Large, dramatically bold palmate shaped foliage can rise to 1m, whose stems are topped with wiry red pedicels that bear the most luxurious blue fruit in the Fall.

Last week I discussed the merits of Acanthus hungaricus so I will cut short its description. Fallopia japonica 'Milk Boy' aka Persicaria variegata 'Compactum' is one of my Top ten plants. He emerges in the Spring a delightful coral colour, and in a matter of months is 1m tall and wide. His pink, cream/white and green heart shaped splashed foliage is held on the stem by sublime ruby pedicels! The combination of these elements is best appreciated up close and personal. There are those who want to lump it in with the more rambunctious 'knotweeds', but for me, my two clumps have behaved most admirably. In fact I find myself adding more if only to introduce a pop of brightness to a darkened section of the garden! 

My beloved Arisaema species are also legendary for their unusual foliage. Whereas our native species sports the trypical trifoliate leaf structure, some of the more unusual Asian species offer whorled, ripped foliage, sometimes upping the ante to include a shimmering pewter inlay to each leaflet. Yes, indeed I do pontificate at great lengths about Arisaema consanguineum 'Perfect Wave' - a selection that found its way home with me from Lost Horizons, as did almost every plant that I speak of in this post!

The photo above offers a better visual of both Diphylleia cymosa, with its dramatically bold, palmate foliage that towers over most everything else in the border located between the houses. He is early to emerge, and can fall victim to slugs so it is best to protect him early! The photo below shows that army of diminutive shredded umbrellas - my beloved Syneilesis aconitifolia. I was thrilled to be able to offer it on the benches of Cedar Spring Nursery this past Spring, and will hopefully have more on the benches next year! 

I truly am a 'shady character' at heart as this post can attest to. I love stumbling across a border that is void of flowers - for some, like myself they act as a distraction from the mind boggling textures and shades of green that, when positioned just so, create something that is equally as enticing as a drift of flowers. At least this is what I tell myself every day when I pass by my garden of shady characters!

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