Foliage is often an overlooked feature of gardens, but it brings plenty of drama and structure to a space. You don’t just have to garden for flowers. Utilising different plants and combining leaf shapes will enhance a garden, creating a lush and textural backdrop that can be embellished with flowering perennials. Prized for its year-round interest, foliage is a reliable garden addition that will thrive season after season.
Providing interest and texture, ferns are a great foliage plant, ideal for livening up shady spaces. They bring interesting shapes and movement as their fronds unfurl and grow.
This robust, evergreen fern is commonly known as Western sword fern due to its dagger-shaped leaves. It forms an arching mound of narrow green fronds. Plant Polystichum munitum in drifts for an impressive foliage display.
Herbaceous varieties include a great number of leafy border plants. The flowering specimens bring variety to a garden, offering a wonderful display of both foliage and blooms.
Bergenias, commonly and aptly named elephant’s ears, are a must for foliage. Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ forms a clump of large, rounded, red-tinged green leaves, which darken to attractive shades of red-purple in autumn and winter. Tall red stems tower above the leaves, bearing drooping clusters of bright magenta flowers.
Lupins provide the perfect balance of show-stopping blooms and lush foliage. Lupinus ‘My Castle’ creates a display of fresh, bright green, palmate leaves around the tall, erect stems and dense flower spikes.
Leaves can bring a tactile quality to a garden. Salvia argentea, commonly known as silver sage, is an award-winning variety, cherished for its unusual foliage. Its large leaves are arranged in a rosette at the base of the plant, emerging crinkled but flattening as they mature. The foliage is covered in a layer of silver hairs, giving a soft downy to woolly appearance.
Green foliage can create a lush jungle feel, with fewer colours creating a relaxing and peaceful oasis. However, even foliage can create a colourful impact, and Heuchera ‘Binoche’ is a great example of this. Its almost black leaves make this perennial a real statement plant. Team this variety alongside contrasting foliage for the perfect combination!
A favourite amongst gardeners, Hosta plants are easy to look after and delight with foliage that offers a great variety. The leaf size, shape and texture vary greatly amongst the different varieties. Hosta ‘Wide Brim’ is an award-winning specimen that forms rounded clumps of foliage, broadly margined with a creamy edge. Pale lavender flowers decorate this perennial atop tall, graceful stems – ideal for cut flowers!
One of the best blue-leaved hostas, ‘Halcyon’ has lance-shaped leaves that develop into heart shapes as the plant matures. Its blue-grey leaves are thick-textured and are invaluable for softening hard landscaping.
Grasses are a spectacular addition to beds and borders, beautifully contrasting with perennial flowers. Generally requiring little maintenance, ornamental grasses bring variety with flower plumes and a wide range of foliage colours.
Evergreen and hardy, ‘Red Rooster’ bears long, fine-textured leaves in orange to reddish-brown tones. Its bronze leaves are upright to arching, which move gracefully in the breeze. A versatile plant, this grass is ideal for containers and perennial borders, looking effective when planted repeatedly.
Zesty stripes of contrasting yellow and green hues collide in the sword-shaped leaves of ‘Ogon’. A fabulous low-maintenance option, the arching foliage is great for naturalizing gardens.
Bringing movement to flower beds and borders, ‘Karl Foerster’ adds architectural shape and year-round interest to a garden. A great focal point, it features flat, arching leaves and bronze-hued flowers in summer.