I am joining in with Christina @ “My Hesperides Garden” for a celebration of all things leafy today, and because some of thoses leaves are edible, and because I have set myself to join VegPlotting’s 52 Week Salad Challenge, I am also linking in to her meme – though you will have to wait to the end for the edibles bit…
So, foliage. I am a little obsessed by foliage at the moment. In thinking about plats I want to grow, borders I want to establish, in front and back, I have learned that I need to spend at least as much time thinking about how the different leaf forms will go together and the role foliage can play as I do worrying about combining flower colour and form. Combine that with the fact that this is a new garden, and I am still learning what grows well here and what is already here, growing, and I spend a lot of time apparently peering at the ground. It must be very confusing for my neighbour, who is already confused by the fact that I have a greenhouse and it isn’t crammed with flowers!
In the back garden I have a cluster of 9cm pots with Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae.
I love this plant. It romps away in shade, full or partial, happy on dry soil, wet soil, light soil, heavy soil. And it spreads. Not so much that it becomes a real pain, but enough to mean that my three 9cm pots will soon supply all my needs. I plan to plant these around the base of a hazel in the back of the back garden, to give lovely textured evergreen foliage, help hide the daffodil foliage when it goes over, and provide that little injection of acid green colour when they flower.
I was really happy to see these leaves emerging from a clump of Viola odorata the other day:
Euphorbia amygdaloides purpurea, with beautiful red foliage. I never had much luck with this plant in my old garden, I think the soil was too heavy. It is supposed to be evergreen, like its cousin, but these seem to be less than happy. I think they are crowded out by the viola, so I am hopeful that hey will thrive once I get the are a little more decongested.
I can’t talk about foliage without mentioning Bear’s Breaches (Acanthus mollis). It was one of the first plants I noticed in the back garden when we were first nosing around, waiting for the estate agent.
Another plant I had sort-of grown in my old garden, but never in such huge clumps. It appears to be fully evergreen here, and the wonderfully architectural foliage is a very welcome sight, even without the huge flower spikes that linger on adding interest when dried – until the flop over and go all black that is… There is a second small patch now emerging in the very back corner of the garden, now that the leylandii are out of the picture – and therefore no longer drying out the ground. Though given the recent puddling maybe there was a good reason for growing conifers in that corner, and not just for screening! There is a huge clump growing in the much lighter soil of the front garden, in full sun. I will be attempting to remove this, though I suspect it will be a little like trying remove the native crocosmia, it will keep re-emerging. I will put some more in the back garden, to make three clumps rather than two (I always find just two of something visually distracting), and give some to a neghbour. There will be the added bonus of better screening from our neighbours too.
I am going to include stems as well as foliage, since they are clearly not flowers (!) and add so much to the garden, particularly in winter. I bought a trio of dogwoods. They should be very happy in the wet soil at the back of the garden, and will catch the low morning sun in late autumn and winter. I bought them small – very small, only 9cm pots – so they don’t exactly have much impact yet, but I am excited about the colour they will add given time. Plus there will be white blossom, which is always welcome.
The green stemmed dogwood won’t catch the sun in quite the same way, though it will get some later in the day, but I put it in to pick up the colour of the bamboo over to its left and the rather wonderful Griselina littoralis, which is another new plant to me.
I love the colour of this evergreen, and the slight wave in the leaves.
Since I always think context is important, I’d better give you some – the newly edged “Park Border”, which sounds rather grand but is just the border that runs down the boundary with the park next door.
This runs down the side of the Kitchen Garden, and although I will be adding more ornamentals, I also plant to plant fruit and nectar-rich annuals and perennials here. Come mid March this whole border will be in sun for most of the day, all except the area around the acer, which is where the dogwoods are and the euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae will be. Many, many bulbs needed, and other woodland lovers, including native primroses. I am also contemplating growing wild garlic there. We love the smell, and the leaves are so very tasty when young – does anyone have any experience of growing it in a garden setting? I know it can be a little “robust”, will I regret it? Will it take over completely?
And while I am asking questions, please can someone tell me what this is?
The leaves are rather wonderful, and I am guessing it is some sort of umbellifer, but I need to know how invasive it is and therefore how worried I should be about the large clumps of it that are shooting up all over the garden…
On a happier note, I finally have a plant that I have been coveting for years, but could never justify in my old garden as it would almost certainly have died. The wonderfully arhcitectural Euphorbia mellifera.
Such beautiful foliage, I have planted this in the front garden, in the back corner of the fence border. The plan is that together with a Fatsia japonica it will provide an evergreen full stop to this border and screen the utility area behind, and also disguise the drain cover I unearthed before Christmas. The fatsia is currently looking a little sad though.
The leaves had this slightly worrying yellow tinge to them when it arrived,and at the time I put it down to a couple of days couped up in cardboard, but several weeks on, with sun and feed, it still looks like it is in need of something it isn’t getting. I’m not too worried, they are tough plants and with a little tlc I am sure it will recover, but it is a shame.
Other plants that are delighting me in the front garden because of their foliage are a holly and a myrtle.
I’ve never really seen myrtle before, but I love the contrast of the tiny dark green leaves and the slightly bronze stems. It also clearly self seeds happily. There are three good size seedlings by the pond, and smaller ones elsewhere, ready to be potted up and perhaps used in a myrtle hedge.
The holly is a slightly funny story, in that this is supposed to be a variegated plant. When we got here I notices that it had been rather brutally pruned, and that the new growth sprouting from the base was plain dark green.
I removed the variegated growth, hoping the more vigorous plain foliage would take over, and in just four months it has become a rather handsome dark green shrub, providing much needed structure in a border otherwise full of deciduous plants.
In contrast to the solid forms of the myrtle and the holly, there are grasses. I love the way the massed low growing clumps of Stipa tenuissima and a carex that I have yet to identify dance in the wind, rippling like the waves in the sea beyond.
Definitely something I want more of in the front garden. More stipa will not be a problem, it clearly self-seeds very happily here, and I think I am going to grow more Carex flagillifera, it comes really easily from seed and the deep brown is a perfect colour for the surrounding landscape. It will go well with the blues, pale yellows and burnt oranges that I plan to use in the front garden, and again will provide that ripple of movement I so enjoy. And having complained at the apparent lack of bulbs in the gravel area at the front of the garden, I have to eat my words, because here is some intriguing foliage peeping up to say ‘hello’.
OK, enough of all these ornamentals, what about growing salads through the year? The half circle bed I blogged about last time is much denuded. I have used most of the golden pak choi, the rocket and mustard are growing too slowly to yield more than about four sandwiches worth a week, and although I have seedlings growing away in the conservatory, it will be a while before any of it is edible.
I have bought but not yet sown dried peas for pea shoots, but thanks to VP’s experiments at least I know that I might as well try them without the propagator, leaving more room in there for tomatoes etc.. But there are two other edible that, while not strictly salad related, I am very excited about, albeit for very different reasons.
Lemongrass! I’ve tried growing it from seed before and totally failed, but this time I actually have healthy little seedlings with true leaves appearing, ready to prick out into plugs. I love to cook with lemongrass, and if I can get some pots of this growing I can bring it in to the conservatory or greenhouse over winter and never have to buy those hideously expensive little plastic packets again. Or that’s the dream…
The first broad beans are in the cold frame hardening off. These are ‘Witkeim Manita’, and I will be sowing some more over the weekend. No sign of germination from ‘Claudia’ as yet, maybe the seed is too old, not sure, but we can never have to many home grown broad beans.
I thoroughly recommend visits to My Hesperides Garden for more celebrations of foliage, and to Veg Plotting for more about growing salad through the year. I’m off to stroke my lemongrass seedlings and daydream about all the wonderful meals I can use them in.