The recent rain that we had, at least it rained in my garden, was a welcome relief. Not that it rained enough to do much good, but it did rinse the dust off the leaves. On this August morning, as I walk through my garden, my eyes are drawn to some of the plants that provide color and interest with their foliage. Of course, it is a bonus to have interesting foliage and flowers and I have a large container of Sun Patiens which provides just that; interesting foliage and flowers. Sun Patiens ‘Spreading White’ has variegated foliage of yellow leaves with a dark green rim around the edge and white flowers that have been in bloom since May. While I would not give this plant sun all day, the container in my garden gets several hours of afternoon sun and there has been no leaf burn.
I am forever changing things in my garden and with containers, it is easy to mix and match and make various combinations of foliage depending on the season. A particular attractive contrast on our deck is Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’ and Canna ‘Blueberry Sparkler’. The common name for Cotinus is ‘Smoke Tree’, and it is a small tree that can reach 12 feet in height. I have been able to keep it in a pot on our deck for many years by cutting it back to 15-20 inches each fall. Because of my pruning it so severely each fall, it does not bloom but I don’t care as I am growing it for the foliage. Give it some protection from the hot afternoon summer as the leaves will tend to lose their chartreuse color and become scorched.
It was not that many years ago that Coleus were considered to be plants for shade. In recent years, many new varieties have been developed to tolerate sun and these are referred to as Sun Coleus. These make excellent container plants and there is a huge array of leaf colors from solid shades to mixes of red, copper, yellow, purple, etc. While their name may be ‘Sun Coleus’, I would give them protection from the hot afternoon sun. A new Sun Coleus for me this year is one called ‘Inferno’. It has performed exceptionally well with beautiful foliage that has withstood the heat. Another group of Coleus with very large and colorful leaves is the ‘Kong’ series which does need some shade. ‘Kong’ Coleus can make a spectacular statement in a pot.
Another good foliage plant for shade is Aralia ‘Sun King’. Often shady areas tend to be dark looking and Aralia ‘Sun King’ will provide a bright spot of golden color all summer. It is a deciduous shrub and could become a permanent plant in the garden. ‘Sun King’ likes a rich humus soil and I would suggest working compost into the soil at time of planting. If it is to be grown in a container, use something like Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix.
Don’t overlook the value of foliage plants and how they can enhance a garden. At this time of year, as the flowers of some plants tend to fade away, foliage plants can continue to provide color.