Foliage plants

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In the confined space of the small greenhouse all foliage is important. Even flowering plants with large coarse leaves are unlikely to be worth growing. No one should ignore foliage plants, for they are attractive all the year while many flowers only last a short time. They are helpful, too. in avoiding the flat effect of many small pot plants grown on one level, for there are trailers, trees, and palms, as well as the ferns and other shade lovers that grow happily under the staging. Flower arrangers will want trails of foliage to pick, while ihe strange forms of succulents are also effective in a mixed display. Some coloured leaves arc as brilliant as any blossoms, and the cool greys and greens separate and enhance the brighter colours. In a conservatory one is particularly likely to want permanent plants in larger pots.

In the north facing or otherwise shaded greenhouse, plants grown for their foliage will be the mainstay. It must be remembered that ferns need a damp atmosphere as well as shade. This is difficult to maintain in a small greenhouse or conservatory in summer even with artificial shading, if the structure is in a hot position.

The foliage plants now grown as house plants enjoy warmth, but the glass will probably need shading from April to October. Most of them need a minimum winter temperature of at least 1Q°C (50°Fj to do more than endure the winter, but all can be propagated and re-potted and generally encouraged to grow better, if there is a greenhouse available in the warmer months. The highly ornamental rex begonias and palms also appreciate shaded warmth in summer. Although there may not be room for palms to grow large, they develop slowly and most will survive in the cool greenhouse or conservatory if gradually accustomed to cooler conditions.

Almost everyone seems to have a soft spot for grey leaves, which nature has endowed with a protective tomentum or silvery hairs to protect them from powerful sunlight or wind dessication. Many such plants are valued in the garden but often lost in our wet winters, so that small plants over-wintered in the greenhouse may serve the double purpose of preserving the stock and providing a useful foil for the brighter colours.

The grey-leaved plants do not want warmth, only freedom from frost and not too rich a soil. The better forms of Senecio cineraria and Ceniourea gymnocarpa are weil worth preserving and cuttings can be rooted at the end of the summer. Helichrysum peiioJcitum is another silver plant that can be decorative in a cold greenhouse. Pyreihrum ptarmacaefoJium with silver leaves of a lacey fineness is also raised from seed or cuttings. It is at its best in its second year if pruned in March.

Pelargoniums provide a number of coloured leaved and variegated plants. Pelargonium graveolens 'Lady Plymouth* with finely divided grey and white leaves is a favourite of mine. The cypresslike P. crispum variegatum with small crinkled cream and green foliage and the well-named ivy leaf pelargonium 'L'Elegante' that is green and white, and pink as well, if kept on the dry side, are other suggestions.

Amongst succulents, kalanchoes also provide a choice, K. mormorata has blue-grey leaves with brown freckles, while those of the plushy K. tomentosa are brown tipped. KaJanchoe pumiln is a small grey-leaved plant for the front of the staging or a hanging basket. It has pink flowers in spring. These all thrive in 7°C (45 °F) and are very easily renewed from cuttings.

Asparagus fern is well known and there are several forms. Asparagus meyerii with elegant plumes of foliage is an unusual plant to raise from seed and so is the pink spotted Hypoestes snnguinoJenta, sometimes called the polka dot plant.

For coloured leaves everyone knows Coleus, which can be rapidly grown from cuttings to make plants of any size according to the warmth and skill lavished on them. Many brilliant kinds can also be raised from seed. In the warm greenhouse or conservatory codiaeums are no less colourful al! the year round. Indeed in warmth the choice becomes very large with creepers and climbers, coloured veining and rich velvety surfaces.

Tlio polka dot plant, Hypoesies sanguinolontci (see also p. 41),

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  • tony
    How to grow foliage plant from cutting?
    8 years ago

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