The novice gardener may easily overlook the importance that the shape, texture, venation, colour and size of leaves can contribute to the general appearance of a garden, as they focus more on the floral side of things. Flowers are the most striking feature, but they are often short-lived. It should be emphasized that the dominant theme in most gardens is the foliage and not the flowers (see Figures 5.7 and 5.8). The possibilities for contrast are almost endless when these five leaf aspects are considered.
In Chapter 4 (see p22) the range of leaf forms is described. Consider leaf shape first. The large linear leaves of Phormium tenax (New Zealand
Flax) are a well-known striking example. In contrast are the large palmate leaves of Gunnera manicata. On a smaller scale, the shade-loving Hostas, with their lanceolate leaves, mix well with the pinnate-leaved Dryopteris filix-mas (Male fern).
Secondly, leaf texture is also important. Most species have quite smooth textured leaves. Notably different are Verbascum olympicum, Stachys byzantina (Lamb's tongue) and the alpine Leontopodium alpinum (Edelweiss) which all are woolly in texture. Glossy-leaved species such as Ilex aquifolium (Holly), and Pieris japonica provide a striking appearance.
Thirdly, the plant kingdom exhibits a wide variety of leaf colour tones (see Figure 5.8). The conifer, Juniperus chinensis (Chinese juniper), shrubs of the Ceanothus genus, and Helleborus viridus (Christmas rose) are examples of dark-leaved plants. Notable examples of plants with light-coloured leaves are the tree Robinia pseudoacacia (false acacia), the climber Humulus lupulinus 'Aureus' (common hop) and the creeping herbaceous perennial, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (Creeping Jenny). Plants with unusually coloured foliage may also be briefly mentioned: the small tree Prunus 'Shirofugen' (bronze-red), the sub-shrub Senecio maritima (silver-grey) and the shade perennial Ajuga reptans 'Atropurpurea ' (bronze-purple).
Variegation (the presence of both yellow and green areas on the leaf) gives a novel appearance to the plant (see Figures 5.6 and 10.11). Example species are Aucuba japonica (Laurel), Euonymus fortunei and
Glechoma hederacea (Ground Ivy). Fourthly, in autumn, the leaves of several tree, shrub and climber species change from green to a striking orange-red colour. Acer japonicum (Japanese maple), Euonymus alatus (Winged spindle), and Parthenocissus tri-cuspidata (Boston ivy) are examples.
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