Foliage and heat in the garden

I have decided to write on a regular basis about the foliage in the garden.  My intention is that I’ll write on the 22nd of the month.  I hope some of you might like to do the same thing so that we can compare as we do with GBBD.  As you will notice I am already late this month but hey this is the first one!  I also don’t know how to set up a “mister linky” but I’ll try to learn before next month!

Sedum and Artemisia ponticum

I think this image of a purple sedum and sage green Artemisia ponticum show very well how plants can work together; the solidity of the sedum versus the airiness of the Artemisia.  At the back of the garden I have a solid block of bay, it doesn’t line up with the central path at the moment but it will as I’ve planted some more and am trying to be patient while they grow to extend the block; planted in front are two Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ which move in the wind against the solid Bay.

This will be even more obvious when the Miscanthus flowers – though I really think of  grass flowers as foliage, but they add so much to the garden I feel it correct to count them twice!

Here’s the same colour combination as above using Albizia ‘Chocolate’ and another Artemisia.

When I first thought about this and walked out into the garden with the camera I wasn’t sure how much interesting foliage there would be; that was a strange thought really as I think I like my plantings more for the foliage than I do for the flowers though I do enjoy those very much too.  When I plan a border or area of the garden it is just as important to me that the plant has interesting textual foliage as that it has a beautiful, perfumed flower of the right colour.  I don’t think there is a plant that has flowers longer than it has foliage – I may be wrong but none come to mind as I write; accepting this, then, the contribution made by the texture, form and colour of the foliage is going to have more impact on the overall impact the garden has than perhaps anything else we plant.

The Large Island is predominately silver foliage because this bed is not irrigated

In my post for GBBD I mentioned that we’d had a coolish summer (for Italy) with unprecedented rain during July; the temperatures in the last week have made up for that with several days of 35-37° C with a strong wind from the west and night-time temperatures only dipping to 24°C.  To me it seems some plants have been lulled into a false sense of security and have not pushed their roots down further to reach the damp lower layers.  Several now look very stressed and I have had to give them some water or I fear they would die.  Interestingly the Italian way of saying a plant or tree has died is to say it is seccata (dried) as death through lack of water is the major cause of losing plants.

Even my fig tree is very stressed and is losing its leaves and dropping the ripe fruit; the walnut also has many leaves which frankly look scorched.

Scorched fig leaves

fallen fig leaves, I must give it some water

Worst is the Bergenia, I will have to move them either to a shady spot or remove them altogether as they suffer like this every year and don’t actually flower all that well either.

Poor Bergenia

On a happier note the silver foliage in the garden is positively sparkling and glinting in the sunshine.

The vegetable garden can also thrill when the sun back lights the gorgeous red stems and leaves of Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’.

Can you spot the Verbena bonariensis growing as a weed in the vegetable garden!

Click here to see the foliage in My Hesperides Garden today.

Here’s a link to Carolyns Shade garden who has posted about her textural contasiners.

32 thoughts on “Foliage and heat in the garden

  1. I like the juxtaposition between purple and silver – another one which I find useful and a bit taller is purple Cotinus against Acca Sellowiana.
    Stay cool!

    • Hi Yvonne, great to hear from you, I’ve been checking your blog but nothig since June. Yes I have a purple Cotinus in the Large Island bed too, although its not very well established yet and tends to loose its purple colour. Christina

  2. So glad to find someone who thinks that foliage is as important as flowers. Your silver leaved plants are looking fantastic, but I agree your poor bergenia is suffering, all mine are in the shade even in our cooler climate. Love the contrast of your grass with the bay, solid against the wafting grass. Will try to remember 22nd of the month, wonderful idea !

    • Thanks for the info about FYI Pam @ digging, I didn’t realise someone was already doing a foliage meme, but the 16th is difficult for me directly after Bloomday so I will continue with the 22nd and see how it goes; I’ll also link back to Pam each month. Christina

  3. Great idea, Christina, I will go out and look at my foliage. The bay looks brilliant- what a beautiful block of green, and the miscanthus is the perfect foil. I love the silver border too.

  4. I love the silver and purple combinations! Foliage is the staple of my own garden. Many flowers have a hard time with my summer heat, so its nice to have interesting foliage. About grasses – I did plant some Japanese blood grass in a pot, as well as in a wild garden area on a slope. I first loved it for its colorful leaves, but now that it’s blooming, I love it even more. It’s an annual. I don’t know if it will reseed itself here, but I will find out. A lot of grasses are very invasive here, so I am cautious.

    By the way, I have a ltlle fig tree I planted in a pot this year. It lost most of its leaves during the hottest part of the summer when I forgot to water it for a couple of days, but it is putting out new ones now. It’s still a tiny tree, but it does have a few figs on it, despite the wather.

    • Hi Deb, figs often do very well in a pot as they fruit best in a restricted root run, so yours should do well; its very unusual that they suffer in the ground but mine always does! I’ve never had flowers on my Japanese blood grass but it is a perennial here. I do find it interesting how species perform so differently in different conditions. Christina

  5. What a fabulous idea Christina. I have been thinking about posting about texture in the garden for ages, but have never got round to it, your 22nd series will be the perfect opportunity. Though I think it will be next month before I join in. I love that bay + miscanthus combination, though I think it will be a while before my bay treelet can provide me with the backdrop I now yearn for! Mind you, it would also work really well with beach or hornbeam, so have filed that away for the future. My main niggle with my pond border is that the foliage textures don’t work as well as I would have liked.

    • Hi Janet, I’m glad you’re going to join in with the foliage meme. From the point of view of enjoying the garden, foliage is probably more important than flowers – they are the bonus. I find Bay seedlings all over the garden as there are established plants all around. There is one just outside the property which is enormous, maybe 4 m spread by 3 or 4 tall. It is fantastically tollerent of pruning even right back to the trunk; we’ve pruned several very hard and they then grow back into a nice solid shape like the one in the photos. Christina

  6. Christina, the artemisia pontica is really pretty! I like the mix with sedum a lot.
    I also enjoyed the large island, very very mediterranean look!

    The climate this spring/summer has been really scary around here too. The more we keep prepared the more the weather overtake us! 😦

    • Artemisia pontica is pretty but a bitof a thug; it is spreading relentlessly through the bed, where I want, I leave it, elsewhere I’m moving it to the slope which needs more ground cover (not evergreen). Your last post was mainly about foliage so others might like to read it too (it’s in English, even if the writter is Italian gardening in the north of Italy. Christina

  7. I was going to tell you about Pam at Digging. You’ll enjoy her posts and since she is in Texas you might be able to grow some of the same plants. I am thinking you might be able to grow the dwarf ginkgo if you can grow regular ginkgoes since my climate is colder and wetter than yours but has hot fairly dry summers.

    • Thanks Linda, I’ll definately look for the ginkgo; as I’ve said in other replies, I intend continuing with the foliage meme on the 22nd of the month (no time to write and post 2 days in a row) and linking back to Pam. Christina

  8. Christina I love foliage, it is often what I take most interest in plus perfume, I don’t just mean flower perfume but lots of plants especially herbs have fragrant foliage, I’m interested in your first photo as the middle bed in my little front garden was planted with predominantly silver and blue foliage plants, a few grey/green, I started to think it needed pops of something else and had thought about it over the years then last winter realised purple/maroon foliage plants were just the thing, I’ve been looking for a purple leaved sedum but as shopping is so limited on island have not found one yet,
    I will join you with foliage posts if it is not too close to wildflower Wednesday which is the 4 wednesday of the month, like you say 2 posts in quick succesion is not on,
    I love your combinations but then I do love your garden though temps of 35c plus I would not like but our low temps are the other extreme,
    Frances who would like a bit of heat!

    • Thanks Frances, you can certainly have some of our heat. Because its been cooler this year, I’d forgotten just how awful the heat makes me feel. Silver and purple work really well together – I’m still looking for some more drought tolerant plants of this colour. Christina

  9. Dear Christina, I’m already excited about the 22nd exhibition series – great idea! I love the way you see opportunities in grey leaves and feel affirmed in my gardening. Thank you for the link to Carol’s blog!

  10. I think the silveryness ( a word?) of santalino and artemisia is my favorite. The color is so soft it can make any other plant next to it pop. I am so glad to find your blog. I will keep following your post.

  11. Pingback: End of Month Review, August « Creating my own garden of the Hesperides

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