GBFD – it’s not autumn yet!

I started GBFD in Sptember 2011 with the aim of understanding how foliage works in my garden and hopefully helping others to recognise the importance of foliage in their own gardens.  Foliage is the mainstay of any garden whether we plan it that way of not, there may be a few plants that flower for 12 months a year but they certainly don’t grow in MY garden.  So it makes sense to me to consider the foliage (and form) of a plant just as much if not more than the flowers.  Don’t misunderstand I’m not advocating that we all change our gardens into flower-free zones, far from it, I think that foliage is the supporting role but if it doesn’t work then the stars find it harder to shine.

I’ve been banging on since July that this year the summer has been perfect for me, and great for the garden because the temperatures have not been so high and there has been some rain almost every week.  However even with all the benefit of the rain I realise that my garden struggles with shrubs, few really reform as well as I would like in the very free-draining soil.  The Cotinus is a good case in point – I was thrilled when I actually managed to find the purple/red-leafed varieties imaging a wonderful solid block of colour (the leaves would also be great in a vase); but that’s not happening.  The rain has allowed the stems to lengthen considerably this summer but they look spindly I am almost tempted to remove them but as I don’t know what I’d put in their place they are safe for now.

Cotinus coggygria purple - it doesn't look great!

Cotinus coggygria purple – it doesn’t look great!

Sedum 'Purple Emperor' and Santolina are always perfect together.

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and Santolina are always perfect together.

Silver or grey-leaved plants all do well, I must search out more shrubs with silver foliage, any suggestions?

The box doesn't usually put on any new growth until the autumn rains but look how much green new growth there is.

The box doesn’t usually put on any new growth until the autumn rains but look how much green new growth there is.

The box here has put on less growth but the soil is shallow here so they have more difficulty in getting the nutrients they need

The box here has put on less growth but the soil is shallow here so they have more difficulty in getting the nutrients they need

Near the now dead olive the sword-like leaves of the Irises contrast with the foliage of Echinops (which haven't flowered - I'm not sure why!)

Near the now dead olive the sword-like leaves of the Irises contrast with the foliage of Echinops (which haven’t flowered – I’m not sure why!)

As the poor olive we repositioned hasn’t survived the move, I’m considering buying a small replacement, or possibly another Fejoa.

A general view across the garden there are a few flowers but it is the foliage that sets the scene.

A general view across the garden there are a few flowers but it is the foliage that sets the scene.

I apologise about the strange blobs on many of the images, there is something on the lens (inside the lens) that I can’t remove, I need to go to a camera shop but its holiday time here in Italy and many shops are closed as they are family businesses so there is no-one to run them when the owners are away.

The LHB under the Melia is lush green now all the flowers have faded

The LHB under the Melia is lush green now all the flowers have faded

I’ve found a couple of seedlings from the Melia azedarach; as they grow so quickly to become trees (mine were seedlings when planted in 2007) I am considering adding one or both to the slope as a further windbreak for summer.

The back border aka the Spring walk is mostly grasses now.  The border is shady in summer from the two walnut trees and the Mulberry

The back border aka the Spring walk is mostly grasses now. The border is shady in summer from the two walnut trees and the Mulberry

Tanecetum densum var. amanum looked like something that has been embroidered, it thrives in the dry hot sun but even that has grown more this year

Tanecetum densum var. amanum looked like something that has been embroidered or knitted, it thrives in the dry hot sun but even that has grown more this year

Please use GBFD how best suits you; you could highlight one plant that has special foliage or show one area or border where the foliage is the star this month or all the foliage you are enjoying at the moment.  Whatever works for you please leave a comment here with the link to your post, I always enjoying reading and responding to all your posts.

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29 thoughts on “GBFD – it’s not autumn yet!

  1. I need more support from foliage in the garden but worry at the same time that I chose something that will become too large and cast too much shade. I’ve picked up a lot of good ideas from your blog which I hope to gradually put into place. One shrub I bought last year which is doing well so far is Elaeagnus angustifolia, I don’t know if you have already got this (or I originally got the idea from your blog :)) Amelia

  2. A very interesting GBFD post Christina. It’s helpful to see what works and what doesn’t work so well. I struggle with providing structural plants in my garden, because I want them to stay put and be there once and for all; however, I realize there are always transitions. (The Tanecetum really fooled me! I thought it was knitted.)
    Thanks for hosting. Here is my contribution for August: http://pbmgarden.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/garden-bloggers-foliage-day-august-2014/

  3. Thanks, Christina, for this marvelous idea. I appreciate the challenge to look at our garden from a different perspective. I hope you will take a peek at johnsviccellio.wordpress.com to see my offering this month.

  4. Pingback: Garden Bloggers Foliage day: a Different Tack | Rambling in the Garden

  5. I have a similar problem with foliage plants here, very sandy free draining soil, that no amount of added compost seems to improve, Hebes, Santolina, Rosemary, Eleagnus, Euonymous all do very well, Osmanthus, all of the tough as old boots things. I love the Tanacetum, it’s very unusual. I had a wonderful purple Cotinus until I tripped over last week landing in the middle, snapped all of the stems and now it’s a stump! Have a lovely weekend Christina.

  6. I’m intrigued by the Tanacetum densum, which is a variety I haven’t tried. It really doe look as though you knitted it together and, having looked it up, it appears that it can tolerate more drought than T. parthenium.

  7. That tanacetum is something! I’ll have to see if I can find one, apparently it’s hardy even here.
    I read through your post and then put together my own. Even with your rainy summer I was still surprised by how much more lush my own garden is. I’m not sure which I like more, they both have such different looks.
    Here’s my post, thanks for hosting!
    http://katob427.wordpress.com

    • Even with the rain it is still basically dry my soil is very, very free draining do that after even heavy rain the soil is dry within a few hours. It will never be lush! It is a look I have to accept. Thanks for joining in this month Frank

  8. The Tanacetum densum looks fascinating, like a perfectly knitted jumper! Autumn is definitely in the air but like you we say summer has been great with all the regular rain. I love your grasses and the mix with the clipped shrubs is just great. Cotinus is usually growing like a weed – wonder whether something is in the soil?

    • I think the Cotinus is just too dry, although the regular green variety is doing better and I see them growing wild but usually at higher altitudes. There might be some lime in the soil from when the builders were here, but that was 5 years ago so I would have expected it to wash through the soil by now even if there was some.

  9. The red sedum looks lovely next to the silvery foliage of Santolina. I am planning on putting in another two or three sedums and am also looking for more silvery foliage, but santolina does not like my winters…. I’ve tried it twice already! One of my lavenders is very very silvery but I don’t know its name. Another thought I have had is a silvery leaved achillea I saw somewhere… was that in your garden perhaps? I think more of the Melia is an excellent idea. The shape of the leaves is so pretty and adds a kind of airiness. I bet it looks nice when the wind blows through it.

    • I do have a silvery Achillea so you probably did see it here, was it with a yellow Californian poppy? That too may not like your wet winters, some of the artimesias may do better, some need a bit more water than others, look for English hybrids which are obviously bred with moisture in mind.

  10. I did wonder if you’d been knitting, when I saw the tanacetum there! 😉 You have a good range of foliage there, with shape, texture and colour, even without shrubs. Have you considered pruning your Cotinus? I grow Cotinus “Grace”, with the same beautiful smoky-purple leaves, but it is quite vigorous, growing rather large. To contain its size within the border, I cut it back hard each spring, and it soon re grows, with improved leaves, but at the expense of the flowers. Maybe, start more gradually though, as yours is not so vigorous – my approach is rather drastic!

    • I have heard that drastic pruning is the right regime with C. Grace, I fear mine would just die if I cut them back at all! I think I will try cuttings from the plants I have as sometimes shrubs are grown onto a rootstock for some obscure reason here and maybe the rootstock is too weak to support the shrub. I would adore to have the foliage to use in a vase. Thanks for your thoughts, it will spur me on to try a different approach to the one I have been following.

  11. Christina, you are a master at interweaving the textures and colors of foliage. I remember your spring walk, and now in August it is beautiful in an entirely different way! Have you tried pruning the cotinus? I love its color with the other plantings! And theTanecetum densum var. amanum is incredible! Aren’t plants fabulous?

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