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opal basil

A well-appointed garden needs not only flowers but also decorative foliage that is concurrently available to combine with the garden flowers in a vase.

I didn't give this any thought when I began my own garden. Now, however, I am always grateful for plants with leaves that can help fill up a vase, especially when there is not much in bloom in my yard.

Frequently it's plants that are over-zealous spreaders that I turn to when I am short of stems to fill out a bouquet. For example, I use my nemesis mint, which smells really good in a vase, and feathery bronze fennel, which softens and complements a lot of different blooms.

Both these herbs went well with my black-eyed Susans in July. Of course, there's never a shortage of Susans, but one gets tired of cutting the individual stems, and multiple flowers on a stem do not last in a vase.

Opal basil looked terrific with my pink surprise lilies in August.

Now I am using the fennel with zinnias and marigolds, and lime-green and dark-leaved coleus looks smashing too.

The mahogany leaves of my Itea shrub also come in handy at this time of the year as filler in a vase, and one can trim the shrub as one cuts long stems of it for tall arrangements. I like it with any yellow or lavender blooms.

Grey Artemisia, sage, lavender and lamb's ears also combine with just about anything but often need conditioning, so stand the stems in deep water for a few hours to perk them up after they are cut on a hot day.

Stems of dark green yews are also versatile fillers.

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