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Lovely Leaves

Foliage colors are especially good for creating interesting beds and borders.

Lambs Ears, Variegated Hostas, and Dark Red and Pink Coral Bells. (Rachel James, flickr)

I’m besotted by the lovely foliage colors available in perennial and annual plants.

Compatible, as well as contrasting, foliage colors are especially good for creating interesting but also serene and calm looking beds and borders. Repetition of the chosen colors is the key, of course, when one is designing this type of mass planting.

Since the deer decimate our unprotected hostas, it is lucky for us that the plant hybridizers have stepped up to the plate and produced so many other plants with lovely leaves. (We must buy these plants so more keep being produced for us. Then buying plants seems almost altruistic rather than addictive or opportunistic when we focus on our role of helping, not only the economy, but also the advance of horticultural science.)

Coral bells, the horticultural name is Heuchera, are now available in wonderful colors, enhanced by ruffled edges and combinations of different shades. Multi season interest is available when you play with different colors of Heucheras, since they also have dainty flowers.

A new shade hybrid is H. Dolce ‘Apple Twist’, which has ivory flowers at this time of the year. Pair it, repeat it, intersperse it in a bed of coral bells with burgundy foliage, along with hosta if the deer will allow. Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’ and plumbago, which has blue flowers in late summer, are also useful.

If you like silvery foliage, add pulmonarias and/or Cyclamen ‘Silver Form’, which is tough, has fragrant early-season magenta flowers, and is even drought tolerant.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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