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Don’t Make a Folly of Foliage

Well it was inevitable – we’ve run out of colour schemes for your gardens’ bloomers, so natural progression dictates we focus now on the foliage of a garden and how this can be tailored to suit your colour choices. As with the floral side of planting, the hue of foliage is affected by the changing seasons, particularly with deciduous plants, so it is important to consider the colour scheme of your garden year round, rather than just periodically, when choosing your plants.

Floral & Hardy’s Favourite Five Purple-leafed Plants:

picture of Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Atropurpureum’

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Atropurpureum’

This Acer, also known by its common name, Japanese Maple, is a deciduous tree or shrub and as you have guessed from its etymology, the first we will cover in this new segment of the colour purple. The Japanese maple will produce deeply lobed, and finely dissected, red-purple foliage during the spring and summer, turning fiery orange-red in autumn. This one’s a slow burner, taking between ten and twenty years to reach full maturity, provided it is sited appropriately -this including well drained, acidic soils and preferably in a slightly shaded, sheltered spot.

picture of Cimicifuga simplex ‘Brunette’

Cimicifuga simplex ‘Brunette’

The ‘Brunette’ variety of Cimicifuga is a particularly beautiful flower, sprouting long, fragrant, bottle-brush-like inflorescences of white on purple stems late in summer. It has divided purple foliage and its berries will also show purple once the flowers have finished at the end of summer. This rhizomatous perennial prefers partial sun and fertile soils – as it is known to originate in many of the woodland territories of the northern hemisphere.

picture of Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’

Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’

Heucheras are evergreen perennials with a clump-forming habit with round, lobed leaves and panicles of small pink or white, tubular flowers. The foliage of this variety will assume a bronzed, purple shade with a sheen similar to that of plum skin. The Heuchera does not favour a particularly acidic or alkaline soil – aim for a mixture of different content like sand and loam. This will also ensure good drainage and make sure that, whatever the soil, this cultivar is planted in full sun or partial shade, as this will ensure healthy growth.

picture of Phormium cookianum ‘Black Adder‘

Phormium cookianum ‘Black Adder‘

‘Black Adder’ is a clump forming, ever-purple shrub with a blackish-red tint to its bold, sword-like foliage, from which sprout arching, upright stems of red flowers in the late summer. Adder is also one of the least fussy growers on the list as it will tolerate practically any ph level, soil content or level of sunlight, and thus exposure. As always, just make sure the soil is well drained. However, with the foliage in mind, while it will tolerate the majority of environments, to ensure the plant thrives, it is best to situate it in full sun and to cover the stems in fleece during the winter months to avoid heavy frost damage.

picture of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo'

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’

‘Diabolo’ is a deciduous shrub with dark purple, lobed leaves that will show prominently throughout the summer months before transitioning to faded brown in mid-autumn. It is also possessed of scented, pale pink flowers, however these are often scarce and will only thrive with particular care, which includes planting in an acidic or neutral, well-drained soil. Physocarpus is very hardy and therefore does not require full sun or shelter, only basic attention in winter to prevent frost damage.

So there begins another chapter in our pursuit of the perfect palette and as foliage, rather than flowers, is often possessed of greater longevity and abundance, it’s a wonder we didn’t cover its spectrum first! Well, I hope this list can begin to make amends for its own belatedness!

By Josh Ellison

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