Those of you who follow Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month, probably also know about Foliage Follow-Up, hosted by Pam at Digging on the following day. I can barely get my Bloom Day posts done in time, so I don’t usually get to participate in Foliage Follow-Up on the scheduled day, but I figured I’d bend the rules a bit to have an excuse for showing off some leafy highlights from this season so far.
Let’s start with the most distinctive foliage color in the spring-to-early-summer garden: the yellows and yellow-greens…
Above is the bright new foliage of golden hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’), back on May 12th. Usually, that’s the best it gets for me, because some pest shows up in late May or early June and skeletonizes the leaves by mid-June. But for whatever reason, there’s been no damage at all this year, so the leaves are still looking great. The mature leaves are deep green by now, but the shoot tips are still producing lots of chartreuse new growth.
Below is ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) on June 21st, against the dark leaves of ‘Velvet Cloak’ smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria).
Above is ‘Sunset’ hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum), back on May 12th. It’s now more of a pale green overall: not nearly as distinctive as the spring color.
Below is ‘Golden Starlet’ winter heath (Erica carnea), the only heath I’ve ever been able to grow successfully. The foliage (shown below on June 9th) is cheery, but that’s not its only good feature: it’s also consistently in bloom from October into April, with tiny white flowers.
Above is golden European cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus ‘Aureum’), just coming into bloom on May 29th. The leaves still look this good, but they’ll eventually get a bit scorched when we get a spell of really sunny, hot days in July.
Below is golden wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata ‘Aurea’) on June 9th. Also known as golden hoptree, this beauty comes true from seed. It’s one of the last trees to leaf out here, but it’s worth waiting for. The older leaves eventually turn green, but there is always some yellow at the tips.
I wouldn’t intentionally sow seed of ‘Sunningdale Variegated’ masterwort (Astrantia major) expecting to get the distinct creamy yellow leaf edges of that selection. But sometimes I forget to deadhead it, and then it produces some rather interesting seedlings. They emerge a solid pale yellow (as on May 9th, above), then age quickly through cream-frosted green (below on May 25th) . By bloom time, around late June, they are solid green and stay that way for the rest of the growing season. I’ve seen similar plants sold as ‘Sunningdale Gold’.
Above is the new growth of ‘Dart’s Gold’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) on June 6th, against ‘Grace’ smokebush (Cotinus), about 2 months after being cut back in April (down to about 8 inches for the ninebark and about 2 feet for the smokebush).
Moving on to some foliage with both chartreuse and red…
Above is ‘Rocknoll Rosette’ hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum), and below is ‘Circus’ heuchera, both on May 12th. The hens-and-chicks is now more red, while the heuchera now has less red veining.
Above are some new shoots of Serious Black clematis (Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’) on April 28th; below, still holding its color as it’s getting ready to bloom, on May 23rd.
Above is ‘Black Truffle’ cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) on June 25th, against ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). Below is ‘Ravenswing’ cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) on May 31st, coming up through golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’).
Above is ‘Abbey Road’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) on June 9th, looking pretty much the same way it’s looked since I bought it in April.
Below is ‘Erica’ Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) on May 12th. The foliage isn’t nearly as dark now, but it still has a purplish cast.
Above, a patch of penstemon on May 29th. The clump in the center is my original plant of Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’; those around it are some of its seedlings. Below are two younger seedlings from ‘Dark Towers’, on May 25th of this year. As you can see, they can range from bright green to super-dark.
Above is ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana) on June 24th. It’s now starting to turn from its spring deep purple to its summer greenish purple, but the shoot tips still have burgundy leaves that are beautiful when backlit by the setting sun.
Below, ‘Elizabeth’ two-row sedum (Sedum spurium) on June 9th, with creeping thyme (Thymus praecox Coccineus Group). In fall and winter, ‘Elizabeth’ is nearly solid red; in spring and summer, it’s light green rimmed and blushed with red.
Below, one more red: Dolce Cinnamon Curls heuchera on June 24th. So far, it’s held its rich red color beautifully. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues once we really get some heat.
It’s hard to figure out what color category these coleus fall into, with the pink and yellow and green in each leaf, but they generally have a peachy to orange cast from a distance. Above is ‘Limon Blush’ and below is ‘Smallwood Driveway’, both on June 21st.
Two more oranges: above, the new growth of autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) on May 14th; below is ‘Southern Comfort’ heuchera against golden meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria ‘Aurea’) on May 23rd.
It’s pretty easy to spot the young leaves of Himalayan lily (Cardiocrinum cordatum).
Even if they’re not bright as the one above or as heavily veined as the one below (both on May 5th)…
…many of the seedlings (such as these on April 21st) have at least a bit of color.
…the lacy growth of climbing asparagus (Asparagus verticillatus) on June 6th…
… the young pads of ‘Marliacea Chromatella’ water lily (Nymphaea) on June 15th…
…the pale green foliage of ‘Golden Sweet’ snow pea (Pisum sativum) on June 24th…
…the toothed, gray-green leaves of Sanguisorba armena (on May 5th)…
…and the young leaves of sweet white lupine (Lupinus albus) on May 29th.
The new shoots of shredded umbrella plant (Syneilesis aconitifolia) are distinctly furry and silvery when they emerge (these are shown on May 9th)…
…but they’re smooth and definitely green later in the season. The shot below is from May 26th, as the flower stalks were starting to shoot upward.
Above, a consistently silvery combination: ‘White Nancy’ deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) with Chinese wild ginger (Asarum splendens), shown on June 26th. Below, ‘Pewter Lace’ painted fern (Athyrium) with the foliage of dwarf Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis var. pumila) on June 13.
Above, silvery green rosemary willow (Salix elaeagnos subsp. angustifolia) out in the meadow on June 13th. Below, king’s spear (Asphodeline lutea) in the garden, heading into bloom on May 13th.
Sometimes you’ll see the common name of Rosa glauca as red-leaved rose, but for most of the growing season, blue-leaved rose makes more sense. Below it’s shown on June 5, against the foliage of ‘Sun Power’ hosta.
I’ve saved some of my favorites—the variegated plants—for last.
Above, green-speckled ‘Lemon Spritzer’ cape fuchsia (Phygelius x rectus) on June 6th. Below, ‘Maculata’ greater periwinkle (Vinca major), with irregular chartreusey patches, on May 12th.
Above, variegated sweet flag iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’), with varying amounts of light green, blue-green, cream, and yellow in each leaf, on May 12th. Below, variegated wayfaringtree (Viburnum lantana ‘Variegata’) on May 29th. It’s hard to say whether this one is green with yellow markings or the other way around.
Two more green-and-yellow variegates, both in the herb category…above, golden sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’) with common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) on May 25 ; below, ‘Axminster Gold’ comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) with lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) on May 20th. The sage tends to look good all through the growing season, and even through winter in many areas. At its best, the comfrey is exquisite, but it’s also very susceptible to scorching, and the browned leaf edges can really detract from the overall beauty. I cut the whole plant to the ground once the flowers finish (in mid- to late June), which gets rid of the damaged foliage. The new leaves tend to be thicker and much less prone to scorching, so they’re good for the rest of the growing season.
Moving on to the cream-to-white variegates…above is variegated hebe (Hebe speciosa ‘Variegata’) on June 21, just as it was getting ready to flower; below is ‘Glacier’ Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias) on June 25th. Neither one of these is hardy here, but I occasionally indulge in them for containers.
‘Mostly Ghostly’ hosta is bright white when it emerges every spring (it’s shown above on April 28th) and stays that way for a while; the cooler the weather, the longer the white lasts. At some point in May (the photo below is from May 29th), green speckling and veining is obvious, putting ‘Mostly Ghostly’ firmly in the variegated category. By now (late June), the leaves are mostly light green with paler green speckling, looking very much like a hosta with a bad case of spider mites. But, it’s worth putting up with that for the great spring show.
‘Variegated Kwanso’ tawny daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) is another perennial that can produce practically pure white spring growth. However, very pale shoots like the one above (shown on May 5th) seem to fizzle out after a few weeks. Those with more green, like the one below (on May 12th), are much more vigorous, though not nearly as strong as the practically inevitable all-green fans. Those have to be removed regularly so they don’t crowd out the variegated ones.
‘River Mist’ sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)—shown below on June 6th—is another beauty for bright white striping.
Two more random variegates: above, variegated calamint (Calamintha grandiflora ‘Variegata’), shown on May 12th; below, ‘Flamingo’ water celery (Oenanthe javanica) on June 13th.
Above, ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ dappled willow (Salix integra) on June 9th. I normally cut it down to 12 to 18 inches before new growth appears in spring, but I didn’t get around it it this year, so it’s much taller than usual. I like the extra height because the plant’s in better proportion to its shrubby companions, so I may go with every-other-year pruning from now on.
Below is a plant that I got years ago, labeled as Salix integra ‘Goshiki’. I was never quite sure about that, though, so I decided to try to pin down the ID this year.
As far as I can tell, it’s actually variegated gray willow (Salix cinerea ‘Variegata’). The speckled variegation pattern is similar, but the leaves of the gray willow (on the left below, on June 13th) are distinctly wider than those of ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ dappled willow (right), and they don’t show the pink blush that ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ often does.
Both of these willows are hosting a fair number of imported willow leaf beetles (Plagiodera versicolora) this year.
I was thrilled to get seeds of ‘Bill Archer’ borage (Borago officinalis) last winter (thanks, Rick!). Each seedling is different, but all six had at least some variegation. The photo above was from June 9th.
Rick also hooked me up with seeds of ‘Jade Snowflake’ chinaberry (Melia azedarach) two years ago, and I ended up with three seedlings. Last fall, I dug them up when they dropped their leaves in November, plunked them in a container, and left them in my unheated basement for the winter. I planted them back outside in late April, and the new growth (shown below on May 25th) was spectacular.
I expect the foliage to go mostly green soon, as it did last year. But at this point, the leaves still are as heavily variegated as the one shown below on June 9th.
Tired of foliage for now? That’s ok; next up, Bloom Day on the 15th!