Forget the flowers


Flowers and more flowers, nothing but flowers every week. Of course, I treasure the blooms in my gardens, but flowers are here today and gone next week, or with some long blooming perennials and annuals, the flowers get tiresome, more of the same day after day. As a practical matter this journal is most often dedicated to blooming plants because my garden has an abundance February through December to keep fresh photos coming a few times each week, and this is what captures the attention of most readers.

Today, forget the flowers, because there’s more to the garden, and at heart I am primarily a foliage fanatic. Not just any foliage, I love reds and yellows, blues, but variegated leaves most of all. Why wait until autumn for colorful leaves, there are plenty to see spring and summer, and many are marvelous garden plants.

Mention a red leafed tree and most people immediately think of Japanese maple, and there a plenty in my garden, but not just red, there are maples with yellow (Golden Full Moon maple, above) and variegated foliage (Butterfly maple, below) also. There are more than twenty thousand cultivated forms of Japanese maple, and many dozens in popular commerce, so there is a foliage color and size that is appropriate for nearly every garden.

Besides Japanese maples there are few trees that offer such a variety of leaf colors as redbud, with deep red leaves (Forest Pansy, at top of page), yellow (Hearts of Gold, above), and variegated (Silver Cloud, below). The native, green leafed redbud is an excellent small tree, but when you can have a beautiful bloom and foliage color, who’s to argue? Plant one of each.

And if you like redbuds you’ll love the variegated leaf dogwoods. Cherokee Sunset is a yellow and green leafed and red blooming selection of the native dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Sunset’, above) and Wolf Eyes is a green and white leafed Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’, below). Both grow slower and wider than their green leafed counterparts, and both are delightful small trees.

While most trees with colorful and variegated leaves are small trees, there are some towering trees that put on quite a show. Eskimo Sunset maple (Acer psuedoplatanus ‘Eskimo Sunset’, above) has leaves splashed with pink and white, and though it is closely related to maples used primarily as shade trees, the mottled foliage slows its growth considerably and it will mature at twenty feet or so. The purple leafed beeches are not stunted by colored foliage. I have two in the garden, one a solid purple leaf, and the other is a variegated leaf, Tricolor (Fagus sylvatica Roseo-Marginata). The beech are very slow to become established, but eventually grow to become splendid, long lived trees.

There are no broadleaf trees that I know of with blue foliage (green with a hint of blue possibly), but there are plenty of blue needled conifers, and Colorado spruce varieties are most well known. The bluest spruces are grafted since spruce seedlings are not dependably blue, and by grafting a small section of a blue needled spruce onto the roots of a green the number of trees can be grown more quickly. In my garden I have Bacheri (below), Foxtail, Fat Albert, a columnar blue, Globosa, and Montgomery. The color of each is different, as are their growth habits, from the columnar spruce that is tall and narrow to Globosa, short and squat.

There are nearly as many colored and variegated foliage shrubs in the garden, but those must wait for another day.

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