03 October 2007

"Every leaf a flower"

A mild, summerlike and even muggy day today prompted me to take my camera for a walk around the yard and see what's flowering a la Camus--rather than explore flowers today, we're going to look at an assortment of foliage. We have yet to have a frost here on the North Mountain, so the hardwoods aren't changing colour with any great enthusiasm; but since I plant our gardens with an eye to foliage colour and texture as well as a focus on blooms, there's always an interesting chorus of colour happening here.
Virginia creeper is an overzealous performer in some locales, but here it's easy to manage, festooning the arbour my longsuffering spouse built me several years ago. The arbour is periwinkle blue, which is a striking contrast for just about any garden colour, and the creeper is just starting to turn from green to crimson and later to deep purple.

I happen to have a passion for purple, whether in foliage or flowers. This Diabolo physocarpus, or ninebark, is a favourite because it's the perfectly behaved shrub. It grows without making a fuss, and not too large. It doesn't die back in winter. Its flowers are lovely, its fruits or seedheads are interesting to look at, and its foliage is stunning all through the season. Here's its a backdrop for Centaurea macrocephalus, the large-headed yellow knapweed, also nicely going to seed.

Did I mention I have a passion for purple? Also for barberries, of which I have four different species at present. We think this is simply Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea' although I could be mistaken. It has a lovely globular shape, stays under two feet tall without any pruning from me, and keeps its deep dark colour all season. Because it was cloudy when I took this photo, I lightened it in iPhoto and you can't really appreciate how deeply purple it really is. But I especially like when some of its leaves have a green tinge, and when the yellow flowers appear in spring.

Still on the purple kick, but we've moved on to Miscanthus sinensis var. purpurescens, or Purple Japanese Silver Grass, aka Purple Flame grass. It's just now coming into its own in Scotts Bay, starting to turn some spectacular colours, and it hasn't even opened its flowerheads yet. I like this grass so much, I think I have two clumps of it (another in a different locale isn't quite as developed yet but is starting to show purple.). The flame grasses or silver grasses make me instantly happy because of their tidy growth habit and striking flowerheads, and of course they look great well into winter.

The label on this sedum was incorrectly spelled, but I believe it's S. sieboldii. I love the bluegreen foliage with its rosy pink tips, and while it's just starting to flower, I think its buds are equally attractive, especially resting on the rock beside a silver-grey leaf from a wooley sunflower.

This is your basic garden variety green Japanese Barberry, surely one of the great fall foliage fireworks stars. I can't even describe half the colours in the leaves, and the shocking red berries just add to the festivities. The plant's growth habit suggests a firework explosion too. Truly a delightful plant, and it's been extremely wellbehaved--what seedlings it produced were eagerly accepted by a nursery owning friend of mine.

I KNOW that this plant causes some gardeners muchos problems. Here, however, it isn't likely to ever be invasive. Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata) turns my crank for several reasons: the heartshaped foliage in its shades of cream, red, green and yellow is not only beautiful, it's also fragrant when rubbed or crushed. The best description I've heard is that it smells like orange marmalade, which I happen to agree with. It's late emerging here, and although I finally have it returning reliably, it's not likely to ever run amok because it's so slowgrowing. In warmer climates, it's perhaps more problematic. I think in such cases it would work well in container plantings. Has anyone tried that?

We're doin' the purple thing again! Meet Japanese Parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica, also known as Japanese Honeywort. Because I had long ago forgotten its common name (and somehow, retained Cryptotaenia in my noggin), I had also forgotten that this is an edible plant. I haven't tried it, but since it selfseeds fairly well and I have a host of young plants popping up, I'll venture sampling it in a few days when I'm finally free of my internal ailments. But obviously, since I haven't eaten it before this, I purchased the plant because I loved its rich colour and unique foliage. The flowers are miniscule, but with foliage this great who cares?

I mentioned Fen's Ruby in my earlier post extolling the virtues of Euphorbias. Today the plant decided to present me with a few new flowers and bracts, and still more new growth. I love the cool blue-green foliage and its bronze undertones, and plan to divide and move this plant to other locations come spring.

Well, what a surprise...we're back to purple foliage again! Meet Heuchera 'Frosted Violet', which to my mind is one of the best performing heucheras on the market. This plant is trying to compete with some of the hostas for impressive growth--not so much in huge leaves, but in general vigour; the plant's spread is 2 1/2 feet now, and it's still flowering, lovely spikes of creamy flowers. Although I appreciate the flowers for their attraction to hummingbirds and butterflies, its the leaves of this plant that I really like: silver, green and purple all rolled together into one lovely package.

And that, gentle gardeners, is my celebration of autumn's 'flowers' for today. I'll be back with more later in the week, I'm sure.


  1. As I share your passion for purple and leaf color, you'll hardly be surprised to hear me say that I LOVED this post! I need to investigate that purple honeywort further... and would love it if you would explain your "woolly sunflowers" a bit more. I've never heard of them.

    About the chameleon plant, I've seen little 4in pots of it in the nurseries in the "container color" section... but here it seeds around so badly that I wouldn't encourage anyone to plant it in a container, either.

  2. I enjoyed all the foliage this evening. I have a wonderful barberry that also stays below two feet and has not had even the first problem. It is 'Bogozam', Bonanza's Gold, and the foliage is yellow pretty much all season. I think people avoid barberry shrubs because of the thorns, but they shouldn't!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  3. First off, I have to say thank you for the wonderfully kind comment you left on the Rosehaven Cottage blog. I am so glad you came to visit because I then discovered your lovely blog. Your Japanese Barberry is overwhelmingly stunning! I just can't get enough of the photo! I have added you to my favorite links and subscribed via email, so I will be back regularly. Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

  4. I love all your purple foliage plants. I too seem to be attracted to purple foliage. Your Japanese Barberry is beautiful!

  5. Kris at Blithewold04 October, 2007 09:03

    I can't believe I missed your euphorbia post (totally euphoric) and you manage to make even things I don't love, appealing! Barberries aren't usually a favorite because people (just here? everywhere?) seem to love to plant them along sidewalks or at entries. I definitely prefer them to barbed wire but it can be similarly unwelcoming! - Gotta love those colors though...

  6. Hi all and welcome to my funny farm...

    BSG (Kim) Woolly sunflowers are Eriophyllum genus, assorted species. I've had my plants for years so the labels are long gone, but it's a plant that does well in a rockgarden with good drainage. Silver-grey foliage and small aster-like flowers in bright yellow; I actually like the foliage more than the flowers, and it makes a nice colour echo because the plants are right beside some lambs ears (Stachys byzantina).
    That's also fascinating that chameleon plant seeds itself. I've never seen mine produce flowers, but they're pretty insignificant looking, I think so I may have simply missed them.
    Carol, you're so right about barberries-the thorns are a bit rude but the plants are so easy-care, unless someone wants to prune one of the more vigourous ones into some sort of shape, there's no problem. I have the dwarf gold one which I just adore--don't have Bonanza's Gold but it sounds tempting too.
    Cindy at Rosehaven, welcome! I found YOUR blog because of Kylee's well-deserved award, and have now added it to my ever-growing list of neat blogs too. It's all good...
    Priscilla, there's just something about purple foliage; some people find it too dark, but I like putting a contrasting colour against it and that really makes both colours pop.
    Kris, so you're a euphorbia fan too? They're just so awesome. Several of ours are putting up new flowers and bracts, while others are still holding them from all summer. I hope mine all overwinter--we got quite a few new varieties and I really like them all.

  7. I didn't see a purple smoke bush. I think you need some more purple, Jodi. I thought my sister Wilma was queen of the purple but she's gotta step aside for you. Love your plant choices.

  8. You can keep the barberry, Jodi - but the ninebark is very cool!

    Virginia creeper pops up all over but doesn't seem to get such a wonderful color here.

    Thanks for the look at the early Canadian autumn!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. You are a girl after me own heart Jodi! I love purple in the garden too. That Japanese Parsley looks very pretty. We share a love for barberries too as I have 2 hedges with them. ;-) The Diabolo physocarpus sounds like a great shrub to have! Great purple foliage!

  10. You're very good - you've even got me reconsidering my barberry (which I'm in the process of eradicating).

  11. All these different flowers and their lovely colors. Just adores it. Hope you have a great weekend.
    Love Elzie


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