Foliage plants, including herbs, help color gardener’s world

June has begun well with pleasant weather and lots of color in the garden. Those brilliant annuals filling the tables at the garden centers have proved irresistable after such a bitter, colorless winter, and of course, I bought far more than I needed, in addition to those I grew in the basement.

But they are giving back every penny, lifting my spirit as I sit or work outside.

A few months from now, after the inevitable spells of really hot weather, it probably will feel good to dwell on cool green in the flower borders. There is so much variety in shades, shapes and texture in foliage plants, and green is never boring. Leaves can be waxy, furry, rough or smooth, large or small, something to fit every taste.

Of course, hostas come to mind. They are easy to grow, lovely to look at, generous in the way they practically ask to be divided, and they deserve a column of their own.

Many herbs are grown for their foliage, which is attractive to the eyes, the nose and the taste buds. One of my favorites is rosemary, which is great in the kitchen, the flower border, the herb garden and the vase on the dining room table. It truly is a versatile plant.

Although alchemilla mollis does have flowers, I like it particularly for the pale green foliage, especially after a rain when each leaf holds a shining drop of water in its center.

Ground covers such as vinca, myrtle and sedum are useful, and after a short season of bloom, they will thrive in sun or shade where their leaves certainly live up to their name and cover the ground.

In past years, I spent many hours in the front garden pulling out the chameleon plant and lilies of the valley that muiltiplied so fast under the cherry tree.

Then, one day, I saw someone in the garden center carefully selecting the most colorful chameleon plants, and I had a change of heart. Now, I let them grow all summer around the impatiens and begonias I plant there, and they are beautiful.

The silver foliage of artemesia, senecio, achillea, lamb’s ears and verbascum form a lovely background for any brightly colored blossoms. I especially enjoy purple and silver together.

My friend, Gene, recently built me a window box after the winter’s snows proved too much for the old one. I painted it a pale aqua to match the front door and porch chairs, and it is flourishing with purple-leaved setcreasea and other vining house plants, along with purple petunias. This is quite pretty from outside and in.

Foliage plants also come in bronze (ajuga and fennel), gold (golden spires, lysimachia, golden marjoram and sage), as well as all the shades of green. There is plenty of interest here, and many of them will survive into late fall and winter.

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.

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