Think Foliage by Cathy Powers


Garden design and landscaping is a very specialized field. Interestingly enough, there is a garden designer in each of us and it is expressed whenever we replace a dead plant, add an interesting rock or just prune a native (vegetation that is). Once a garden is established, replacing plants that have moved on opens an avenue for creativity.

Hard leaved foliageConsideration should be given to foliage because, when it comes down to it, most plants have flowers during a limited amount of time or season. With few exceptions, Australian natives are mostly evergreen and highly adaptable. I work on the 85% rule. That is – 85% of the year, my plants have only foliage to admire. The other 15%, my plants have flowers that I, the birds and insects love.

Generally speaking, the two types of foliage to consider are broad-leaved and hard-leaved. The hard-leaved are probably most frequently found in our temperate climate because they are built for lower evaporation during our hot and dry weather. If you have a protected and moist area, then the broad-leaved plants are useful while being adaptable to containers or indoors.

When developing a new garden bed, one of the first things to consider is plant choice by environment. There is little point in planting a sun-loving plant in the shade because neither of you will be happy. Once you get that under control, the variety by height is an important concept. If you have beautiful rocks, hiding them behind a large bushy shrub would be a shame. By the same token, if you have a large cement barrier wall, that large bushy shrub might just be the ideal plant.

Next, I like to consider the colour, shape and size of foliage. Even though I also remember what colour the flower is likely to be, it is not the highest on the list. The same colour of flower in a diversified group of foliage can be eye catching. The native plant group offers a large choice when it comes to foliage.

Broad leaved foliageA glossary containing descriptions of leaf structure can be found in any good native plant book so there is no need to put it here. If you haven't invested in one such book, the library is a good point of reference. Whenever a plant dies, my consideration of replacement relies heavily on foliage.

If the effort I expended in my garden creation resulted in a favourable outcome, my replacement choice would be a plant of similar size and foliage. If it did not turn out quite the way I had intended, the opportunity for change lies before me. I always like a challenge. Of course, there are other things to consider. Aspects such as fragrance, fruit, size, flower season and much more are all part of the difficult but enjoyable decision making process. Sometimes a good glass of wine helps but that is for another article.

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