Foliage Plants and Ferns For Arrangements

There are many easily grown plants, shrubs, trees and pot plants from which it is possible to obtain individual leaves or leafy twigs and branches. These can be used with great effectiveness when properly selected and placed among any arrangement of cut flowers. While it is true that flowers often look best when displayed with their own foliage, this is by no means always the case. There are leaves in many shades of green, others which are tinted yellow or bronze-red, some which are variegated, and others which assume remarkable autumn tints.

The greatest quantity of such foliage can be gathered from shrubs, and it is well worth planting some of these especially for cutting. There are quite a number which have the simplest cultural requirements. foliage plants and ferns for flower arrangements

Among the many suitable berberises are B. darwinii, of which the green foliage is attractive throughout the year, apart from its orange flowers and autumn berries. B. juliae is compact growing with rather larger leaves, while B. verruculosa has dark green, glossy leaves (which are white on the undersides) which colour up well in the autumn. B. stenophylla has graceful, arching branches of small leaves which become tinted red in October. Valuable for cutting during the winter is Cotoneaster salicifdia, with long, dark green, rather drooping leaves which are white underneath, with red veins.

The copper beech can be used in many colour schemes, and the very young green foliage is also decorative. Particularly on chalky soils, Corylus avellana atropurpurea, or the Purple Nut, should be grown. The deeply veined leaves colour up well, and it is suitable for cultivating where space is limited.

Sprays of Cupressus lawsoniana and the golden and silver forms have many uses, as have individual leaves and branches of the laurels and the golden-spotted aucuba.

Pittosporum is a fine evergreen, but unfortunately not hardy in all districts. It can be raised from seed or cuttings, the most suitable species being P. tettuifblium, with bright, pale green leaves and almost black twigs. It is of especial value at Christmas time, but may be used in the summer months too, when the stems should be plunged in water as soon as they are cut.

Several of the prunus are of value for their foliage. P. pissaraqi has red-bronze foliage, while the form nigra is darker still and seems to like a chalky soil. There are a number of oaks or quercus having tinted leaves, and Q. coccinea is especially good, the form `Knaphill Scarlet’ being really handsome until the end of November. These have the virtue of producing many basal growths, if and when stems have been cut.

Mahonia (or Berberis) aquifblium is often cut because its glossy, dark green leaves may.be used throughout the spring and summer and again during the autumn, when they assume beautiful autumn colours. It will grow almost anywhere.

Spiraea pruniflora also has glossy foliage which becomes richly hued from September onwards.

Perowskia is a lovely shrub with grey, aromatic foliage and stems, which may be used with the lavender-blue flowers. Of great value for growing in maritime districts, Tcunarix pentandra has fine silvery-grey foliage, its rosy-pink flowers in August being of value too. It makes a fine hedging subject.

Senecio greyii and other species provide long sprays of silvery foliage available at any time of the year. It is easy to propagate and not particular about soil.

Spiraea, ‘Anthony Waterer’, is worth planting because of the delightful spring foliage. It produces early in the year lots of young shoots in many shades of pink and cream.

Santolina chamaecyparissus, the cotton lavender, has grey leaves which show up well placed near the dark green foliage of other subjects.

Veronica traversii provides dark-green, leafy stems. Lavender and Rosemary are well known, but no less useful. Other shrubs of value because of their individual leaves, stems or branches include: azalea, birch, camellia, hippophae, larch, jasmine, golden privet, hypericum, magnolia, pieris, garrya, sweet bay, artemisia and Choisya ternata. The latter has shiny olive-green leaves which last well and emit a pleasant fragrance when rubbed.

Although the majority of ornamental trees depend on their flowering capabilities for their popularity, there are some which have to rely on their foliage, some of which can be cut. The golden-leaved Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa bignonioides var. aurea, is especially desirable, since it also produces broad panicles of bell-shaped flowers during the late summer. These blooms are white with varying stains of yellow and purple.

While C. bignonioides will make quite a large tree, the golden form is of somewhat slower, spreading habit. It should be planted in a rather sheltered place, since strong winds are liable to damage and spoil the large, velvety leaves, which are really lovely when fully developed. Any good soil which is well drained is suitable for this tree.

Alnus incana aurea is the golden-leaved alder, which forms a large bush or small tree. Not only is it quite pretty during the spring or summer, but throughout the winter the stems are a showy golden-red. Of most easy culture, it likes a fairly moist soil, but not where water becomes stagnant around the roots.

Salix alba argentea is the silver-leaved willow and, although not often seen, it can be one of the most conspicuous of all small-growing trees. Like other varieties of the same family, it does not like dry soils, but in more or less moist root conditions it will thrive and always create attention.

There is also an unusual golden-leaved poplar, Populus serotina aurea, and two or three maples with yellow foliage, all of which are highly ornamental whether used as individual specimens or when seen growing with a range of other trees.

The Maidenhair tree, Gingko biloba, is worthy of mention, for it has beautiful yellow-tinted autumn foliage. It grows well in ordinary well-drained soil, and especially where there is a chalky subsoil.

The Liquidambar is a most attractive tree which has never achieved the popularity it so well deserves. There are several good species, some of which need to be planted where they are not likely to be affected by spring frosts. These include L. formosana, with maple-like leaves, which change from their dark red to deep green and brighter autumn tints as the end of the year approaches. L. styraciflora is similar, with even more gorgeously coloured leaves in the autumn.

Another tree with attractive foliage which takes on a delightful shade of rich yellow towards the end of the year is the tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifira, which, of course, is also valued because of its upright, tulip-like, greenish-white flowers.

Several of the sorbus have leaves of which both upper and under surfaces are of a silvery-white appearance, making them most outstanding.

Amelanchier canadensis, better known as the Snowy Mespilus, is another small-growing, round-headed tree or shrub. It produces racemes of small white flowers in abundance during April, but becomes especially attractive in the autumn, when its foliage colours up well.

Rhus cotinus is not seen much nowadays, which is a pity because as a shrubby tree it becomes completely enveloped in the feather in florescence which at first is pinkish and afterwards turns to grey. Rhus typhina, or the spiked horn sumach, has large leaves which turn to orange and scarlet during the autumn months.

Several of the epimediums have leaves which turn to red and bronze shades, while there are a number of the spurges which assume brilliant autumn tints and which last well.

Although the hardy ferns have no blooms to attract the gardener and flower-lover, they are very varied in appearance and size, and may be used for so many purposes that they deserve more attention. They will grow in places where plants and shrubs fail to do well and they can be used to fill up bare spaces or planted in the rock garden or border. They are particularly at home among shrubs.

There are many varieties, some requiring particular conditions. For the ordinary garden it is best to grow a varied selection of the easiest kinds. Most like dappled light, and this is why they are happy among shrubs, for they like shade from hot sun, moisture at the roots and shelter from strong winds, which are apt to break the fronds. Although moisture is necessary, drainage must be good, so that a soil rich in leaf mould and peat with sharp sand is desirable.

Keeping to the common names of the best hardy ferns, we have the Rockbrake or Parsley Fern, which will do well in the rock garden. The tufts of pale-green fronds appear from May onwards. There are very many forms of our native Hard Fern, many having crested fronds and polished reddish-brown stalks. The common Hart’s Tongue has many forms with great variation in the shape and cresting of the fronds. They are ideal for growing in crevices in the rock garden, but must have plenty of moisture during the summer.

There are various asplenium ferns with well-divided or crested fronds which have no special needs, and yet which are first class placed in floral arrangements. Bladder, shield, buckler and polypody ferns are all of use and should be considered when plans are being made to provide greenery for mixing with flowers. Euphorbia wulfinii has narrow blue-green leaves which last indefinitely in water. E. sikkimensis has leaves which are flame coloured when young but turn a greenish shade with age. The large, leathery leaves of Bergenia cordifolic (syn. Megasea; saxifrage cordifolia) are somewhat like those of a water-lily, while the form known as purpurea has bronzy leaves in winter. These plants will grow in partial shade and have short spikes of pink flowers from February onwards. Even when not in flower, the graceful, arched leaf stems of polygonatum or Solomon’s Seal fit into many kinds of floral arrangements. Polemonium officinale has blotched white foliage.

Stachys lanata belongs to the sage family and will grow well in quite poor soil. The plush-like, silvery-grey leaves have many uses, and because of their texture the plant is often known as Lamb’s Ear.

Cineraria maritima is a most desirable silver-foliaged plant, often grown as an annual, as it is half-hardy. The entire plants are highly ornamental and can be widely used.

The stems and twin leaves of the everlasting pea are invaluable, and so are sprigs of jasmine and ivy, while a stem or two—or even just a few greenish-grey leaves—of verbascum will prove most decorative.

Cornflower foliage, amaranthus, atriplex and perilla leaves can be used, while many other annuals yield foliage which lends itself to inclusion in floral arrangements. There are also various begonias with ornamental leaves.

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