Growing Brilliantly Coloured Leaved Plants For Flower Arranging

There are many attractive foliage plants among annuals and bedding plants.

Many varieties of pelargoniums or pot geraniums for instance have beautifully coloured leaves. One variety with red flowers and golden foliage marked with bronze is Mrs Pollock. Almost as vividly marked as a parrot tulip is Henry Cox, which has gold, silver and bronze with red. There are others, some green and white.

Atriplex or mountain spinach has varieties with red foliage called atrosanguinea,cupreata and rosea. Sow the seeds from March onwards in succession if you want a continual supply. I like perilla, a half-hardy annual which has dark, fringed, copper beech purple foliage. The old fashioned clary has topknots coloured purple, rose, magenta or indigo, which are not strictly leaves but bracts. The plants are easy to grow, dainty and long-lasting when cut. One of the spurges, Euphorbia marginata, is an extremely handsome half-hardy annual, a little difficult to raise unless you have a greenhouse but well worth growing. Another euphorbia is known as annual poinsettia. This is the Mexican fire flower, E. heterophylla.Zebra plant - Aphelandra squarrosa

Many of the euphorbias or spurges are green. Botanically the flowers are most interesting. They are really a wonderful combination (like the poinsettia) of leaves, bracts and flowers, mainly green. But what greens ! Some become coloured bright yellow, orange or deep wine at times according to their species.

All of them have a milky sap, the flow of which must halted immediately the stems are cut.

Outstanding among them is Euphorbia epithymoides which flowers and is so bright that it shines out in any garden. The flowers are a silver green yellow at first. By May the flower colour changes to a delicate palle green and the plant continues to decorate the border, and like all spurges changes slightly from month to month until the autumn. As it matures (and this also is the case with all spurges) it appears to take water a little better and lasts longer. There are many others, including the native wood spurge and I would not like to be without them. E. pilosa major has vivid yellow flowers and it takes on the loveliest colours in the autumn, ruby, crimson and bronze made from the fusing of the reds and greens. It is a good ground cover, too good sometimes, so I pull up the stems I wish to use. Alchemilla is another yellow-green flower. The foamy clusters of flowers can be dried and the lobed leaves are particularly lovely. It will grow in quite ordinary soil but it likes a well-drained site.

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