Foliage Frenzy!

MEGAN FLEISCHER, Inniswood Horticulturist

Leaves of coleus plant, variety Main Street Ruby Red
Coleus Main Street ‘Ruby Red’ (Megan Fleischer)

Developing the next great garden theme for Inniswood’s seasonal displays is an on-going quest. I gather inspiration from obvious sources such as nursery catalogs and garden magazines and welcome ideas from anyone who is willing to share their suggestions. I even find myself getting lost in wonder as I travel through other public gardens trying to guess what design theme they might have followed to create their unique displays. While there are many viable ideas, this year’s theme germinated as soon as the seed was planted.

Pink and white-leaved caladium with crotons and canna, part of the Foliage Frenzy theme at Inniswood Metro Gardens for 2019
The dramatic white and pink foliage of caladium with a topping of various species of croton and canna. (Bryan Knowles)

It was last summer when Char Steelman, former Public Gardens Manager, shared with me an article written in The American Gardener that encouraged a focus on foliage when designing containerized gardens. This concept really piqued my interest and led me to an awakened admiration for leaves and their beauty. As I paged through seed catalogs this past winter, I began overlooking flowers for foliage and it became clear to me that the theme for 2019 should be a focus on leaves. However, could a foliage-focused theme for our containers and seasonal gardens excite our visitors? Challenge excepted! Foliage Frenzy has hit Inniswood and watch out, it’s contagious!

The Gardens will be lush with a combination of leaf shapes and textures to give the displays dimension and color-rich combinations to make each plant pop! A favorite plant pairing of mine is coleus pineapple splash with Persian shield featured at the entrance gates to Inniswood.

Asparagus fern and periwinkle (vinca vine), part of the Foliage Frenzy theme at Inniswood Metro Gardens for 2019
Asparagus fern and vinca vine, commonly known as periwinkle (Bryan Knowles)

Does this mean the gardens will be void of flowers? No, flowers are just being reassigned to a supporting role this year. My hope is that garden viewers are newly inspired to focus on the sometimes inconspicuous beauty of plant leaves in their own landscape. Shifting gears from flower-heavy displays to foliage-focused can be difficult but there are a few great references at Inniswood’s library that I found helpful and inspiring: Consider the Leaf: Foliage in Garden Design and Gardening with Foliage First.

Which plant do you love for its foliage? There are seemingly endless varieties of coleus to choose from and I fall in love with every one I lay my eyes on!  

Tell us about your favorite foliage plant! mediagroup@metroparks.net

2 thoughts on “Foliage Frenzy!

  1. I can’t get over how lush the Ferns were when my wife and I visited Inniswood last week! They are beautiful! I’ll be sure to appreciate the foliage more intently on our next visit. Keep up the great work! Thank you!

    1. Thank you James, and also for sending the photo of ferns to my email. I’ve responded to your email. (Virginia)

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