Plant form is defined as the basic outline of the plant. It can range from soft, round forms to stark, upright pillars. Texture takes into account the appearance of a plant to our eye and whether it is coarse or fine thereby giving it the ability to create spatial illusions. Color is the garden feature that often overrides those of texture and form and thus becomes the most impressive and memorable of all the garden qualities. We remember color long after leaving the garden.
When we think of color, we think of flowers. However, some plants are valued for their foliage effects with flowers being secondary. These plants have the ability to provide color with only their foliage.
A current trend is the use of plants that are tropical looking and that combine texture with boldly colored foliage. Plants with colorful foliage can create a bold color impact that continues for many months. This ability to provide long lasting color that is not reliant upon flowers opens up a whole style of gardening that can make any garden inviting and dramatic.
When we think of colorful foliage we naturally think of tropical plants. Tropicals with colorful leaves sustain the garden because of their alluring and dramatic colors, which never wane. Many of these are termed “tender perennials” and need to be brought indoors for the winter in cold climates such as those in the upper Midwest in order to be used for planting the following season. However, one should not overlook the many annuals, hardy perennials, trees and shrubs that offer the benefit of colorful foliage and can be incorporated into the garden as seasonal favorites or long term residents.