Backyard Landscaping Ideas

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The Foliage Garden: Always in Season

May 8th, 2010 · No Comments

A foliage garden is a low-maintenance landscaping design that provides as much show as any flower garden. Rich wine red, golden yellow, cool blue, silvery gray, even chartreuse fill the landscape year round.

Plant Choice

Plant foliage can be chosen for its color or texture. To get the best effect let the colors of the main plants be reelected in the smaller ones. If you prefer textured plants, group plants by texture. [For information on textured plants, see BLI’s Touch Garden.]


  • Vicary golden privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi) — a vase-shaped shrub that commonly grows 4 to 6 feet tall, but can reach a height of 10 to 12 feet. Golden privet has bright yellow foliage when grown in full sun. Plants grown in the shade have yellow-green leaves. Golden privet is hardy in USDA hardiness zone 4.
  • Goldflame Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’) is a small 2 to 3 foot shrub. Spring foliage consists of shades of red, copper, and orange that gradually changes to yellow-green and finally to green by summer. Fall leaf color is copper-orange. Plants also produce pink flowers in summer.
  • Yellow-leafed Caryopterises (Caryopteris incana) — golden foliage, spikes of amethyst-blue blooms, and compact growing habit.
    The hearty ‘Sunshine Blue’ variety is recommended.
  • (Euonymus fortunei: ‘blondy’ and ‘gold splash’ varieties)
    Golden Globe Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Globe’) — a dense, globe-shaped shrub with bright golden yellow foliage. It grows about 3 to 4 feet high.


  • Red-leaf Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’) — Maintains it’s red foliage throughout the growing season
  • Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’)
  • (Panicum virgatum: ‘Prairie Fire’,’Sheyenne’, and ‘Amber Waves’ varieties) — clumping grass with puplish-green foliage
  • a tropical look – red or purple leafed Cordyline fructicosa hybrids add drama and interest to a shady area.
  • Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’. A 4m tall narrow shrub with bronze-purple leaves, especially in winter.
  • Photinia glabra ‘Rubens’ Rich red foliage on a 3m shrub in spring-summer. Excellent hedge.


  • Blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’)
  • Common sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’)
  • Blue juniper (Juniperus squamata) — A number of varieties exist, including ‘Meyeri’, ‘Blue Carpet’ and ‘Blue Star’. Blue Carpet is a prostrate variety that is especially suitable for cascade and semi-cascade styles. Other varieties can be used for any style other than broom.
  • Hostas with blue foliage include
    Blue Angel,
    Blue Cadet,
    Blue Giant,
    Blue Moon,
    Blue Umbrellas,
    Bressingham Blue,
    Candy Hearts,
    Dorset Blue,
    Frances Williams,
    Krossa Regal,
    Love Pat,
    and Pizzazz,

  • Blue or Meserve holly (Ilex x meserveae) – An evergreen with shiny dark bluish-green leaves on purple stems. The leaves are edged with coarse tears, and the female plant bears brilliant red berries.

Silver, white, and gray

  • POPULUS ALBA The white poplar has white twigs and undersides of the leaves, the best form for the garden being the erect-growing pyramidalis. P. canescens has grey leaves and makes a large, vigorously suckering tree.
  • TILIA PETIOLARIS tree with silvery undersides to the large, drooping leaves; in T. tomentosa the underneath is quite white.
  • Snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata) — ground cover of zones 4-8, Green and white foliage; very aggressive.
  • Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) — thick, gray, soft woolly leaves. Perennial Herb. Common Names, Height, 12 inches.
  • White sage (Salvia apiana) — can be a slow growing, difficult to establish plant that can take up to three years to reach a mature size. It has highly aromatic, waxy gray leaves.

Eye-catching Greens

  • Savin juniper (Juniperus sabina ‘Blue Danube’) — bluish green
  • Holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Girl’) — shiny blue-green foliage and red berries.

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