Going all-out green in the garden

By Lynette L. Walther | Sep 07, 2018
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther It’s all green here. But note the variety and textural contrasts in leaf shapes and forms, clockwise from the left: variegated, ruffled-edge hosta, ligularia's and astilbe's finely-cut foliage and the "waterfall" growth pattern of the forest grass.

Yeah, we all know the value of avoiding or reducing the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in the garden, using organic products and growing organic crops — what most call “going green.” And indeed we all should be taking this pathway to a healthy landscape. But when I suggest you go green in your landscape, I really mean it — green.

I’m talking color here, folks. Green plants and blossoms. Consider for a moment the many shades of green we have from which to chose. There is everything from brilliant, eye-squinting chartreuse greens to somber blue greens to grass greens and more. The very idea of a monochromatic garden doesn’t necessarily mean boring or even bland. The thing is that even when we have flowering perennials, they are only in bloom for a few days or a week, maybe two. In truth it is the foliage of those plants that has to carry the ornamental gardens through the season. And it is the foliage that we will consider.

The key to creating a green garden with pizzazz is twofold: first select a variety of shades and then go for a range of textures, shapes and heights. That being said, let’s look at a few possible choices and consider mixing these gorgeous greens for a pleasing landscape.

While there are a few plants that bloom in green — annuals such as bells of Ireland, green-flowering zinnias and nicotiana, and perennials such as gladiolus, Jack in the pulpit, a new green echinacea and some hellebores, their contributions to a “green garden” are limited. But when it comes to foliage, there are a number of green attributes to consider:

Color: The range of greens is impressive, from the palest yellow-greens to chartreuses to the deepest and darkest of greens. A range of colors is paramount, along with variegated foliage plants as well.

Shape: This is a two-fold issue. One is the overall shape or growth pattern of the plant (i.e., rounded, tall, climbing, fountain), and the second is the shape of its leaves. By alternating certain shapes and foliage and repeating those shapes to draw the eye through the garden and create contrast, a green garden becomes interesting.

Size: The mature heights of plants — from the ground-hugging groundcovers to soaring shrubs, can help to frame a green garden and provide interest and contrast, filling out the spaces allocated.

Sun or shade: This issue is one that will steer plant choices, as do dry or wet locations. Often shade gardens have to rely upon the range of green plants almost entirely. Thankfully, we have plenty of options from variegated hostas, grasses and plants with large leaves.

Variety — even if it is all-green — is the spice that can make a green garden so delightful.

Brunnera is a flowering perennial that I grow for its foliage. It offers all-season color and interest. This shade plant works well with ferns like this colorful painted fern, hostas, and it has proved to be especially resistant to slug damage. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
The huge, dramatic leaves of Rodgerosa stand out in any setting, punching up the “texture” meter, demonstrating how to work size and stature in the green garden. This is no shrinking violet of a perennial and needs plenty of room to show off. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
A pair of hostas, including Autumn Frost, demonstrate a range of “green” in the garden. Nothing boring here with this couple that pulsates with colorful interest. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
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