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PART 1: Design a garden with just colourful foliage (full and partial sun)

Flowers are great and many gardeners live for flowers. We love flowers, too, and we suggest that if you have a very small garden or want a garden with minimum maintenance, a garden design using just colour foliage is a better way to go. Here are some trees, shrubs and perennials and annuals for full sun, or part sun, in different colour palettes to think about.


Coleus – Try ‘Copper Glow’ or ‘Rustic Orange’ Although they are an annual, coleus is worth checking out because you plant them in the spring and they stay beautiful until first frost. This is not your grandmother’s coleus. Coleus is great for mass planting as well as garden pots. Here is a coleus finder where you can search varieties by colour, leaf edge (smooth or ruffled) and variegated.


PHOTO: Variegated Purple Fountain Grass.

Purple Sand Cherry – A shrub that has burgundy leaves, small white fragrant flowers in spring, and tolerates pruning to keep it compact. Also available as a small tree, or ‘standard.’ Coleus – Try ‘Flamingo’ or ‘Raspberry Ruffles.'

Purple Fountain Grass – An annual in Canada, but it has great leaves and wonderful seed heads that bob up and down in the wind.

PHOTO: Canna 'Tropicanna.'

Canna Lily – Try ‘Canna Tropicana’ or ‘Tropicanna Black’ for real drama in a planting bed or planter. Cannas are rhizomes that must be overwintered in a greenhouse or garage in straw, but will re-bloom the following year. Here is a good article about the differences among bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers.

Lime/Acid Green Honey Locust Tree – A small tree with open branchwork so that it casts relatively light shade. Make sure you buy a thornless variety because the thorns can be very nasty.

PHOTO: Heuchera 'Lime Marmalade.'

Heuchera - Try ‘Lime Marmalade.’ This is quite an amazing plant as it retains its green leaves in the fall and winter. Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ will tolerate morning, but not afternoon sun. It has impressive big and bold lime green leaves—a hosta with presence.

PHOTO: Japanese Forest Grass. Japanese Forest Grass - Hakone grass comes in variegated green-and-gold and ‘All Gold,’ which looks almost yellow. Will tolerate morning sun. If you’re looking for a pop of yellow, this one is worth checking out. Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ has green-and-yellow-striped, maroon-edged leaves and bright-orange flowers. Variegated Dogwood – Try ‘Ivory Halo’ for its variegated leaves. The branches turn red in winter.


Artemisia – Fine-cut silvery foliage of perennial Artemisia forms a tidy mound of about 2 feet across.

Russian Sage – Russian sage is a shrub with silver foliage and lavender flowers in July. It can be treated the same way as a Butterfly Bush, that is, trimmed back in the early spring to a few inches above ground. Lamb’s Ears – Children love to touch the fuzzy leaves of Lamb’s Ears. Easy to propagate or invasive, depending on your point of view. PHOTO: Russian Sage. BONUS: All silver plants and plants covered in fine hairs are drought-tolerant.

#GardenDesign #PlantsforSun

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