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12 great foliage border plants

Go big with foliage by planting this layered look as a garden border

Plant this look
Photo by Stacie Crooks

Plant this look

A great foliage border gives a garden a rich, layered look that doesn’t depend on flowers for dramatic effect. The key to success: Pick the right blend of shrubs and small trees whose leaves and branches create contrasts in color, texture, shape, and size. To make each plant stand out, set big-leafed plants beside fine-leafed ones, and spice up a mostly green palette with variegated plants that provide hits of gold, bronze, and purple.

This moisture-loving Seattle shade border hits all those notes—plus it looks good even in winter, when the woody stems of deciduous elements combine with evergreens to give it structure. Plants, arranged low to tall, grow up an incline, adding extra depth and drama.

You can copy these plant choices if you live in a cool coastal climate and have a similar shaded spot. In warmer or colder climates, make the substitutions noted.

Design: Stacie Crooks, Crooks Garden Design, Seattle (


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