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 (crooksgardendesign.com)
Heuchera ‘Velvet Night’
Bright purple leaves add a touch of drama.
Its five-pronged leaves spread slowly to make an attractive woodland ground cover.
L. fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’
Its multi-hued, drooping leaves add nice texture to a border. In Southern California and cold-winter areas, plant Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ instead.
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Frances Williams’
Its large leaves and two-tone green hue pack a punch.
The burgundy and green cup-shaped leaves are just gorgeous. In Southern California, plant dwarf oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia ‘Munchkin’ or ‘Ruby Slippers’) instead.
A. x grandiflora ‘Francis Mason’
A nice touch of texture. In cold-winter areas, plant Spiraea japonica ‘Goldmound’ instead.
H. macrophylla ‘Glowing Embers’
Always a great choice for its cheerful blooms.
Vibrant leaves and delicate flowers make this a striking border choice. In Southern California, plant Japanese anemone instead.
S. x vanhouttei
Its darker green leaves form a nice frame for this layered foliage tableau.