Fabulous foliage

Plants with colorful leaves liven up the yard - but watch out for purple!

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In talking with Craig Summers Black about his article on how to make your yard colorful all season, he passed along this advice about "the peril of purple" leaves and flowers:

"The pairing of plants with purple leaves and plants with gold leaves is now almost ever-present. And while this color combo can be quite effective, be forewarned: You put purple in the background of a flowerbed at your peril.

"Dark colors tend to recede in the background, becoming either the Black Hole of Calcutta or murk and mud. But – you knew that was coming, didn’t you? – if you put a plant with light-colored foliage behind the purple, it shoves Mr. My-Name-Is-Mud to the forefront, showcasing him as it were, transforming him to Monsieur le Magnifique.

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"Instead of murkiness, the dark blob becomes a defined, delineated presence.
Think of Cimicifuga simplex 'Brunette' (better known as black bugbane to some of us) with a backdrop of light lime-green hostas.

"Or a purple columnar barberry (say, ‘Helmond Pillar’) with a couple of fatter gold spiraeas behind it. Or maybe, on acreage, a purple-leaved catalpa before a blue spruce windbreak.

Craig also added two more to his list of highly recommended plants with colorful foliage. One's a perennial for wet areas and the other's a tree:

"You may have to do a little searching to find yourself a gold oak," he says, "but the hunt is always half the fun. Quercus robur ‘Concordia’ is your objective, a slow grower much smaller than its English cousins.

"Concordia benefits from a hint of shade, because its clear-yellow foliage, which emerges bright yellow in spring, tends to scorch in the heat of summer. If only it held that color all year long. Alas, it gets blue-green toward the end of the season.

"It reaches 10 feet in 10 years, needs dappled light, and is hardy to Zone 4 [no colder than -30 degrees in winter]."

He's convinced me. I'm ready to add a few more plants with colorful leaves to my landscape.

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