Some designers /gardeners are jamming lots of interesting textures into a flowering border but in many instances they are over doing it in my humble opinion! Plant breeders have gone overboard too; making every plant variegated with crazy combinations of colors- the flowering annual coleus has been particularly attacked! I saw one the other day that was that was green yellow red and orange. How many different coleus do we really need?
Taking a cue from Gertrude Jeykyll’s idea of “Making pictures” – there is value in making areas that cause the eye to pause. Evergreen plants or large leaf deciduous plants, provide this important design component. Just like in painting- figurative or abstract- there are, within the composition, resting areas where the eye can retreat from the action of the paint and pause to reflect before reentering the composition.
A good plant choice for ‘a pause’ is boxwood. Serious plant collectors look down on the plant for being too formal and/or over used, but I don’t use the boxwood to make round balls in the landscape but to provide a good middle value of green whose tight leaves catch the light and act as nice brake between flowering perennials. They also provide some color and structure in the 5 bleak months in upstate New York, when nothing is in flower. An evergreen hedge of yew or deciduous hedge of Rhamnus ‘Fineline’ also would provide a good backdrop of green and provide just enough contrast to make the flowering perennials pop forward! Large leaf deciduous plants such as Astilboides tabularis, Rodgersia aesculifolia, Darmera peltata, and Rheum palmatum cause the same desired retreat from the more showy flowers.
By using some of the wonderful green foliage plants you can create a more subtle natural look to planting. The end result is that you can actually see and appreciate the beauty of a flowering perennials instead of a hectic endless Disneynification of plants one brighter than the next!