Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Size matters


In my small patio garden, I need things to be either literally big or big in terms of impact. I have seen small dainty gardens with neat little mounds of foliage and flowers (strangely, these gardens often include a tiny patch of turf) and I have not been impressed. Not for me.


No. Tall is good, wide is good, and spectacular is preferred. Of course, I don’t have success with as much giant-sized stuff as I’d like. Large-flowered dahlias and big hibiscus don’t seem to get enough sun, and sunflowers never do well. But I can grow tall lilies, big-headed hydrangeas, other tall perennials, and lots of vines. And, with the various degrees of shade that fall almost everywhere, I depend on foliage plants. With big, big leaves.


Many of these are tropical or semi-tropical (meaning they’ll overwinter in Texas but not here). Two pics up, you see some alocasia that grow nicely inside for seven months and then go into the ground in June. There are also many types of colacasia (also shown) that I have varying success getting through the winter. One that I got from Plant Delights, the giganteum, will continue growing inside, but not all of these will.


The musa (banana plant) also has to be hauled up to the plant room in October, where it will continue to produce leaves, though slowly.


And there are some rather exotic looking hardy perennials that will give impressive foliage (without being hostas), like this boehmeria I got from Plant Delights last year. It’s about six feet tall and has strange little stringy white flowers—if that term even applies—hanging off it.

Many gardeners know the lesson of foliage. I’ve come to value it not just for the interest it brings when a plant’s flowers are gone, but even more on plants I grow for foliage alone.

14 comments:

Miss Daisy said...

Beautiful! I have a smaller garden, so I like to go with impact with variations of voliage. You've got some great foliage in your garden. They are so healthy, too!

Pam/Digging said...

Big foliage, big fun! I like the big, broad leaves of agaves for the same reason. Drought-tolerant plants tend to have teeny-tiny leaves, so it's especially nice to have large foliage for contrast when you can.

Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence said...

I agree, for small gardens and big gardens. I have a big garden (half acre) and I still like my plants big, full, lush and lusty. I don't want something to crane my neck on. I want my plants in my face - seeing the eye to eye! H.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I think some gardeners think small space means you have to use small plants but the larger dramatic plants are so much more interesting and make you think large.

Sarah from Toronto Gardens said...

I grew cannas for the first time this year. Didn't use to like them, but the ones with lime green, striped foliage really grabbed me this year, and made a big statement in a huge planter. Was surprised how big it got!!

Love your pics with the big, big leaf plants. Nice to get a tropical feel in a northern climate. Overwintering is a great tip.

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

Speaking of big, what ever happened to the gunnera you were going to order? From what I remember, its leaf size was approximately the size of your side yard.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi. I wandered into here from elsewhere and I'm glad that I did. What a great blog - love the photos, you've got some great plants!

Thanks for giving me some great reading :)

EAL said...

Jim that was not a gunnera; it was the Thai Giant colocasia. It is nowhere near giant-size yet. Maybe that only happens in Thailand.

Pam said...

I have really grown fond of the elephant ears - for me, with a one acre garden in the south - they can stay in the ground, although they do freeze back to the ground. I just love how much space they take up - and boy does Plant Delights have some fun ones. Have you seen Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito' PPAF? It seems like it would be mandatory for an intoxicated garden gardener! I haven't tried 'Giganteum', but I think it's one that I've got to get next spring.

EAL said...

I have Mojito Pam; it's cool, but the summer was not that warm and it did not thrive as well as it could. It is not as big-leaved as others I have.

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

You don't have Mickey Mouse Taro, do you? Xanthosoma albomarginata, I think. Let me know if you want one and I'll bring it to GWA.

EAL said...

Cindy, I would love it!
Thanks.

Jean said...

Love that colocasia as well as your thoughts on going big in a small garden. It's something I've never considered before (since I don't and have never had a really small garden) but now I'll be noticing how folks use their small spaces. Makes sense!

layanee said...

Couldn't agree more. I do have one Colocasia this year and it is big. I have found Datura, that wicked plant, to be big and must try the Boehmeria with those big leaves. Love the first picture on your front porch.