The flowers have been given their due for July; now it is time to pay homage to the foliage of the garden: some humble and unassuming, acting as foundation to the decorative frills and flounces of the summer’s blooms, while others are every bit as bright and attention grabbing as the brightest flowers.I use a lot of coleus in my containers. It pairs well with wax begonias here on my front porch, where the sun shines on it only early in the morning. My secret to growing bushy, full coleus plants is to pinch, pinch, pinch! When I planted the nursery stock, I pinched off the tops of each plant, as well as any overly large leaves. As soon as I notice a flower stalk beginning to form, I pinch it off as well. This results in a less leggy, well-branched plant.Most coleus thrive in full or part shade. There are some, however, that do just as well in full sun. Here is one on my side porch, sharing a pot with a New Guinea Impatiens. It has withstood the excessive heat and bright sunlight of July like a trooper! I will definitely take cuttings of this to winter over for next summer.In that same pot, and in the picture below, are the descendants of a giant coleus I first planted several years ago. They’re a little small as yet, since I was very slow this year getting them out of the vase of water and into pots. Their leaves are like velvet!For “spiller” foliage that thrives in the bright sunlight, you can’t beat Sweet Potato Vine. It comes in many varieties and colors, from lime green to nearly black. Sadly, my nursery this year labeled them all merely “Sweet Potato Vine.”
This one’s leaves start out a delicate green and mature to a muted shade of burgundy.
This one is much darker purple, and features deeply lobed leaves. I love the contrast between it and the coleus growing in a pot behind it.In a hanging basket on my very sunny back deck, the Sweet Potato Vine works well in combination with White Licorice Plant and a pink zonal geranium. It provides a cool, calm rest for the eyes after the hot riot of color in the rock garden.I had never tried Licorice Plant before, but a local nursery overstocked it this spring and sold it for a dollar a pot. It is doing well in full sun, and seems to withstand dry conditions well, which make it a good companion for zonal geraniums and Lantana. I like it in hanging baskets, as shown above, and below, where I combined White Licorice Plant with a variegated type, as well as a geranium. (Many of my geraniums suffered from the huge amount of rain we had earlier in the season, and are still on the road to recovery.) Here is another huge Licorice Plant (yes, it really does smell like licorice if you rub a leaf between your fingers!) in combination with pink lantana and snapdragons, both of which were in full bloom LAST week! Trust me, the combination of the pink flowers with the silvery gray-green leaves of the Licorice Plant is stunning!Here is a bowl of Caladium, started from from bulbs in late June. I was not sure how well they, an inexpensive combination pack from a big box store, would do, so I am very pleased with these results! When I planted them, I covered the bulbs with soil just up to their tips, watered them well, and then covered them with an upside down plastic drainage saucer to create a greenhouse. I set the pot on the back porch where it was hot and sunny, and within a week, the plants sprouted. Once the leaves started to open, I moved the pot from its sunny spot over to a more shady location on the side porch, where their colors will stay bright and vibrant.Moving back to the front of the house now, the Rose of Sharon is sad. It has very little new growth near its base, and plenty of what seem to be dead branches at the top. This is the bush that I transplanted almost two years ago now. Last year, I worried I had killed it because the first leaves didn’t show up until mid-June, but then it continued to grow and had a nice show of flowers in late August. I had really thought I would see new growth continue to emerge up the bare branches, but now I am fairly certain those branches are dead and should be removed.Up on the alcove porch railings, the Morning Glories are trailing, climbing, and looping, but not yet blooming. (Their counterparts on the side porch have!) The problem may be the soil; I used a potting mix that already contains fertilizer, and Morning Glories tend to produce lovely leaves and few flowers when fertilized. Or maybe they’re just slow.On the deck of the alcove, the Amarllis bulbs continue to support leaves. I’ve been watering and fertilizing the bulbs since they finished blooming. The leaves are just beginning to show signs of dying back. In a few weeks, I’ll stop watering the bulbs and let them dry out and go dormant for a few months before I replant them for next winter’s show.
Returning to the front porch now, the houseplants of Mom’s Hideaway are happy in their summer home, with filtered light and plenty of humidity. The Shamrock Plants (Oxalis) had both died back nearly completely over the winter, so I am happy to see that they have recovered so well.I hope the Walking Iris blooms again for me this winter!I end, without apology, with a bloom that had not opened for Bloom Day. Here is the first flower this year of Hybrid Tea Rose ‘Sedona.’ I am smitten. Thank you to Pam from Digging for hosting this meme to complement Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day each month!