Hardy herbaceous perennials with bold foliage add drama and texture to the garden.
By C. Colston Burrell
C. Colston Burrell
Size matters, at least where leaves are concerned. Big,
brassy leaves demand attention. They satisfy our craving for the exotic and
appeal to our theatrical side. Their sculptural presence serves as a garden
focal point. In a garden vignette or composition, they are the perfect foil for
more finely cut or linear foliage.
Big leaves are as functional as they are fanciful. They
serve as solar collectors, spreading wide to trap the most light from the sunís
rays. Large leaves have a greater surface area for photosynthesis: the more
photosynthesis, the more growth. Some trade-offs exist, however.
Big leaves are expensive to maintain. They require a lot of
water to keep them turgid and in prime condition. Some prefer to grow
streamside, with their feet in water. Others demand only deep, rich soil and
consistent summer moisture. Most thrive in sites where a sheltering canopy of trees
or shrubs protects them from the most intense rays of the sun.
Given sufficient moisture, protection from wind, and ample
shade, big-leaf plants can grow to gargantuan proportions. They generally form
stout rootstocks and multiple crowns. Where conditions are right and space is
sufficient, the following leafy drama queens make exciting additions to any
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