Foliage Texture Garden Plants

posted in: Gardening | 28

I couldn’t do without my foliage texture garden plants! Over the years I’ve realised that having a garden that is visually pleasing throughout the year isn’t all about blooms. In fact leaves and grasses of all sorts of colours, textures and even aromas play an important role in my borders.


Some of the plants do have flowers. But I think the size of their foliage, their different textures and different shades of green play a much bigger part. As a result they give continued interest throughout the year before and after they have flowered.


Santolina Lemon Fizz looks as if there are tiny little air bubbles trapped within its thread like leaves. It has little button flowers which I think are an added bonus to the wonderful golden foliage.

Santolina Lemon Fizz
Santolina Lemon Fizz
foliage texture garden plants Pulmonaria officinalis, Hakonechloa aurea and Heuchera Silver Scrolls
Pulmonaria officinalis, Hakonechloa aurea and Heuchera Silver Scrolls  in my back garden – good foliage texture garden plants


Place your plants in the border based on the color and shape of their leaves!

Beauty Without Bloom

Salvia tricolour
Salvia tricolour



Japanese Painted Fern Athryium niponicum pictum
Athryium niponicum pictum


There’s aromatic foliage of the Salvia tricolour and the delicate texture of the Japanese Painted Fern. Alongside there’s the feathery scented leaves of Artemisia arboretum (Southernwood).

Artemisia arboretum
Artemisia arboretum


Grow these plants beside scented dianthus, Sea Holly, Nepeta, Alchemilla mollis, Stachys lanata and pink Sedum Ice plants as they all make great foliage contrasts. Furthermore they will all stand out from each other as they have different textures and sizes of leaves.

Foliage Texture Garden Plants

foliage texture garden plants Golden Hop, Bronze Fennel and Physocarpus diablo
Golden Hop, Bronze Fennel and Physocarpus diablo – good foliage texture garden plants
foliage texture garden plants Phormium Jester and Origanium vulgare aurea
Foliage texture garden plants – Phormium Jester and Origanium vulgare aurea


In one part of the garden Phormium Jester, Origanium vulgare aurea, Heuchera Silver scrolls and Hakonechloa aurea grow next to each other. Moreover they really make an interesting planting combination.

In addition there’s the wispy Foeniculum vulgare Bronze Fennel. There is also the dark and mysterious Physocarpus opulifolius Diablo (Ninebark) along with the unrestrained Humlus lupus (Golden Hop). Likewise they all capture the atmosphere in one area of the garden. Furthermore daylilies, asters and rubeckia also grow among these three foliage plants. The Golden Hop flowers are quite insignificant. While the Physocarpus ones have now finished and the yellow fennel blooms will have opened by the end of the month. Consequently when I don’t have flowers I still have very interesting leaves from spring to late autumn.

Sedum Purple Emperor with Pulmonaria officinalis and Hakonechloa aurea
Sedum Purple Emperor with Pulmonaria officinalis and Hakonechloa aurea  in the background
Sedum Purple Emperor and Santolina chamaecyparissus
Similarly there’s Sedum Purple Emperor against a backdrop of silver Santolina chamaecyparissus


Then there’s dusky drama from the Sedum Purple Emperor leaves and stems. This plant will flower for me very soon but I think its foliage just like the heuchera leaves are great foils for other plants in the garden.


With this in mind it’s really all about the leaves …isn’t it!

Rosie Nixon
Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor

Rosie is based in Perth, Perthshire as a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the Scottish outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at the only photographic gallery in Scotland - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

28 Responses

  1. Avatar

    You are right Rosie, gardens allow plants to grow. Flowers appear for a brief portion of the time. The rest of the time is all about shoots, roots, leaves, stems, branches, little buds, old leaves falling, etc… Each has beauty of its own.

    Have a great weekend

  2. Avatar

    Your foliage plants are as beautiful as your flowers. I have some begonias and alpinias which rival any flower in beauty.

  3. Avatar

    I guess it's one of those things all gardeners have to grow to appreciate. I find myself starting to enjoy foliage without flowers, and before I wouldn't look twice at a plant or tree if it didn't bloom. Beautiful photos!

  4. Avatar
    Curbstone Valley Farm

    Rosie, this was a lesson I had to learn at our first house. My grandad was a flower gardener, and I thought all gardens were supposed to be filled with blooms. Well, when you live in the middle of a very dark redwood forest, a lot of plants simply won't, or can't bloom. I tried, and I lost plants. Eventually, I shifted to a more truly shade-oriented garden, I learned to appreciate foliage colors and textures. My garden was always green, as most of the plants were evergreens of various shades. My blazes of color though usually came in the autumn with strategically placed Japanese maples. As much as I love flowers, I still miss that garden…

  5. Avatar

    Lovely foliage combos. I grow the golden hops, ninebark and bronze fennel, but never thought of putting them together – very nice!

  6. Avatar
  7. Avatar

    Beautiful foliage Rosie! I love your Sage and all the shades of green. Leaves definitely make a difference in the garden. I think one of my favorites is indoor, Zebra Plant which is very tropical to look at. I also like my Stonecrop out in the garden, no flowers but adds color and texture! I also love the heart shaped foliage of my Hosta. Have a great weekend 🙂

  8. Avatar

    Rosie, your foliage gives beautiful color and texture in your garden. I think leaves with variety are what give a garden interest. That first photo is my favorite. I read in a gardening book back in my early days that too much colorful foliage is distracting and should be avoided. I've always ignored that advice. There is much beauty without bloom to be found in my garden today…the psychedelic stromanthes, ti plants, neoregelias, pothos, philodendrons, 'Fire and Ice' hibiscus…I could go on and on.

  9. Avatar

    Those are some amazing foliage plants.

    You are an angel, thanks for sharing Heather's link in a comment on my blog.

    Rosey P

  10. Avatar
    Meredehuit ♥

    Your blog is beautiful, and I 've so enjoyed my walk throught your gardens! I must say my favorite is your Lemon Fizz. Hmm… wonder if it will grow in USDA zone 5?

  11. Avatar

    I love your foliage combinations! Foliage is an important part of my garden. I always look at leaf texture, form, and color first. I think your santolina lemon fuzz and sedum Purple Emperor would get bonus points on all fronts!

  12. Avatar

    You are righ Rosie, contrasting leaf colors give interest to the landscape throughout the year.
    You certainly have a wide variety of colorful bushes, I especially like those purple-silver leaved ones contrasting the golden shades.

  13. Avatar

    Hi Rosie,
    Here's a seed, not a weed. Your bloomless garden is very colourful and beautiful indeeed.

  14. Avatar

    Yah, I agree that some foliage plants are wonderful too! My house is filled with dieffenbachias, calatheas, agloanemas, coleus, ferns, etc. etc.

  15. Avatar

    You have some inspiring combinations of beautiful foliage, Rosie. I enjoyed seeing what your favorites are. Thanks for joining in Foliage Follow-Up!

  16. Avatar

    Rosie, I have come to the same conclusion. When I first started gardening I was all about flowers, a riot of colour as they say. Now the flowers are just extra, set of by the different shapes textures and colour of the foliage.

  17. Avatar

    I agree about the foliage. And you have them in the most beautiful colours. I have some crotons–mainstays of tropical gardens. The rainy season brings out the best in most of the foliage plants here.

    Love the delicate look of the Japanese Painted fern.

  18. Avatar

    Grasses and leaves can make for some absolutely beautiful images. We often get so caught up in the blossoms, that we forget to appreciate the foliage.

  19. Avatar

    Oh my goodness, Rosie–we have many of the same plants. But of course, we combine them very differently… I love seeing the golden hops with the bronze fennel and purple ninebark. I think I might need the hops myself. And I definitely need that beautiful 'Lemon Fizz' santolina–I didn't even know that a yellow-foliaged santolina existed!!!

  20. Avatar

    What a fantastic array of wondrous foliage, Rosie! Oftentimes, beauty transcends the obvious in our garden sensibilities. Case in point, there's an amazing variety of ornamental corn from Japan called "Japonica Striped Maize" which has striped, variegated leaves in hues of pink, white, yellow and green. A real Cinderella in the ruff…

  21. Avatar

    Rosie, This is a lesson I still struggle with at C&L! Especially difficult in a dry shade garden~Santolina lemon Fizz is a wonderful color and so is Diablo Ninebark~Very nice post! gail

  22. Avatar
  23. Avatar

    Some lovely examples of foliage plants here – I particularly love the Santolina Lemon Fizz

  24. Avatar
    Deborah at Kilbourne Grove

    I hear you Rosie. Now it seems everytime I buy a plant, I am choosing based on the foliage. Looking at my garden this past weekend, not a lot in flower, but lots of colour.

  25. Avatar
  26. Avatar

    That is so true about gardens being more than places for flowers. Foliage, texture, leaf color, structure, multi-season interest make the truly lovely garden.

  27. Avatar

    Lovely shots – I have got a number of succulents on my balcony… not a lot of flowers.

  28. Avatar
Comments are closed.