DON’T LOOK down on brown. Yes, that’s right, brown foliage.
Foliage effects in a garden are all about contrasts and compliments and, with brown foliage, the combinations are endless and, more importantly, available all year round.
Perhaps one of the commonest brown leaved plants is fagus sylvatica when it is in its winter clothing.
That rich orange-brown that its leaves take on from October until April, particularly when it is grown as a hedge, gives us some stunning colour combinations to play with – try planting a mahonia or evergreen berberis in front of it or the golden foliage form of choisya tenata and see what I mean.
Plant a yellow flowered form of hamamelis mollis with a beech hedge as a background and watch the colours in January and February as they shine brightly in the garden.
Two oak species that give us some of the best brown autumn foliage are quercus coccinea, the Scarlet Oak and quercus borealis, the Red Oak.
Both have large foliage and can give upwards of three weeks of autumn colour but are only suited to the larger garden.
The sedges are not a group of plants that many of us are attracted to because of their apparent association with wet soils but, do a little research and you will find some wonderful plants to add to your garden, a number of which can give brown foliage pride of place in a gravel garden, a container or at the front of a sunny border.
Look out for carex buchananii with its 60cm (2’) tall copper-bronze foliage. Carex comans, the New Zealand hairy sedge, produces long, slender flowing bronze foliage that stands out if it is contrasted with mauve flowers or silver foliage. Carex flagellifera has almost glossy bronze foliage and so needs a sunny position to help it perform at its best.
A related plant, the hook sedge, uncinia rubra produces stunning bronze-green tufts up to 37cm (15”) tall – try viola cornuta with it for an excellent contrast.
An excellent gravel garden plant that forms a creeping carpet of pinnate bronze leaves and tiny little bright red flowers in summer is acaena microphylla ‘Copper Carpet’ and it will contrast well with sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco, with its heavily white bloomed rosettes of succulent foliage.
For winter colour that is classified as bronze-purple, try out bergenia ‘Ballawley.’
Its mid-green summer foliage turns to this superb colour if it is planted in an exposed part of the garden and is not over-fed.
For summer foliage with its own contrast, search out one of the bugbanes, cimicifuga simplex ‘Brunette’, with its tall racemes of off-white flowers supported above a mass of brownish-purple foliage and stems.
To take the subject of colour in your garden a stage further you can buy an RHS Mini Colour Chart for £25.00 or you can have the full version for £170.00! – visit www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/RHS-Publications/RHS-colour-charts
If you have a particular flower or leaf colour that you like or a colour combination that works in your garden, why not share it with the rest of Huddersfield by writing to Graham’s Colour Chart, Features Department, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Pennine Business Park, Longbow Close, Bradley Road, Huddersfield, HD2 1GQ.