Foliage Follow Up – January 2014


As I said in my post  on My Garden earlier this week I like big foliage.  There is already some examples in the garden such as the Fatsia above which looks wonderful when the sun is thrown the leaves.


The Acanthus mollis also looks great despite the time of year despite the odd hole but as I said I want to add to these with what we shall term ‘hardy exotics’.

My interest in good foliage is apparent when you look at the photographs I took at the Birmingham Botanic Garden this weekend. I was particularly keen on the plants in the Tropical Glasshouse but of course these would not grow in my garden and my greenhouse  would only accommodate one specimen.  I do wonder though whether I could grow Cycas revoluta (Sago Cycad) which was in the Sub-tropical glasshouse, maybe its a plant I could have outside and overwinter under cover.


I adore this foliage it is so inviting and makes you want to stroke it.


Then there was this wonderful Pelargonium Wantirna foliage.  The flowers were rather insignificant compared to the leaves.  This is definitely on my ‘wants list’.


However I did spot a few new to me plants with great foliage outside that I can add to the garden, including Euphorbia robbiae, although I need to research this plant as I understand it can be quite invasive.


For my fern collection I fancy the addition of Blechnaceae Blechnum chilense – a very stately and grand looking fern I think you will agree.


Finally, I spotted the plant above which looks like a cross between and ivy and Fatsia.  Its Araliaceae x fatshedera lizei ‘Variegated’. Another one to put on the wants list for the hardy exotic border.

Once you start looking beyond the colourful flowers you soon discover that there is a wonderful variety of leaves and of course they last so much longer than the flower, in some cases all year round – whats not to like.

For more Foliage Follow-up posts visit Pam’s blog, Digging



21 Comments on “Foliage Follow Up – January 2014

  1. Hi Helen – I doubt very much that cycads would do very well at your place! Maybe end up with a stunted struggling one in a glass house. Look up where they come from! In our sub tropical garden in Auckland we have 3 large ones, prone to scale – and at my hostesses northland garden they have about ten very large ones. They are not very friendly plants and attack you when weeding underneath with hard fronds – not exactly spikes but quite viscious. Great dramatic statements and very expensive. I read that in Florida a scale had wiped them out. I use ‘digital’ control on ours and spray underneath with neem. Very ancient plant but can’t imagine it in an English garden!

    • Nope, cycads are fine in the UK in general, I see them growing out doors in seaside locations in freely draining raised beds – sometimes they get a little browning on the tips but apart from that they are grow able outside and with little effort save the occasional fertilisation if growing in a large container.

    • Hi Yvonne
      You would be surprised what grows here, albeit it maybe not as big as there, but we can get away with quite a bit as James says

  2. The photo of the sun shining through your Fatsia leaf is gorgeous! Euphorbia robbiae is invasive as you say, it spreads by underground runners, but they are quite easy to remove if they come up where you don’t want them.

    • Hi Pauline
      I have a ridiculous amount of photos of the Fatsia with snow, frost, sun – it is such a photogenic plant

  3. I’m with Pauline on the euphorbia – invasive but easy to dig out. Do you know the story about why it’s called Mrs Robb’s bonnet? Apparently she smuggled it through customs in her hat. The cycad is lovely too… thanks for the pics

    • Hi Cathy T
      I do enjoy learning where names originated from so thank for sharing that story

  4. I have a fatsia that we bought in a small flower pot at a WI market in 1994. It’s now way bigger than me. Children round where I live like the leaves too and go through phases of ripping them off and waving them around in the road. Sometimes it’s been left with very few and I’ve worried for it – especially as it goes in for an autumn of its own every so often and sheds leaves profusely. But it’s always come back strong.

    • Hi Esther
      They do seem to be very robust don’t they despite their exotic looks. Mine had survived two winters of temperatures -18c

  5. I’m down the way from you and I grow Cycas revoluta in a terracotta pot on the patio outside for the summer and then bring in and kept bone dry over the winter in the greenhouse. It’s awfully slow for me and often some years doesn’t flush. This was a cycad I bought for a fiver from Malvern LIDL’s. But for architectural quality and that Jurassic look it’s a great plant – actually likes lots of water during the growing season.

    I must admit I love foliage plants, I have a few paulownias and a tetrapanax in pots ready to go out in the garden come spring. BTW you can get fatsheder x lizei from pershore plant centre – it’s a doer but it doesn’t know whether it wants to grow like a fatsia (shrubby) or like an Ivy (climbing) so it may need a little support at first.

    I like the narrow leafed foliage plants – particularly sarcococca saligna, which has the added bonus of smelling great. Also the mainstream garden centres are starting to plug this new Asiatic mahonia named mahonia eurybracteata subs ganpinensis or trade name is mahonia ‘soft caress’. It’s got nice foliage and doesn’t grow too big.

    Lastly, Blechnum chilense (blechnums in general) require a moist acidic soil, the more acid the better – I was at the saville gardens recently and saw a huuuuge area covered by this fern, when it’s happy it tells you by sending runners all over the shop akin to matteucia. I have a blechnum chilense to plant out in the spring in the fernery – but it’ll be one of those ferns I keep an eye on like m. orientalis and m. struthiopteris.

    Hope comments are of use!

    • Hi James
      How intriguing, I wonder where down the way is!
      I think mahonia soft caress won plant of the year at last year Chelsea show or maybe the one before and it does look nice.
      Thanks for all the information. It is much appreciated

  6. I have Euphorbia robbiae growing at the top of a dry bank underneath big trees. They do a bit too well and have now started spreading down the lawn. (I say lawn but it is really just moss!) As others said they do pull up easily, but difficult if the ground is very dry and hard.
    I also have another really pretty Euphorbia – I think it is Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’. It grows against a North facing wall in really poor soil and looks fantastic. I would certainly recommend it.

    • Hi Annette
      I think Euphorbia robbiae is definitely on the list, even if I do regret it at some point in the future.
      I had the Euphorbia called something ‘Great Dixter’ and that really spread but was a nightmare to get out as it’s roots seemed to go straight down to Australia!

  7. the euphorbia robbiae is nice, it’s often good to experiment with things that are mildly invasive. You must like a challenge! It all depends on what the conditions are like in your garden – I try and get rubus tricolour romping away here and it just doesn’t get going – in other gardens I’ve seen it cover 3x3m patches at least!

    Down the way isn’t literally down the way. *hint clue is in the name profile. nr the three counties showground btw. So not too far.

  8. The leaves on Cycad revoluta will start to burn if exposed at about -2C, although frost fleece on hardened off leaves will be ok at that temperature. They generally will keep the leaves to -6C or thereabouts.

    For your location I would pot grow and move under cover for winter keeping the temperature above freezing. They are slow growing, so its a plant you need to buy the size you want to display rather than a small one and grow it on, they are simply too slow in uk.

  9. I find Euphorbia robbiae very invasive in my garden although lovely in spring. Acanthus is great too but again very invasive and difficult to get rid of. I love all ferns, the one in your photo is gorgeous. I love that Pelargonium.

  10. Those are wonderful foliage plants, every one. The sago palm is very common here in Texas, but it isn’t very touchable. Spiky, rather!

  11. I haven’t been to the Birmingham Botanical Garden for years — have to visit next time I’m in England (my family live near B’ham). More and more, I chose plants for their foliage rather than for there flowers. Your pictures bring out the best in the leaves. P. x

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