One of the things I always talk about when I lecture is the importance of foliage in garden design. Even when I am talking about house plants, foliage is the star–I will often bring 20 or 30 plants to display–and after everyone is done “oohing and aahing,” I will remark that it’s important to notice a couple of things about my display: first, how colorful it is and second, that there are maybe only one or perhaps two at most flowering plants int he whole thing (and if there are, I guarantee you one is a phalaenopsis orchid so that I can talk about proper watering technique–not the “ice cube” method.)
For example, here’s a grouping of plants from my living room. There’s not a flowering plant among them but the grouping is vibrant and colorful. This photo is from last year so it’s changed up a little bit, but it’s still substantially similar–and still no flowers in this low-light area beneath a window.
The same results can be achieved outdoors as well. In fact, when I have the time and energy, I find that it’s almost more fun to create all foliage containers. I have not created anything at all this year–as I type, I am nursing a 3″ scar across the my arm–and I am right handed–that is preventing me from doing anything outside at all, including watering. That’s where the Spoiler comes in handy. But I knew this was coming so I didn’t make this an intensive gardening year. There’s always next year.
For inspiration, however, check out these lovely, mostly foliage containers at Avant Gardens. And then plan for your foliage containers in the future!
When we studied houseplants in school, we did not refer to them as such, but as ‘tropicals’, or ‘tropical foliage’. That is what most of them were for. Those that were grown for bloom were a separate category, although there were a few foliar plats that also bloomed, like many of the bromeliads. Potted blooming plants that were the sort that are purchased in bloom and then likely get discarded when they finish, were know as ‘pot plants’. They included poinsettias, Easter lilies, blooming azaleas, blooming miniature roses, etc.. (They are the lowliest of horticultural crops to a respectable nurseryman like me, who grows material that will survive in the orchard or home garden for as long as someone cares for it.)
When I lecture about “house plants,” I always tell people to try to think about where they would be if they lived “in the wild,” to try to get a better sense of how to care for them. If, for example, they remember that most orchids are epiphytes and grow basically by attaching themselves to trees in pockets of decaying leaf littler, they’ll quickly see how silly putting ice cubes on the roots is.
Same thing with common names like “Christmas cactus,” which neither blooms at Christmas nor is a cactus, and, to make it even a bit more complicated, has different watering requirements (just slightly, of course) when in bloom and at other times.
And would it cheer your heart to know that I am on my third year with a poinsettia, which is still in glorious bloom? Or would you just be horrified?