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I Like BIG Leaves and I Cannot Lie

I Like BIG Leaves and I Cannot Lie

By Dan Heims, President, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Hey campers, today we are going to look at the BIG picture. Currently we are introducing three new-to-you foliage plants with the bonus of showy flowers! When you look at many home gardens, you see quite an array of smaller perennials, boxwoods, azaleas, heather, and most conifers.

So, what is wrong with that? Texture. Too many plants of a fine textured habit tend to merge into one scramble. With BIG leaves you add visual contrast. I use the term, “one plus one equals three.” You get a stronger effect by adding a bold statement.

The first two plants have variegated leaves, which provides a contrast in foliage color and color echoes between the different plants and the bold-leaved specimen. One of the variegates, Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’, does quite well in shade and is one of Dan’s favorite plants in winter as it is such a glowing addendum to a shaded place. It is visible from many angles in the garden in winter.

Terra Nova’s selection of Acanthus ‘Tasmanian Angel’ was discovered at Roseyear’s Nursery in Tasmania. Terra Nova’s breeders added the Terra Nova touch, creating ‘Whitewater’, a stronger and more vivid selection with incredible flower spikes up to four feet tall!

Lastly but not leastly comes the large, thick-textured bronzy leaves of Rodgersia ‘Bronze Peacock’. It is another candidate for a shade garden, preferring wet, even boggy conditions. Dan saw them growing in a small stream in Japan near Mt. Fuji. This was an epiphany for Dan, who had been growing them much drier and less successfully. Pink flowers erupt from this chocolate cake in the garden, making a stunning combo. Let us see more!

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Acanthus ‘Whitewater’

Make a splash with this vigorous, variegated Acanthus. It features striking, bold leaves with deeply cut white margins and splashing on the foliage. It forms a large clump with 4' tall showy flower stalks with pink and cream flowers in summer. This was bred with Acanthus 'Summer Beauty' for vigor, more hardiness, and heat and humidity tolerance. Hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7-10 and can bloom from June till July! In full sun it can grow to 36 inches tall, and up to 48 inches tall while in flower. While Dan has seen them growing in strong morning sun, they prefer medium or partial shade. They make a strong statement dotted around the landscape or as a center of interest in a container.

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Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’

The Araceae family contains many bold-leaved plants like Tetrapanax, Fatsia, and the deciduous Aralia cordata. Dan procured a small shoot of the ultra-rare (back then…) Fatsia. All FSW plants on earth were derived from this single variegated clone that I was gifted by my sensei, the now-deceased Dr. Masato Yokoi. This desirable rare evergreen has white splashing and dotting on broad, palmate leaves. The variegation changes with the seasons and as the plant ages. Named by author Yoshimichi Hirose of Iwakuni, Japan. Hardy in zones 7-10 and can bloom from September to November with white, ball-like flowers on a spike! In full sun it can grow to 65 inches tall and 48 inches wide while in flower. It is better-branched and more compact than the “normal” Fatsia. These shrubs prefer good drainage and even moisture in their first year. After that they are drought resistant. Can take morning sun but excel in part to full shade.

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Rodgersia ‘Bronze Peacock’

A shiny, bronzy beauty! The darkest foliage of any Rodgersia. The leaves are large, thick, glossy, indented and make a great sculptural addition to your woodland garden. What many people do not know is that the Rodgersias are water lovers and can tolerate boggy conditions with aplomb. In spring, the huge bronze leaves emerge like a peacock’s tail! Pink flowers emerge in June above the mound of foliage. Hardy in zones 5-8. In full to part shade, it can grow to 28 inches wide and 50 inches tall while in flower. It prefers good drainage, partial shade and even moisture in its first year. Plant with astilbe, a relative that likes the same moist soils.

Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He was recently honored by The American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit. He was also honored in receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding.

You may contact Dan at [email protected].

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Now is the time to shop for annuals that will go the distance all summer. Suntory Flowers has a portfolio of gorgeous varieties that thrive in the heat. To learn more, click here for an interesting article.

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