Starring Roles


Persicaria virginiana var. filiformis 003 Wm[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=


Persicaria virginiana var. filiformis and Astrantia ‘Ruby Wedding’. The blood red markings on the persicaria leaves are brought into sharper focus by the similar hues of the astrantia behind.


In an English summer garden it is flowers we look to first to take the lead. Rightly so.

But where would our borders be without the various textures and form of foliage to provide contrast and punctuation? Even the plainest of green leaves contribute to the base layer, melding the individual players together to form a pleasing and coherent whole. Yet not all foliage is content to take on a purely supporting role.


Red veined sorrel 001 Wm[3]


Red veined sorrel

The leading lady in the vegetable garden at the moment. Making me think that I really should plant some chard.


Anemanthele lessoniana 002 Wm[1]


Anemanthele lessoniana (syn. Stipa arundinacea)


The pink tinged fronds of the pheasant’s tail grass dominate the bank. An evergreen species, it holds on to its leaves all year but is perhaps due a haircut. The planting here is a long way from finished, yet already the clipped berberis hedges and the ferns provide structure. The newly acquired phormium will do the same, in the fullness of time, especially now I’ve remembered to connect it to the watering system. Doh.


Ophiopogen nigrescens 004 Wm[1]


Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Black mondo grass is in active growth and its leaves have taken on a delicious dark olive hue.


Terraces 039 Wm[1]


Above, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Orange Field’ stands out clearly against the dark leaves of an azalea that flowered earlier in the year. The white Dierama ‘Guinevere’ may also be past the peak of its flowering glory but the spiky foliage will continue to act as a visual break in the border long after the blooms are gone.


Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' 005 Wm[1]


Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Geranium wallichianum ‘Sylvia’s Surprise’


In the parts of the garden away from full sun foliage becomes even more important. The hakonechloa will tolerate partial shade. It may not be the easiest colour to place in the garden, but I do love this grass. Combined with the geranium, it adds real bling to the woodland edge.


Cistus argenteus 'Silver Pink' 003 Wm[1]


On the terraces it pairs with Cistus argenteus ‘Silver Pink’..


Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' 004 Wm[1]


..and Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’


Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow' 003 Wm[1]


The Ajuga, in its turn, is the perfect partner for Erigeron karvinskianus


Libertia 'Gold Finger' 002 Wm[3]


The tapestry of low growing herbs under the bird table gets a lift from Libertia ‘Gold Finger’


Grass 001 Wm[1]


I bought this grass years ago and have long since lost the label. In colour and form it is similar to the anemanthele above but smaller, and lighter, with flowers (or seedheads?) that are almost black. Really quite distinctive.

Anyone know what it is?


Kalanchoe 'Bronze Sculpture' 002 Wm[1]


Kalanchoe ‘Bronze Sculpture’

The kalanchoe is spending summer outside where its paddle shaped succulent leaves have taken on even brighter hues.


And finally, on the theme of foliage, an update on some work in progress.

Remember the rhododendrons we slashed almost to the ground to create space at the bottom of the lawn (here) and (here)?


Rhododendron 005 Wm[1]


Eight of them, plus a berberis, have successfully resprouted. It may be a while yet until they bloom. In autumn they’ll move to a more suitable location and hopefully support lush foliage as they continue to grow.


Berberis 003 Wm[1]




Greenhouse 015 Wm[1]


In their place, Lonicera nitida.. as a low hedge.


7 rooted cuttings, fresh out of the new propagator.

OK, OK, it’s a start.


Linking up with Christina’s Garden of the Hesperides for Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.

Click through (here) to see how foliage plays a role in her very different climate.




Housekeeping Note: We’ve been having problems with broadband (again) for over a week now and it doesn’t seem to be resolved quite yet. I’ve been late responding to comments and visiting some of your blogs, for which I apologise. Hopefully normal service will soon be resumed!


2017-10-24T19:32:44+00:00July 22nd, 2015|Tags: |


  1. Sam July 22, 2015 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Some lovely planting combinations here Jessica. I do like grasses very much and your Ophiopogon is gorgeous. So glad you’re having success with your propagator. I think your mystery grass could be Carex dipsacea.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      I think you could be right about the Carex Sam, it certainly looks like my plant. Thank you!

  2. Christina July 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Anemanthele lessoniana (syn. Stipa arundinacea) is gorgeous, I have tried it once but I think it might deserve another chance. I particularly like the planting under the bird table, I remember that this was a problem area and now it is very successful. I do sometimes think that areas that are particularly difficult need up being the best because we think about them a lot. I found that when I was designing gardens too. Thank you for joining in so enthusiastic with GBFD

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      I’m pleased with the bird table area. In general it has worked well. There is just one bald bit directly underneath the peanut feeder. Each time the woodpecker feeds a retinue of small birds gather in this patch for the bits that fall to the ground! Thanks Christina.

  3. Pauline July 22, 2015 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Love all your contrasting foliage, the back lighting on the berberis is gorgeous! I completely forgot about my Anemanthele and Hakonechloa, while photographing my foliage, yours are super and look so good with their companions.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      There are things I forgot too.. like all the fresh new pulmonaria foliage that is pushing up after I gave them a haircut last month.

  4. Backlane Notebook July 22, 2015 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I love the links with red and rust and ruby in the leaves and veins. And Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Geranium wallichianum ‘Sylvia’s Surprise’ look stunning together.

    And that’s a very good start with the propagator.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:08 pm - Reply

      I’m checking the propagator every Friday and trying to avoid peeping between times.. hopefully there should be more roots to see tomorrow. It’s getting quite addictive.

  5. woolythymes July 22, 2015 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    what a vision you have to create something so wonderful!!! I always love getting my gardening ‘fix’ here….blistering hot here and the mosquitoes literally tried to carry me away the other day. Some crazy kudzu-type vine is encasing everything…..I’ve given up. 🙁

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Eeek, sounds like you need a machete! Don’t give up, your garden is lovely Steph.

  6. Dorothy/The Nature of Things. July 22, 2015 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Your summer garden looks gorgeous. I am full of envy.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dorothy. I wish I could spend more time in it. Yet more torrential rain forecast for tomorrow 🙁

  7. Marian St.Clair July 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I love your use of variegated foliage, so many gardeners shy away from it but you have the knack for great combinations. How frustrating to deal with the problematic broadband, I don’t have any patience when my computer tools don’t work as they should!

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      The broadband has never been much good here but it seems to be getting worse. It’s all very hit and miss because it goes off repeatedly and without warning. Very frustrating.

  8. Mark and Gaz July 22, 2015 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos Jessica! Could happily have a garden filled with plants with interesting foliage and no flowers at all 🙂

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      Down here it’s all looking very lush, even this late in the season, after all the rain. At this rate I’ll have a jungle too!

  9. Angie July 22, 2015 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    I love how the foliage picks up the colour of some of your blooms Jessica. The bank is looking wonderful right now, each plant playing against the other makes a lovely sight. You always get these things right.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks Angie. I’m still not sure about those astilbes. I moved them up there from the terraces. They are better, and I need the colour, but.. Next stop might have to be the compost heap.

  10. Linda aka Crafty Gardener July 22, 2015 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I love the different coloured and patterned leaves, need to get more for my garden.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      They tend to have a longer season than flowers so the interest goes on. The persicaria will bloom itself before long but I’m not sure I won’t cut the flowers off. I rather like the effect it gives me with the leaves alone. Blooms of its own might spoil it. We’ll see what happens.

  11. pbmgarden July 22, 2015 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Lovely. Your garden is full of wonderful combinations.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks Susie.

  12. homeslip July 22, 2015 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Some gorgeous plant combinations. I have Hakonecholoa at my woodland edge too and I love how it lightens and softens that area. I agree your mystery plant looks like carex. I have Carex elate ‘Aurea’ Bowles by my pond and the seedheads look very similar. Your Astrantia and pericardial is a match made in heaven, my Astrantia is combining beautifully at the moment with Rosa glauca rubrifolia under the purple-leaved acer. Isn’t it great when a plant combination clicks!

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm - Reply

      It is great when combinations work well. There is a Rose Susan Williams-Ellis (white) just behind the persicaria/astrantia planting as well which really lifts it but I couldn’t get them all in the same photo!

  13. frayed at the eedge July 22, 2015 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    It is all absolutely stunning!

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anne.

  14. AnnetteM July 22, 2015 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    A really interesting post with some lovely combinations. I love the Anemanthele lessoniana with what I think is pink Astilbe. I first viewed your post in my WordPress reader which has greatly improved, but then I needed to go to your actual site before I could comment. Your photos looked so much better at full size on your blog. I hope the new format of the reader doesn’t discourage people from visiting the real thing.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      I haven’t seen the new reader and will check it out. The big photos on your new theme are looking fabulous!

  15. Sarah July 22, 2015 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Those are some wonderful combinations of textures and colour. I like the combination under the bird table. I sure we bought some pheasant’s tail grass, I didn’t realise it would be that big! Sarah x

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Mine has got ridiculously big! It must be all the rain. I’m considering chopping the whole thing back down to the ground early next Spring and letting it shoot back from there. Perhaps it will be shorter as a result. If all else fails I have plenty of self seedlings which can go in its place.

  16. Freda July 22, 2015 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    It is all looking wonderful Jessica! I must look out for geranium wallichiana ‘Sylvia’s Surprise’ (Who is Sylvia, who is she?)

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      For a long time I thought it was Geranium ‘Rozanne’, albeit a little on the pink side. Now I’ve found the tag I can give it its proper name. I wonder what Sylvia’s surprise was.. ?

  17. Brian Skeys July 22, 2015 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    So many desirable plants on show Jessica, I have always been fond of Anemanthele lessoniana, it was the first ‘grass’ I discovered.
    Bressingham Gardens have a ‘River’ of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ which I thought was a great contrasting plant combination.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      Now why didn’t I think of that.. it must look stunning. Now you’ve put the idea in my head I shall have to do it. Thanks Brian!

  18. Donna@Gardens Eye View July 22, 2015 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Fabulous garden foliage and especially love the green and dark red markings and veins.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks Donna. I’m looking at sanguisorba and thinking that would work well with the persicaria too. Although sanguisorba manages to look good with so many things. I need more of it!

  19. mattb325 July 22, 2015 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Such beautiful, contrasting foliage. My ajuga looked the same until last month, healthy and happy….now it just appears to be a pile of burnt mush 🙂 I love the Hakonechloa, it always ‘pops’ in the shaded areas.
    I don’t envy you the task of digging up those Rhododendrons for transplanting!

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      We have a winch which should help with the rhododendrons. The previous owner planted them still in their pots for some bizarre reason. I would imagine the roots bust out of the pots long ago but you never know, perhaps it will help extraction a little.

  20. Amy July 23, 2015 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Ooh, it looks like the propagator is working… 🙂 I can’t say just how lovely all your pictures are just now, Jessica! I would have to say the garden here is doing all right (considering!), but it does feel like the doldrums to this gardener. So looking at what you’ve brought together is very inspiring! Thanks!

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      From what I have seen of it your garden is looking like a minor miracle considering the climate. You’ve worked very hard on it. I think I would be plonking in a few saguaro cactuses and calling it done.

  21. Rosemary July 23, 2015 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Grasses are such an important adjunct in the garden so beautifully revealed here by you Jessica.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      They do seem to work well on the bank.. so much movement. I’ve probably got too far now, but had I thought of it earlier it would have been nice to have a line of the Anemanthele down the slope, like a waterfall.

  22. Sigrun July 23, 2015 at 7:58 am - Reply

    How good your garden looks! Anemantele, I remember a holiday in Cornwall, a Garden Lady gives me a bit from this gras! It lives one Winter, the next it was gone – not hardy in my region. But it was beautiful.


    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sigrun. If you get another piece save the seed, it germinates really easily. I am pulling it out by the handful!

  23. Cathy July 23, 2015 at 8:25 am - Reply

    I am gradually adding more grasses to the new shrub border so have been admiring the grasses in your post. The hakonechloa is lovely and I dithered over a Gold Finger a few days ago as I wasn’t sure if I liked the texture….

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      I like Gold Finger for being so reliable and just staying like that all year. All I need to do is clip off a few dead leaves in Spring. I thought it was supposed to flower but I’ve never seen one. Perhaps the birds peck them off!

  24. justjilluk July 23, 2015 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Just beautiful.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jill.

  25. Suffolk Pebbles July 23, 2015 at 10:36 am - Reply

    so pleased to see that the propogator is doing its job. I love the sorrel leaves (thought they were beetroot leaves at first glance which are also very attractive). I had been planning to pull up my Ajuga reptans as it seems to be taking over my small border, but I might leave it now as it looks so good in your image …

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      They do take over, and develop an unsightly hole in the middle as well. They need splitting and replanting every couple of years I’m finding.

  26. Amy at love made my home July 23, 2015 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    The supporting cast are all doing very well!! xx

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      That was the original title of the post. Then I decided to promote them a bit!

  27. Jennifer July 23, 2015 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Wow, wow, wow. I’m so impressed with your gardening know-how and expertise. I’m always interested in foliage, especially of the drought-tolerant variety, because it’s relatively hard to grow most flowers where I live. Your borders look beautiful.

    • Jessica July 23, 2015 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      It’s fascinating to see just how much you can grow Jennifer. It is raining here again tonight and yet again I’m about to go on a raid of my winter wardrobe for a fleece. July? Summer? Brrrrr.

  28. Chloris July 23, 2015 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Some lovey foliage and plant combinations. The Persicaria with the Astrantia is inspired. As we move into late Summer I appreciate grasses more and more. You’ ve had rain? We haven’ t had any for ages, all my foliage is looking stressed and hanging limply. Still I think it is going to rain tomorrow. I hope so.

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      I hope you got the rain. It’s flattened a few things here but the garden is certainly looking better for it overall. And it saves me a long watering job!

  29. Sue@GLAllotments July 23, 2015 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    We bought astrantia Ruby Wedding this year and am looking forward to some flowers maybe next year. I don’t suppose it will make it for our Riby Wedding which is at the beginning of August in a couple of weeks time.

    A garden does need a variety of foliage and youcvertainly have addressed this.

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      Many congratulations on your Ruby Wedding anniversary Sue. I hope you’ve got a good celebration lined up!

  30. Rick Nelson July 24, 2015 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Anemanthele lessoniana is one of my all time favourites although it seeds itself all over the place here. It looks best when planted in the right spot to catch the winter sun or in containers, I wouldn’t be without it even if I could 🙂

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      That is the trouble with a lot of grasses, they do seed themselves everywhere. But they are worth it. I hadn’t thought of putting anemanthele in containers, you’ve given me an idea!

  31. Annie Cholewa July 24, 2015 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    To as amateur and incompetent a gardener as I am it *all* looks marvellous.

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:15 pm - Reply

      Annie you have a discerning taste when it comes to blooms and can arrange them to perfection. That is the hard bit!

  32. bittster July 25, 2015 at 3:48 am - Reply

    Some beautiful combinations you’ve selected and the photography is fantastic! I wish I could use the excuse that your plants are not hardy here, but most are and I suspect it’s the gardener keeping them from their full potential! They seem to love your care though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else the propagator spits out!

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      Isn’t it odd that some plants grow well in one place but not in another, even across similar hardiness zones. I’d really love to grow your rudbeckias and echinaceas but none of them ever survive.

  33. Vera July 25, 2015 at 7:48 am - Reply

    Whenever I visit your blog I feel enthused to get my gardens sorted out…….in time……when we have got the house sorted out…..and the farm sorted out….. and I have had a wee rest (!!!)……meanwhile my gardens remain rampant, although not quite so rampant as in other years because of lack of rain!

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      The other 90% of ours is rampant too. Funnily enough the camera never reaches those parts.

  34. kate@barnhouse July 25, 2015 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Your mystery grass is, I agree, a carex – looks more olive-green/orange to me so perhaps it’s C.Solandri. The flowers being more bobbly than elongated look more like that one too. It often gets mistaken for young Anemanthele in my garden with its sImilar leaf colour.

    A great post, thanks. It’s full of so many unusual and inspiring combinations – I love the persicaria and astrantia combination and will look out for the libertia to use as an accent plant.

    I imagine anemanthele tumbling down steps would look breathtaking, especially when the panicles are yet to open fully … I also see them fully open lassoing passers by! Hakonechloa is beautiful used in this way too ….

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      There is definitely orange in the carex and it is very similar to Anemanthele in colour and form. On the subject of anemanthele, mine appears to be getting old in the tooth.. almost woody at the bottom. Would it benefit from being chopped down next spring or should I just have it out and replace it with one of its many progeny?

      • kate@barnhouse July 26, 2015 at 7:36 am - Reply

        Yes, after 5 or so years I also find this is a bit of an issue with otherwise beautiful anemanthele – I treat it as an semi evergreen (link below) and, like you, have seedlings waiting in the wings to replace tired plants. Luckily, there are always lots!

        • Jessica July 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm - Reply

          Thanks for the link Kate, that’s very useful. The shaving brush treatment it is! Will that mean it will grow a bit shorter next year too? It does need to really. Perhaps my best bet is just to replace them every few years, so I always have more compact and fresher looking plants.

          • kate@barnhouse July 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

            Cutting a mature anemanthele back by 2/3 won’t make it shorter, just much tidier. In the end a really happy one occupies a square metre …. you’re right after a few years of gorgeous flowers they get woody, the best bet then is to replace them with 2nd to 3rd year seedlings. Have fun!

          • Jessica July 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm

            Thanks Kate.

  35. Kris P July 25, 2015 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    You have a wonderful eye for inspired combinations, Jessica. I must try that variegated Ajuga with my Erigeron karvinskianus.

    • Jessica July 25, 2015 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      They do seem to work really well together. I’ve never been sure about the blue flowers on the Ajuga though. In this situation I might just chop them off and have it purely as a foliage plant. Thanks Kris.

  36. Julieanne July 26, 2015 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Red veined Sorrel really is quite lovely. Some lovely colour/planting combinations here Jessica. I particularly love the warm glow of the herbs with the Libertia.

    • Jessica July 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Julieanne. That area has turned out quite well. The chamomile gets pecked and trampled by the birds but seems to stand up to it well enough.

  37. snowbird July 27, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    It’s all looking beautiful! Glad to see the rhodos coming back, they sure are indestructable! Pheasants grass seeds all over my garden, I spend my life pulling it up. xxx

    • Jessica July 28, 2015 at 8:15 am - Reply

      They’re not my favourite plants I confess, but it is good to see the rhodos resprout. We’ll move them now and spread them out so they’ve got more room to grow.

  38. Peter/Outlaw July 28, 2015 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous foliage all! Thank you for sharing more of your stunning garden; I can never get enough!

    • Jessica July 29, 2015 at 7:38 pm - Reply

      You’re too kind Peter, thank you. I just see all the work there is that’s still to do!

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