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Sculptural Plants – How shape and texture add a spectacular new dimension to the garden
The sculptural plants recommended in this article have mostly been chosen for the beauty of their flowers, foliage, fruit, or bark. But some plants have another valuable attribute: a Sculptural Plant’s quality — that is, a dramatic, graceful, or otherwise interesting shape, or perhaps texture.
Sculptural Plants have several functions. It may be needed in the center of a formless planting of somewhat retiring plants to give it a strong focal point. It may, by its crisp, firm shape, be used to accentuate the soft flounces of its neighbors.
The beauty of calathea plant is known for its beautiful, lacy leaves. The leaves are dark green and have a delicate pattern on them that makes them stand out from other plants. The plant is a tropical one, so it needs warm temperatures and high humidity to thrive. It’s also a low-maintenance plant, so it’s perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time to care for their plants. The calathea plant is a great addition to any home.
It may have large, bold leaves which, especially in silhouette, can give a solid framework to a planting. Or it may simply be grown for its own sake, for its singular beauty. In a warm, dry garden the softly rounded shapes of such sun-loving plants as lavender, santolina, and helianthemum would benefit from contrast with a group of the evergreen sub-shrub Euphorbia wulfenti.
This will provide an impressively dense, handsome mass with whorls of grey-green leaves building up to 4 ft high and across and lit from February to June with giant candles of almost luminous lime-yellow bloom.
In a sunny area of the rock garden or stone sink that is devoted to small houseleeks (Sempervivum), a few S. tectorum, with their fuller leaf rosettes and taller, thicker flower stems, will effectively break up the low, spreading clumps around them. Bold leaves for shady spots Many fine foliage plants thrive in shade, among them such charming ground-cover specimens as foamflower (Trarella cordifolia) and crane’s-bill (Geranium endressit).
But such large expanses of small, uniformly sized leaves can look tedious without the intervention of some bold, large-leaved sculptural plants. One of the best of these in shade is the 2 ft. tall plantain lily Hosta sieboldiana, whose broad, blue-green leaves are so deeply veined as to appear quilted. This texture is as striking as the sheer leaf size. In small, shaded gardens, several dominant SS of evergreen foliage plants should be grown to break up the straight lines of borders and paving when another greenery has died down.
Excellent for this purpose is the stinking iris, Iris foetidissima ‘Citrina’, whose sizeable clumps of dark leaves rise like massed broadswords. Contrasting inhabit, and ideal as a complement to the iris, are bergenias, whose large, oval, leathery leaves curve away from the plant in a delightfully lazy fashion. For semi-shade, the most impressive sculptural plants are ornamental rhubarbs. The form R. palmatum ‘Atrosanguineum’ needs plenty of space: it’s huge, deeply cut leaves sprawl for several feet around. Purplish-red and crumpled when they unfold in March, they become smooth and green as they mature, showing only traces of red on their undersurfaces as a breeze ruffles them.
Rising man- high from their center, the stout red flower stems put out large clusters of raspberry-pink blooms in June. After the plant has flowered, its great leaves disintegrate untidily, but no matter — by then the space they have filled so impressively is being taken up by the foliage and flowers of summer plants. Large fountain-like grasses also have panache, especially when seen rising above a group of heavy foliage plants.
One of the best for a dry sunny garden is the feather grass Stipa gigantea. From its dense tussocks of narrow, arching leaves slender stems rise to 4 ft, each carrying a large, open plume of golden bronze, oat-like flowers throughout the summer. As these catch the sun they plow magnificently, particularly when set against a dark background.
Molinia coerulea variegata is grass for damper soil, on the edge of a border. It has dense tufts of arching green leaves, conspicuously striped with cream, from which there emerges in late summer a spray of small green and buff flowers. Finally, the whole plant fades to the color of parchment and remains, a pale beauty, throughout winter.
Plants to enhance water
There are many fine waterside plants suitable for framing a pool or pond. Gunnera manicata is positively majestic, sometimes towering as high as 10 ft, its thickset prickly stems holding aloft, like huge upturned umbrellas, dark green lobed leaves that may be as wide as the plant is tall. Almost as dramatically high are the great evergreen, sword-like leaves that the New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) sends up against the sky. The leathery leaves are deep green in the species, suffused with bronze-purple in the form ‘Purpureum’ and striped yellow in ‘Variegatum’.
The forms are usually no more than 4 ft. tall, just the right size for a small pool. A truly theatrical as well as sculptural waterside plant is the wand flower, or angel’s fishing rod (Dierama pulcherrimum). From its bulbous rootstock appear tall clumps of tough, grass-like leaves; from the midst of this foliage elegant wiry flower stems rise to a height of 6 ft before arching over like the top of a fountain.
From their tips in late summer cascade slender red trumpet flowers, to be followed by strings of silvery bead-like seed cases, Grown on the margin of a pool, the marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) will unite bank and pool by colonizing a wide area of mud and water with its welter of deep green foliage, lit up in spring with large yellow saucer-like flowers. On large ponds, water lilies (Nymphaea) provide interest not only with their lovely summer blooms but at all times with their large, leathery leaves, or pads heart-shaped rafts that jostle one another and break up the sky-reflecting surface of the water with intriguing patterns.
The huge, lime-yellow blooms of Euphorbia wulfenii rise majestically above the plant’s spiky, grey-green, and the bold form of the euphorbia provides a strong contrast with the soft feathery foliage of the prostrate juniper growing below it. The cup-shaped yellow-green flowers between the two are Helleborus argutifolius.