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Fabulous Foliage & Flower Power

How to punch up your Cape Cod garden with color this summer.

How to punch up your Cape Cod garden with color this summer

Photo by C.L. Fornari

When Cape Cod residents first plant their landscapes, many choose evergreen trees and shrubs believing that having foliage all year round is of prime importance. At some point, however, the realization sets in that their yard is a sea of green. Evergreens may have beautiful all-seasons foliage, but these monochromatic trees and shrubs don’t satisfy most humans’ innate desire for color.

Imagine a tapestry of bright, diverse foliage and a continual display of flowers throughout the growing season from March through December. Fortunately, there are many plants that can be mixed in with existing evergreens that provide an eye-catching range of hues and textures. New varieties of plants with colorful leaves and long periods of bloom are being introduced by growers and nurseries yearly, giving homeowners more reliable, interesting choices than ever before.

When planting for color, always consider foliage first. Plants that have purple, yellow, or variegated leaves are vibrant in the landscape before and after blooming. By combining a range of foliage colors and texture, you create a landscape that is exciting even without flowers.

Plants with colorful leaves are crucial for a beautiful, all-seasons landscape. Additionally, foliage color often evolves over the seasons so that garden compositions can change from spring to fall. “Magic Carpet” Spirea, for example, is a low to the ground, easy-maintenance, sun-loving shrub that changes leaf color from April through October.

In the spring, “Magic Carpet’s” new growth is coral and gold, but the leaves turn lime-yellow in the summer and golden peach in the fall. All of this color comes from the foliage, so it’s an added bonus that this shrub is also covered with pretty pink flowers in June.

There are several new selections of the native ninebark (Physocarpus) that have beautiful, colorful leaves. “Summer Wine” is covered with dark, purple foliage that provides the perfect background to pinkish-white flowers in June. “Dart’s Gold” is a brilliant yellow in spring, flowers white in June, and has lime-colored foliage the rest of the season. Another variety called “Coppertina” is rusty red as its name suggests. These three ninebarks grow to about five feet tall and wide, while other varieties such as “Diablo” and “Center Glow” mature even taller and wider.

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