Many gardeners tend to view perennials almost exclusively in the context of their flowers. Often overlooked is the fact that even the best flowering plants only bloom for a short period of time each year. One way to compensate for the fleeting nature of the perennial flower is to look just as closely at foliage when planning a garden. Foliage enhances a garden by adding drama and interest via form, texture, movement and color. Most importantly, it provides consistency, carrying the garden along when little else is in bloom. Many of the plants offered here have been selected with the belief that an interesting garden is more than the sum of its blossoms.
ACANTHUS Bear’s Breeches - Sun to Part Shade - Zone 5
Acanthus spinosa Dramatic plant with glossy spiny, deeply cut foliage. Tall flower spikes in summer bear white blossoms beneath reddish-purple bracts. Clump-forming and distinctive.
Acanthus hungaricus Tall spikes of pinkish flowers with purple bracts over deeply cut, thistle-like leaves. Quite striking. Grows to 3’.
ACTAEA Bugbane - Sun to Part Shade - Evenly Moist - Zone 3
Actaea ‘Brunette’ Rich coppery-purple foliage on sturdy stems bear white bottlebrush flowers in September. Grows to 4’.
Actaea ‘Black Negligee’ Rich coppery-purple foliage on sturdy stems bear pinkish white bottlebrush flowers in September. Similar to 'Brunette' but more fragrant. Grows to 4’.
Actaea ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ Another in a series of unapologetically lovely and very rugged plants. Clump-forming, burgundy-black foliage all season long followed by spires of white flowers in late summer.
Actaea racemosa Good plant for creating a strong architectural presence. Slender, upright grower with dark green foliage. Bears spires of white flowers in late summer. Grows to 4’.
ACONITUM Monk's Hood - Part Shade - Zone 3
Aconitum carmichaelii Very handsome plant with heavy, dark green foliage and violet blue flowers in early fall. Grows to 3'. Best in part shade though it will take sun if the soil is rich enough.
AGASTACHE Anise Hyssop – Sun to Part Shade – Zone 5
Agastache ‘Bolero’ Drought tolerant and long-blooming plant bears spikes of rose-pink flowers from mid-summer to early fall. Grows to about 20”.
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ Beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds. Begins blooming in mid-summer and continues into fall. Drought tolerant once established. Grows to about 24”.
AJUGA Bugleweed - Part Shade - Zone 4
Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ This recently introduced ajuga has captivating burgundy-black foliage. Contrasts nicely with other foliage colors and textures. Spikes of deep blue flowers appear in spring. Will take sun or part shade.
Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’ Pretty ground cover with bronze colored club-like foliage. Makes a handsome little accent.
Ajuga reptans ‘Mini Crispa Red’ Really neat twist on an old standard. Plants form mats of crinkly purple-red foliage. Spreads a bit more slowly than most Ajugas. Very interesting texture.
ALCEA Hollyhock - Sun to Part Shade - Zone 4
Alcea ‘Queeny Purple’ Unique among Hollyhocks for its short stature. Royal purple double flowers are borne on stalks just 3' tall.
ALLIUM Ornamental chives - Sun - Zone 3
Allium christophii Ornamental chives. Enormous, finely textured globes appear in mid-summer. Short tongue-like basal leaves. Excellent for drying.
Allium ‘Globemaster’ Ornamental chives. Large spheres of lavender purple flowers over tongue-like basal foliage in mid-summer. Flowers and stalks are excellent for drying. Grows to 2'.
Allium senescens ‘Glaucum’ Ornamental chives. Interesting plant forms whorls of short, blue-green strap-like foliage. Lavender-pink globes appear in late summer. Good for edging or rockeries. Drought tolerant.
AMSONIA Blue Star Flower – Sun to Part Shade
Amsonia hubrichtii Excellent plant for textural interest. Native to the central U.S., the stems of this clump-forming perennial are clothed in slender needle-like leaves. Small star-like pale blue flowers appear in late spring. Fall color is a warm yellow.
ANGELICA Purple Parsnip – Sun to Part Shade – Zone 4
Angelica gigas Biennial herb with dramatic, finger-like serrated leaves. Two year old plants produce showy purple-red umbels on tall stems. Re-seeds.
ARISAEMA - Part Shade to Shade - Zone 5
Arisaema ‘Gaudy Jack’ Gaudy Jack Striking Japanese species of Jack-in-the Pulpit. Large green leaves mottled with white appear in spring followed by showy hooded flowers with dark purple stripes. Prefers an evenly moist, organically enriched soil. Grows to 18" tall.
ARUNCUS Goatsbeard - Part Shade - Zone 4
Aruncus aesthifolius Small astilbe-like plant with dense fernlike leaves. Plant bears spikes of white flowers in early summer. Nice for textural interest.
ASARUM Ginger - Part Shade to Shade
Asarum canadense Canadian Wild Ginger Lovely ground cover with shiny, deciduous, heart-shaped leaves. Prefers an organically enriched soil. Hardy to zone 2.
Asarum europeaum European Ginger. Slow growing ground cover with thick, glossy, heart-shaped leaves. Adorable, but takes some time to fill in. Zone 5.
ASTILBOIDES - Part Shade - Evenly Moist - Zone 4
Astilboides tabularis Large dark green leaves with heavy white flower spikes in early summer. Dramatic. Grows to 3 1/2’.
ASTILBE - Part Shade - Zone 4
Astilbe ‘Sprite’ Small plant with deeply cut, feathery leaves and small pink flower spikes in summer. Grows to just 8" tall.
ASTRANTIA Masterwort - Sun to Shade - Zone 4
Astrantia major ‘Hadspen Blood’ Tidy, mound-forming plant with deeply cut foliage bears deep red flowers. Long blooming. Needs moisture. Flower stems grow to 24”. Excellent for cutting and drying.
Astrantia ‘Moulin Rouge’ Clump-forming perennial bears long lasting flowers with short, stiff reddish-pink petals. Makes a good dried flower. Likes an organically enriched soil.
BAPTISIA False Indigo - Sun - Zone 4
Bergenia ‘Twilight Prairieblues’ Recent introduction. Vigorous plant produces wonderful violet-purple flowers above green pea-like foliage. Blooms late spring/early summer. Grows to about 34".
BERGENIA Saxifrage – Evenly Moist - Sun to Shade - Zone 5
Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ Big glossy evergreen foliage with spikes of salmon-pink flowers in spring. Good for partial shade, but will take full sun in good soil. Foliage turns reddish-purple in the fall.
BRUNNERA - Part Shade - Zone 3
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ Large silver leaves overlaid with handsome green veining. Blue flowers in spring. Exceptional.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘King’s Ransom’ Large heart-shaped silvery-green leaves edged in gold. Sprays of pale blue flowers in early spring. Clump-forming and deer resistant. Very hardy.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’ Handsome silver hear-shaped leaves with fine green veining. Sprays of small blue flowers appear in early spring. Hardy and deer resistant.
CENTRANTHUS Red Valerian – Sun to Part Shade – Zone 4
Centranthus ruber ‘Coccineus’ Good plant for cottage gardens and informal borders. Blue-green foliage and fragrant pink flowers in early summer. Attracts butterflies. Self seeds.
CLEMATIS - Sun - Cool Roots - Zone 3
Clematis ‘Bourbon’ Small in stature, growing just 6’ or so, this plant bears velvety-red flowers with contrasting slightly pink center stripes in mid-summer. Good for a small trellis or growing through other plants. Prune lightly in spring.
Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ Stunning plant with large, semi-double lavender-blue flowers. Heavy, dependable bloomer. Blooms in late spring and again in late summer.
Clematis ‘Jackmanii Superba’ Improved cultivar of the popular ‘Jackmanii’ has larger blossoms and the same prolific habit of bloom. Velvety purple blossoms. Cut back severely each spring.
Clematis ‘Josephine’ Three tiered, rose-pink flowers appear in mid-summer on 8’ stems. Good for training over structures or winding through other plants. Cut back to 1’ in spring.
COREOPSIS Tickseed – Sun to Part Shade – Zone 5
Coreopsis ‘Mercury Rising’ This recent introduction yields reliable hardiness and long bloom time. Burgundy-red flowers with yellow centers appear in summer atop compact plants with fresh green needle-like foliage.
CORYDALIS - Part Shade - Zone 5
Corydalis ‘Lutea’ Lovely long blooming perennial with mounds of lacy blue-green foliage topped with bright yellow flowers. Plants form a delicate mound about 16" tall. Flowers begin in late spring. Needs a well drained soil.
DIGITALIS - Sun to Part Shade - Zone 5
Digitalis ‘Spice Island’ Tall spires of handsome apricot-yellow flowers in summer. Grows 2-3’. Long blooming. Cut back for repeat blooms.
ECHINACEA Coneflower - Sun - Zone 3
Echinacea ‘Double Scoop Orangeberry’ Unique plant features globose blossoms of rosy-orange over a tier of apricot colored petals. Long blooming. Grows to 24”.
Echinacea ‘Double Scoop Raspberry’ New introduction bears frilly raspberry-pink flowers starting in mid-summer. Long blooming. Grows to about 24”.
Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ Recent introduction with strong upright habit and striking greenish flower bracts. Unique among other very recent and very bright Echinacea introductions. Grows to about 24".
Echinacea ‘Pink Double Delight’ Pillowy soft-pink flowers on compact plants. Blooms begin in mid-summer and last for several weeks. Grows to about 18”.
Echinacea ‘Pow Wow Wildberry’ Compact plant bears abundant rose-pink blossoms for several weeks beginning in mid-summer. Grows to about 20”.
Epimedium Barrenwort - Part Shade to Shade - Zone 5
Epimedium sulphureum Excellent plant for growing in dry shade. Heart shaped foliage followed by light yellow flowers in late spring. Plants spread with time to form a ground cover. Semi-evergreen.
Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lillafee’ Clump-forming plant bears delicate looking lavender flowers in the spring. Foliage emerges bronze-green, becoming all green as the season progresses.
Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Rose Queen’ Excellent plant for growing in dry shade. Vigorous mounded plant with dark pink flowers in late spring. Grows to 12".
Epimedium ‘Enchantress’ Excellent plant for growing in dry shade. Pointy heart shaped foliage with light pink flowers in late spring. Grows to about 8".
ERYNGIUM Sea Holly Sun – Zone 5
Eryngium variifolium Clump-forming plant has thick dark green leaves with striking pale veins. Electric blue cone-like flowers with narrow silvery bracts appear in summer. Compact in habit. Grows just 16” tall.
EUPATORIUM - Sun to Part Shade - Zone 3
Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’ Compact version of our native Eupatorium that grows to just 2'. Rosy pink flowers appear on the plant in late summer, luring butterflies to the garden.
Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’ Cultivar of our native Joe Pye Weed. This plant forms a clump of strong purplish stems with dark green leaves. broad pink flower heads appear in late summer attracting butterflies. Grows to 4'.
Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ Good contrast plant for the mixed border. Clump-forming with bronze-green foliage all season long. Sprays of white flowers appear in late summer. Grows to 30”.
EUPHORBIA Spurge - Sun - Zone 5
Euphorbia ‘Bonfire’ An improvement over older bronze-leaved Euphorbias. Clump-forming perennial with rounded brown-red foliage all season long. Yellow flower bracts in early spring. Grows to about 16”.
Euphorbia robbiae Spreading evergreen Euphorbia with whorls of lance-like green leaves. Lime-green flower bracts in spring.