Gardening Blog

6 Fabulous Ideas for Your Foliage Garden

Do you want an amazing garden, but aren’t the type of gardener who is obsessed with flowers? A foliage garden may be just for you. Unlike other gardens, foliage gardens seek to emphasize the beauty, shapes and colors of foliage we often overlook. Read on to enjoy some inspiring examples of foliage gardens and pick up some tips for incorporating these fabulous plants into your own space. 

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden by Edwin Van Buuringen via CC BY 2.0

1. Dabble in Japanese garden design

When you’re looking for foliage garden ideas, there is no better example to turn to than the traditional Japanese garden. As the photo above illustrates, simplicity goes a long way in creating a stunning garden without the clutter and flowers of other garden styles. Stones, moss, small ferns, a stone lantern, water lilies, Japanese maples and a structure in the background work together to tell a story. 

Berkeley Garden

Berkeley Garden by Sean A. O’Hara via CC BY 2.0

2. Play with texture and shape

If Japanese garden style is not right for you, or if you are worried about conserving water, there are still plenty of options for your foliage garden. Take this garden in Berkeley, CA, for example. Silvers, blues, greens of various shades and warm colors like pinks and reds give the garden a different feel than the Japanese garden above. Also, note how the different textures and shapes are mixed together. From the spiky plants in the background to the softer mounding plants in the foreground, don’t be afraid to play with textures and shapes.

Prickly Pear Cactus by Dallas  Krentzel

Prickly Pear Cactus by Dallas Krentzel via CC BY 2.0 

3. Incorporate cacti

Here is another good example of a pairing of shapes and textures that is really appealing. Even though these two plants are close enough in color that they may cancel each other out, the round prickly pear cactus in the foreground really compliments the longer, spiky agave in the background. 

Echeveria

Echeveria by Sean A. O’Hara via CC BY 2.0 

4. Mix in greens like succulents and herbs

Here is another example of colors and textures being employed in a really masterful way in a foliage garden. Those of us in climates that can’t grow a garden like the Berkeley garden above can still employ succulent plants like echeveria and hens ‘n’ chicks as low ground covers. Herbs like sage and lavender in pots, mints and ground covers in various colors can be used in combinations to create foliage gardens. 

Patio Garden

Patio Garden by Bowdenartist via CC BY 2.0

5. Think small

Foliage gardens can also be created on smaller scales and with plants you already have. This patio garden could serve as inspiration for small-space gardeners and those who only grow houseplants because they don’t have a yard. It’s just a collection of some popular houseplants like ferns, bromeliads, pothos, a kentia palm, and some flowering annuals put outside to enjoy the nice weather. Think about how you can incorporate what you already grow in a foliage garden.

 Shade Border by Peganum

Shade Border by Peganum via CC BY-SA 2.0

6. Got shade?

We can’t talk about foliage gardens without mentioning shade gardens. Shady gardeners need to overcome the lack of light by adding plants that will do well in the shade, and provide interest. While most shade plants don’t flower, you will find a few that will. And there are varying levels of “shade” from partial to full-shade. But you still have the option to play with different textures and hues in a shady garden like in the examples above. 

Foliage gardens can be as exciting and interesting as any other garden. Sometimes ornamental gardens put too much emphasis on flowers and blooms that may only last a few week a year, but foliage can last much longer and provide just as much interest. Take some inspiration from some of these foliage examples to grow a garden that suits your style. Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors, various shades of the same hues, and textures.

You might also enjoy a look at some of our favorite foliage plants.

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