I always thought of myself as a “big picture” kind of gal.  Before I can truly understand or appreciate something, it’s very important that I am able to visualize and conceptualize the whole.  Well, I thought wrong.  Sort of.  When it comes to landscapes, I was kind of missing the boat.  I had to retrain my brain with the assistance of my eyes, nose and sense of touch.

In the past, when I’d walk through a garden, or hike down a trail, my eyes would focus solely on flowers.  Of course, flowers have that kind of power and were meant to be focal points, but I was missing so much.  When there aren’t any flowers blooming, I saw very simply and sophomorically a sea of green.  In my mind, I was writing the landscape off.  I was incorrectly underwhelmed.  The point being, there is so much more to landscapes and gardens than just flowers.


Foliage, for example, can be as interesting and unique as any flower, but you have to really see it.  Sure, there’s lots of green out there, but there are also plants that bear silvery, chartreuse, maroon and even apricot leaves or have a powdery, white overlay.  Let’s not forget about our variegated friends that offer multiple colors.   It doesn’t stop there.  Sometimes the undersides of leaves can be completely different.  When a gentle breeze or hardy wind sweeps through the landscape, an entirely unique color and feature is exposed.


Color, however, isn’t all that foliage has to offer.  Ever felt the fuzzy, softness of Lamb’s Ear or the smooth, leathery leaf of a Ligularia?  Texture.  It too can add to a plant’s overall character and pique your interest and imagination.

Flowers certainly have fragrance but foliage does too.  Ever walk past a hedge of Privet and wonder what that intoxicating perfume is or the distinct, aroma of Creeping Thyme? 


As with color, smell and texture, shape and size are yet other defining factors.  Plants bear all different sorts of leaves, from small heart-shaped to large ovals and everything in between.  Foliage should always be a factor when choosing plants.  Don’t simply write them off as second string players.  After all, flowers only last so long, and we look to foliage to add life and interest to our landscapes.


As I have come to learn, it’s important to see the plant’s individual characteristics, appreciate their nuances and how their details add to the overall landscape.  Now, when I stroll through a garden or hike down a path, I am paying specific attention to the plant as a whole and no longer see only the flowers.  It’s amazing how, through a simple shift in thinking, the landscape becomes a more diverse and beautiful place.

“Whatever is in any way beautiful has its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney