When someone says “leaf” we usually think green. But any of the other colors can be found in a leaf. This is one of the things that makes planting fun.  Chlorophyll is the pigment we see as green.  It is also the “workhorse” of the plant. It absorbs s energy from sunlight to manufacture carbohydrate.

          The contrast of the other colors in our leaves makes the garden a rainbow. Flowers do not last very long but those colored leaves work all summer long. Some of my favorites are the purple and reds, a few so dark they are about black. The easiest one for Lincoln is probably the PERILLA. I love its dark purple, red, black clumps mixed in with the light green leaves. But it is listed as a “thug” in some of my books as it will seed by the thousands, grow in shade or sun, dry or wet areas. I like clumps of about 5 plants and then watch in the fall for when the seeds are ripe. It does pull very easily so I let it be about 2.5 feet tall with its handsome leaves. The blooms are small and hardly noticeable but the sharply cut edges of the leaves are gorgeous. I like a pink flower in my bouquets, using their leaves as a background.

          A tall grass I like as a background in my pots is “PURPLE MAJESTY” MILLET with dark spikes usually taller than any other potted plant as well dark leaves. It is easy to start from seed and needs its share of a big pot. Pale blue flowers next to that intense purple really looks nice.  Or in October when it is getting cool, a big fat DAHLIA in a pale color with the tall spike above, fills a vase nicely.

          CANNAS are good for foliage color. Last year I had a CANNA  “PRETORIA” in a pot out front. It was 5-6 feet tall and with its big 24 inch long yellow and green stripe leaves, it could not be missed. Then a bright orange bloom three inches across, appeared and lasted for several weeks. A little HUMMINGBIRD found them and almost disappeared diving down into the bell shaped blossoms for nectar. He tried all of the bell shaped flowers in the front yard. BJ found a red leaved CANNA with its bright red blooms he dove into. The “PRETORIA” spent last winter in the garage where the red leaved one will join it. There is a TROPICANA that has red stripes in its leaves I am hoping to find next spring. They will need room. They also like water to support that huge 6 to 7 foot plant. Luckily I have 2 lots to play in for them to grow.

          If you like yellow in your leaves there is WEIGELIA. The plant I want to find is the AMSOMIA with bright yellow foliage in the fall. The one I have stays green. For a short bright yellow there is TALINSUS, called “FLAME YELLOW” or “JEWEL OF OPUS”. It is 12-18 inches tall, spreads seeds around quite generorously. I like it next to my path with its tiny clusters of reddish pink flowers. You will have lots of little ones next year to add color to your pots.

          A plant that must have every color in its leaves is the COLEUS so you can add yellow to your color scheme. Usually 1-3 feet tall and wide. If you would rather have orange, “SEDONA” is my is my favorite. We used to think of COLEUS as a shade plant but lately there have been sun lovers at the garden centers. I cut the blooms off as soon as they appear so that the plants will use their energy in leaves. For the herb lovers there is a yellow OREGANO leaf. FEVERFEW also has a golden variety if you can find it.

          How about some black leaves for color overhead all season. “DIABLO” NINEBARK, a shrub with dark leaves and white blooms makes  quite a show.  Even one of the big DAHLIAS “BISHOP OF LANDSDORF” has dark red blooms and dark red foliage. A little bulb, an OXALIS, puts out a dark red leaf, likes a shady spot, not hardy but blooms year around in a pot inside. They are sometimes called SHAMROCKS, or SORREL.

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