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Proctor's Garden: Tips for selecting great foliage

Silver and blue-gray leaves add highlights to the garden, especially when they're contrasted by bronze or dark green leaves.

DENVER — Leaves take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, making them the most important things on the planet. We need to appreciate them more for both their usefulness and beauty. Start in your own garden. Great foliage adds so much to garden borders and patio containers, making them more dramatic and interesting.

When adding to your landscape or container plantings, consider the size, shape and color of the leaves.

Let's start with bronze and burgundy toned leaves. They add depth, shadow and drama. The two examples we've selected are Euphorbia cotinifolia and bronze oxalis. Both are good container plants. The oxalis is a good filler and spiller in container groupings. 

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Silver and blue-gray leaves add highlights to the garden, especially when they're contrasted by bronze or dark green leaves. The examples we've selected are blue oat grass--set against red barberry--and 'Moonshine' yarrow. Its silver foliage glows in the garden even before the yellow flowers open.

Golden and chartreuse leaves also stand out. 'Marguerite' sweet potato vine has become one of the most popular annuals because its bright chartreuse leaves look great with everything. They spill out of a pot so perfectly it makes you look like a design genius.

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Variegated leaves may be striped, edged or stippled with contrasting colors. These plants don't even need to bloom in order to be fascinating. Some examples include vinca vine, cordylines, and plectranthus.

Fancy-leaf geraniums display many forms of bold variegation. They were beloved by Victorians but nearly went extinct when they fell out of fashion. Some varieties survived and are highly decorative.

There are dozens and dozens of varieties of coleus. Their variegated patterns are always fascinating and unique. you can't go wrong. Adding them to your containers makes you, once again, look like design genius. 

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