Big Foot

Rodgersia in the perennial border in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Rodgersia adds drama to the perennial border (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Imagine Sasquatch thundering across your yard and feeling the earth move beneath you as he (she?) stomps off into the distance. That’s a close comparison to the thrill of having gargantuan feet in your landscape. In sun or shade, nothing makes more of an impact in the border than bold foliage. Just as the gigantic Godzilla made his unforgettable mark on the movie screen, big leaves will make an indelible foot print in your garden setting. And that’s an encounter worth considering.

Petasites japonicus makes a bold edger in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Petasites japonicus makes a bold statement (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

My first collision with the big guys was during a visit to Hume’s Japanese Stroll Garden in Long Island, where paths of gravel and stepping stones wind through a tranquil 4 acre landscape, past water features, moss covered rocks and a variety of Asian plants. Among those plants stood the Giant Japanese Butterbur, Petasites japonicus var. giganteus, a colossal figure bearing deep green leaves (2 feet across) somewhat similar to rhubarb. Like any wayfarer, this plant should be placed with caution, as it multiplies rapidly and can become hard to manage. Mine are planted along a sunny bank (where mowing and weed whacking easily keep the traveling rhizomes in bounds), but it thrives equally well in a shady setting. In zones 4-9, with some protection from late day sun, Japanese Butterbur will become one of your favorite gentle giants.

Native Darmera peltata in a friend's garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Native Darmera peltata in a friend’s garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I can’t grow this in my sun drenched yard (I have tried!), but if you have a shady spot (in zones 5-7) that is calling for a herculean personality, Indian Rhubarb, Darmera peltata, may just be the ticket. Native to the woodlands of Northern California and Southern Oregon, Indian rhubarb can grow to 5 feet tall and wide, with glossy, moss green leaves about 20 inches across. When completely cozy, it does produce white or pale pink flower clusters in spring, before the foliage unfurls. Indian rhubarb requires moist soil conditions-but tolerates wet, making it a wonderful waterside option.

Want bold foliage with a dazzling gold flower: LEOPARD PLANT is the ticket!

The roughly textured foliage of Rodgersia aesculifolia in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The roughly textured foliage of Rodgersia aesculifolia (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Although not quite as bulky as the aforementioned hulks, Fingerleaf Rodgersia, Rodgersia aesculifolia, can hold its own in any garden crowd. Instead of a solid leaf, rodgersia displays unique, fanned out serrated edged blades of heavily textured foliage. The sturdy leaves range in color from a kelly green to a warm bronze, and lay horizontally upon erect stems up to 5 feet high. Upright, astilbe-like flowers are produced in masses each spring, adding another dramatic aspect that lasts well into the summer. From zones 5-7, in part shade and moist soil, fingerleaf rodgersia will make an attractive partner to many taller woodland plantings.

Shredded Umbrella plant in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The grand foliage of Shredded Umbrella plant (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I was star struck the moment I saw Shredded Umbrella Plant, Syneilesis aconitifolia, in a container all by itself at a fundraising plant sale. A relative of the ligularia family, of which I have had great success even with all my sun, I decided giving this shade lover a spot in my garden was worth a shot. And guess what, two years later it is still hanging in there! Some on-line information states a white flower, but mine produces a canary yellow bloom on a tall stem in early summer (maybe mine is a different cultivar not specified on the tag?). In any case, the flower is inconsequential since this plant is all about the foliage. Emerald green leaves (about 18 inches across) that are slightly weepy and trimmed with random jagged edges are set on 2 foot stems, making this a welcome companion at the front of a part shade border in zones 5-8.

Fee Fi Fo Fum, there’s lots of giant leaves out there, so go get yourself some~

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A Garden for All