Alasdair Cameron's small garden with green foliage in London

Foliage plants: how to use green foliage plants in your garden

Designer Alasdair Cameron offers five tips on how to work with foliage and a green colour palette in the garden

Using foliage plants may seem easy, but there are lots of different shades, textures and proportions to contend with. Make sure you’re using the right foliage plants for your particular space with the help of Alasdair Cameron’s advice. And don’t miss our feature on the best plants for shade. 

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Thinking of foliage plants as just ‘green’ belies the many different shades there are to play with. For example, mind-your-own-business (Soleirolia soleirolii) is a bright, almost electric green; Stauntonia hexaphylla, a favourite climber of mine, is an appley green, while muehlenbeckia has a more brownish hue.
Alasdair Cameron's small garden with green foliage in London
Limestone steps softened by ribbons of Soleirolia soleirolii.
© Jason Ingram

When you’re using just one colour, foliage texture and proportion take on a far greater importance. I think spheres of Taxus baccata, Hebe rakaiensis and Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’ look great together – the leaf sizes are similar but they provide both different shades and textures.

Use evergreens for winter interest and structure, but make sure you have some summer flowers nearby. Evergreens can feel a bit dark in summer.

Ferns are great plants for a green garden and for foliage – they have so many different textures and shapes – and they are especially good when they unfurl. I love the glossy, crinkled leaves of the hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium and the shuttlecock clumps of the male fern Dryopteris filix-mas.

Alasdair Cameron's small garden with green foliage in London
Clay bricks laid in a herringbone pattern are fringed by fresh-green Dryopteris filix-mas.
© Jason Ingram
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Think about the different planes in your garden and how to dress them. I use Trachelospermum jasminoides like a curtain of foliage, and I love the way prostrate rosemary sprawls across the tops of walls or planters.