Beauty Doesn’t Need to Shout

There was a time when a garden consisting solely of foliage plants would have bored me to tears. I’d have enjoyed it in someone else’s yard, but never consider such a colorless option for my own. I sought out a riot of color, a panoply of spectacular hues – something that would be seen from across the street, something that drew the eye and stunned the senses into submission. As I’ve grown up, however, I’ve come to appreciate a quieter beauty, and I see how something more subtle can be just as stunning.

This was the case as I walked by the featured garden in Boston last week. Based on a planting of colorful coleus, it is living proof that flowers aren’t a requirement for a striking display. Signifier of summer (they are tender annuals) coleus have always been a happy trigger of that sweet season. They transport me instantly back to our side porch, an out-of-the-way spot that captured the afternoon sunlight, and only saw the mid-day appearance of the mailman to interrupt its quiet.

One trick to keeping the coleus bushy and full, as well as extend its season, is to nip out its flower buds as soon as they appear. While a pretty violet in color (similar to salvia in form) they are insignificant, and zap the energy that the plant would otherwise put into its striking foliage. Closer to the end of the season – September maybe – I’d let them flower. (It seems almost cruel to let their one goal before the snow evaporate. Everything deserves to live out its purpose in life.) For now, though, the summer show is all in the leaves.

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