A green space for urban gardeners

Coleus: It’s not fall, but these leaves are showing their colors

DSC00277DSC00278DSC00292Nothing turns my head faster than a pretty flower. But, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about leaves.

I’ve seen photos online of leaves with so much pattern and texture that I forgot to look for what blossomed among them. Actually, I  think a leaf appreciation has been playing at the back of my mind for a while now…

A few years ago Chicago held a show downtown in Grant Park called “Garden in a City,” which featured displays of various urban garden possibilities: small yards, roofs, balconies. (Chicago is a big proponent of green roofs, so the show also provided information along these lines.)

A cohort and I were especially impressed by one exhibit that was a grand mix of different varieties of the ornamental plant coleus. There were leaves with a multitude of markings and edges — and in a multitude of sizes and colors. (A little study revealed that the names of coleus plants can be equally colorful and descriptive: fingerpainting, fishet stocking, blusher, ducksfeet.)

This year I thought I’d put together a container that was sans flowers, using coleus. I purchased seeds for coleus chocolate mint, with a plan to look for a couple of other varieties to be potted with it for an arrangement to sit atop the little blue sidetable on my balcony.

I made my yearly pilgrimage to Gethsemane — an area nursery — yesterday and picked up the two plants shown above. They have greenish gold tones, while one also has splashes of the brownish color that will fill the center of the larger leafed chocolate mint when it matures. (On the sprouts shown here, you can just see a dot of brown appearing in the leaf.)

I think the three will make a striking combination.

[Have you experimented with coleus? What varieties have you combined in your beds or planters? What other plants make good companions to your coleus? I wanna know, so please leave a comment.]


  Helen at Toronto Gardens wrote @

Hi, CityDiggity, Love coleus and always have some in my containers. There are so many wonderful varieties. Recently, a visitor to my blog put me onto — wonderful site for identifying coleus. Here’s the link:

  Avis Weathersbee wrote @

Thanks for the link!

  Stephanie wrote @

It is great to see these beautiful leaves (coleus) in your blog 🙂 As you know, I tried planting it together with dollarweed but it didn’t work out that well. The weather was so hot recently that even a few leaves of my coleus got burnt 😦 Now, I am thinking of changing the plants inside that container. Btw, the link given by Helen is amazing! Before, I didn’t know that there are so many varieties.

  Christine wrote @

I haven’t grown coleus for years but may give it a try again. I do remember how beautiful the leaves were. Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for the reminder 🙂

  Lynne wrote @

I LOVE coleus! I planted the white/green combo one year and man was it dramatic. I remember you talking about the garden show and the coleus containers. I pictured it right away. Great stuff.

  Megan wrote @

I remember seeing a sea of golden leafed coleus planted below a birdbath in an old garden book, can’t remember which one, but the image has stuck with me. I could see colocasia rising from a sea of coleus in a pot, since it’s tall and has a small footprint. Of course I’ve never met a leaf I didn’t like 🙂

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