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Unusual leaves add interest to the garden

Kaffir limes and gloriosa lilies have unusual leaves that fascinate a gardener and add interest to the garden.

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Gloriosa lilies have beautiful flowers, but one of their unusual traits is their interesting leaves.

Courtesy of Donna Williamson

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Even though I have been gardening for a very long time, I can find new things that interest and amaze me.

Vines are important in garden design. They can soften harsh corners or angles. They can flower at an unexpected time or flame with fall color. They can screen an unwanted view or bathe a patio with color and fragrance.

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Their flowers can remind us of another time. Think of the first time you saw and smelled wisteria. Think of your first clematis, lush and romantic, or your first startlingly blue morning glory. I remember the first time I saw a passion flower and couldn’t believe it’s jewellike complexity.

Last year I grew a gloriosa lily. This plant is old news to many gardeners, but I was intrigued with the climbing leaves. Not tendrils, not twining leaves, no Virginia creeperlike sucker feet. Climbing leaves that hold on. [Click at the base of the first photo at left to see a closeup of gloriosa lily leaves.]

Although it's not perennial, gloriosa lily is a beautiful grower and could be layered onto a vine that's just green in the summer to add seasonal color.

To extend the conversation about strange leaves, recently I bought a Kaffir lime – loved the flavor in Thai cooking and thought it would be fun to have a companion for my Meyer lemon.

And there were these weird double leaves. Fascinating. They are leathery as you might expect from citrus leaves and so full of flavor. And strangely doubled.

There is a whole world of fascinating leaves out there. I think I am only on the starting edge of discovery.


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Donna Williamson blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. To read more by Donna, click here.