CLOSE your eyes and think of a garden on a summer's day; what do you see?
Majestic spikes of delphiniums, perfectly formed rose blooms and deliciously scented sweet peas probably figure in your vision somewhere.
But don't forget the virtues of foliage and the essential role it plays in the summer tapestry.
Foliage provides an essential skeleton to the garden. Without it we would have nothing to complement all our wonderful blooms (can you image how busy and overpowering a garden with nothing but bloom would be?).
Yes, foliage can be just as dramatic as flowers, but without the more subtle hues our eyes would have no rest from the brighter colours and our garden would be far from a calm and serene haven that many of us seek.
Don't fall into the evergreen trap either. I have lost count of the number of customers I have assisted who will never look beyond buying a shrub that isn't evergreen.
Deciduous shrubs and herbaceous perennials can bring far more excitement, ensuring no single week in the garden is ever the same and exploring nature's constantly changing cycles.
Trees of course play a vital part in our landscape, and more than just a practical one too.
Take a look beyond the blossom of spring for which many of our garden trees are famed and tap into those with colourful foliage that can really bring a whole dimension to your display.
My favourite tree at this time of year is Robinia frisia with its lime green, almost golden foliage, which brings a real freshness to wherever they grace.
They are suitable for most but the smallest gardens and once established will cause little bother.
Take care though with such striking foliage as this, as it can provide a powerful effect, and if you want something really powerful combine it with dark purple foliage, such as Acer Crimson King.
If you prefer something more subtle blend it in with the tamer greens.
Variegated foliage can also provide some dramatic results, but the key is to use it sparingly and choose plants carefully to complement it rather than shriek in competition against it.
Acer Drummondii is such a tree that can really make a garden with its splashes of cream and gold, making a wonderful feature against a darker background.
Acer Flamingo is also something quite special in my book on account of its young foliage that takes on a subtle but striking pink tinge.
Nestling alongside blooms of a similar shade it will create something quite magical. Try for instance one of the old-fashioned Rugosa roses and you'll be hooked.
Regularly prune this fellow though to maintain a constant supply of new foliage.
Back on the deck we mustn't forget the hundreds of perennials that offer months of colour from their leaves alone.
Make way then for the Hostas, an expanding family with foliage colours ranging from deepest greens to steely blue, and not forgetting of course the many variegated forms.
They are fantastic for shade and make a great ground cover as long as you remember to keep the slugs at bay.
Finally, don't forget the fragrance of foliage too.
Fennel is not only a beautiful herb but I promise if you plant one alongside your path you will never walk past it without feeling the urge to reach out and enjoy some as you make your way about your business.