There’s nothing worse than going off on vacation and coming home to a garden full of wilting plants. That’s exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago. The irrigation system at the OPC Stone House Garden in Rochester was shut off during repair work and not turned back on.

The established plants in the garden did fine, but the day before I got out of Dodge, I planted a bunch of replacements for the flowering annuals that had failed the test of time this summer.  These newly installed residents needed daily watering in the hot dry weather and they didn’t get it.

The good news was most of the replacements are foliage plants, grown for their colorful leaves and thankfully after a good soaking, they revived and were none the worse for wear.  

Most folks think of foliage plants, such as coleus, as colorful additions to containers and they truly are. But we don’t “do” containers in the Stone House Garden because they require daily watering in the “dog days of summer”, which began in June this year and have continued on. Because I do the hand watering in the garden I choose not to put that kind of burden on myself.  

When we developed a hole in the orange/yellow garden due to the removal of an attractive foliage plant that turned out to be a self-seeded willow, I replaced it with a Copperleaf Acalypha, also called Acalypha ‘Tricolor’. It’s actually a tropical evergreen shrub sporting stunning orange-hued leaves.

Today coleus comes in a variety of vibrant colors that can rival the show of color of almost any annual flowering display with much less work.   

Looking for bright red, Iresine ‘Brilliantissima’ is a perfect choice.  The leaf structure may not appeal at first, but from a few feet away, it becomes a stunner.

Alternantheras come with a variety of colorful leaves and A. ‘Party Time’ with its bright pink and green foliage was the perfect choice to fill blanks in the pink garden.

We choose an elegant purple leafed variety for use in the fabulous new entrance garden designed and installed by Mike Lawless.

Most of these plants are propagated rather easily from cuttings started in water; so if your friends are growing them, ask for a few cuttings. A little pruning at this time of year keeps the plants full and bushy.

To learn how to propagate plants from cuttings Google “starting plants from cuttings in water.”   

 Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at


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