It's May 2007 as I write, and the garden is full of the new leaves of spring. There are some plants with particularly outstanding foliage, because of the shape, or size, or colour or texture. At this time of year they are at their best, so it seems a good time to highlight some favourite foliage plants. (Some of these plants are included already in the photos section - links are included below.)

Matteuccia sruthiopteris (Shuttlecock fern) Zantedeschia aethopica 'Crowborough' (Arum lily)

Left: Matteuccia sruthiopteris (Shuttlecock fern). Right: Zantedeschia aethopica 'Crowborough' (Arum lily)

Both seem to flourish in damp shaded conditions.

Fatsia japonica Polystichum polyblepharum (Japanese tassle fern)

Left: Fatsia japonica. Right: Polystichum polyblepharum (Japanese tassle fern)

The Fatsia is of course often sold as a houseplant, but is fine outside, and looks good in town gardens. Both good for shade.

Helleborus orientalis Euphorbia cornigera

Left: Helleborus orientalis. Right: Euphorbia cornigera

The hellebore makes mounds of attractive spring leaves. The taller euphorbia has striking white veins to the leaf. (Similar is Euphorbia mellifera.)

Arum italicum 'Pictum' Epimedium

Left: Arum italicum 'Pictum'. Right: Epimedium

The arum has glossy leaves prominently veined, through the winter. The epimedium looks best in a massed effect, with its small but beautifully shaped leaves.

Saxifraga fortunei 'Wada's Form'Hosta 'Big Daddy'

Left: Saxifraga fortunei 'Wada's Form'. Right: Hosta 'Big Daddy'

Foliage does of course come in other colours. Here the shiny many-hued leaves of the saxifraga, and a blue-leaved hosta.

Cyrtomium fortunei (Japanese Holly Fern)

Top left: Hosta 'Big Daddy'. Above: Cyrtomium fortunei (Japanese Holly Fern)

Hakonechloa macra 'Alboaurea'

Above: Hakonechloa macra 'Alboaurea'

Acorus gramineus 'Variegatus'

Above: Acorus gramineus 'Variegatus'. A marginal plant for a pond, or moist soil.