By Kate Wall
Strappy leafed plants are plants which have a grass like growth habit, but are not grasses. Their leaves are long green straps, like grass, which may be very thin or thick and fleshy, or anything in between. They usually do not form a stem but all their leaves arise from a central point. As the plant grows they are able to form large clumps.
Strappy leaf plants includes some ultra tough natives like lomandras and dianellas, cottage garden favourites agapathus, daylilies and clivias, herbs such as chives and other members of the onion family, as well as many lilies and bulbs. Liriope and mondo grass can also be included as strappy leafed plants, although they differ from the others in being able to spread via underground stolons in the way that many grasses do.
Strappy leafed plants can be excellent garden plants for many reasons. Most strappy leafed plants are hardy tough plants that require little care in order to do well. Many of them are highly drought tolerant. In addition they are beautiful plants which can give a strong sense of design to any style of garden. The long leaves of strappy leaved plants can be used to give structure to a garden with the upright lines create a sense of direction and uniformity.
The varieties with thinner leaves can give a lot of movement to a garden in the same way that ornamental grasses do, as their leaves move in the slightest breeze. This is particularly true for the larger varieties of lomandras. Not only do they actually move in the breeze they can be used to create a sense of flow throughout a garden. Smaller varieties such as liriope, daylilies, smaller varieties of agapathus, society garlic (Tulbaghia) and even Zephranthes and other smaller bulbs can make excellent border plants around a garden. Their upright straight lines can make a lawn area seem larger while still creating a neat and tidy garden border. Their lineal nature can create a sense of flow which draws the eye around the garden.
Variegated society garlic, liriope and mondo grass are all available in the Instant Border™ Flora Edge® range, where they can be purchased in planting strips which are easily transferred to the garden to make very easy and effective garden borders. Dwarf mondo is also available in the same way for laying between large pavers to achieve a very popular look.
Mass plantings of strappy leafed plants can be highly effective, providing a uniformity which is informal and flowing at the same time. Smaller growing forms can be mass planted as garden borders. Large drifts of agapanthus, daylilies, irises or clivias can make striking features in large ornamental gardens. In small courtyard gardens a dense planting of these plants in small areas can make the space appear larger and lusher than is often achieved with more traditional leaf shapes. A layered planting with smaller growing strap leafed plants to the front and larger ones to the back can not only be very striking, it can also make a garden seem larger. Given the variety of flowering strappy leafed plants, such a garden can still offer diversity of leaf size, colour and texture and a variety and abundance of flowers.
Mass plantings of lomandras and dianellas not only look great, they also provide exceptional erosion control due to their dense deep root system – which also makes them very drought hardy. For this reason lomandras and dianellas are often mass planted in public spaces or in erosion prone areas. The ability of many varieties to look green and tidy even with almost no care at all, makes these very popular plants. Plant breeding has given gardeners a variety of superior forms of both lomandras and dianellas which are not only very hardy but also flower well and come in a different sizes and leaf colours and forms.
Katie Belles™ Lomandra hystrix ‘LHBYF’ PBR is a particularly large lomandra which produces an abundance of perfumed flowers. It can be mass planted for erosion control, or it can make a stunning feature plant in large gardens.
Shara™ Lomandra fluviatilis ‘ABU7’ PBR is a compact and fine leafed lomandra which is soft to touch making it very suitable for children's gardens, pathside plantings and anywhere a soft look is desired. Its fine nature also makes this an idea plant for creating movement in a garden. Being a compact plant it works well in small gardens.
In addition to the variety of shape and size of lomandras, interesting garden designs can be created using variegated lomandras. Three variegated lomandras, Great White™ Lomandra longifolia ‘MURU’ PBR, Lucky Stripe™ Lomandra hystrix ‘LMV200’ PBR and Variegated Tanika™ Lomandra longifolia ‘NPW3’ PBR offer gardeners the hardiness of a lomandra but with the delight of variegated foliage in 3 different sizes.
When it comes to variegated foliage amongst the strappy leafed plants, it is the dianellas which offer the greatest variety and phormiums with stunning depth of colour.
Dianellas are tough and hardy natives which are able to provide soil stability in addition to great strappy leafed foliage and lovely blue flowers and berries. They are available in a huge variety of sizes from very tall to very compact forms. The main leaf colour is a deep emerald green but they are also available with white and gold variegations, grey-blue shades and red tinges to the leaf as well. Rainbow Twist™ Dianella prunina ‘DPV308’ PBR even offers multiple colours in the one plant. The leaves are green and white tinged with red, which darkens to deeper shades of red and purple during the cooler months.
A stunning contrast can be added to gardens featuring strappy leafed plants by including deep red foliage. Flamin’® Phormium tenax ‘PH0S3’ PBR, has foliage in deep red, orange and bronze tones which glow in the sun light, making a dazzling feature amongst other strappy leafed plants.