A couple of my favorite foliage plants at Dixter are the Gunneras. Individual leaves can grow as big as 1-2 m (3-6ft) across! They prefer growing in wet soils, and are quite happy at water's edge, which is where they're found here. The slightly smaller leaved Gunnera tinctoria is growing on the bank of the Horse Pond, while the larger leaved Gunnera manicata grows around the boggy Lower Moat.
Horse Pond before (August)
Horse Pond after
Being native to South America, Gunneras require some winter protection in colder climates, such as the UK. Not only are the leaves aesthetically pleasing; they are also quite useful for protecting the crowns of the plant. Although I've seen this done at gardens in the past, this was the first time I've actually done it.
Lower Moat after we finished
First, we cut the leaves off right at the crown of the plant. Then, we removed and composted most of the leaf stalk, which can reach 1.5-2.5m (4.5-7.5ft). Finally, we covered all the individual plant crowns by turning the leaves upside-down, and layering them in an interlocking fashion to hold them together.
Resourcefulness at its best
We also cut pegs from old branches, which we used to anchor some of the smallest leaves, to keep them from blowing away during the winter.