I’m a one-of-everything type of gardener, but I love obsessive collectors. People who can spend their lives completely fascinated with a specific genus or color or family. That’s dedication. I never like to count a plant out, even if I don’t get it, because somebody out there loves that plant for some compelling reason.

I read an article eons ago about a garden designer whose client’s plants kept mysteriously disappearing. The designer was puzzled, there were theories of rogue raccoons. Later the client confessed, they tossed anything that wasn’t perfectly spherical. See? A gardener obsessed with spheres. Every plant deserves its obsessive fans, and every gardener gets to love what they love. No judgment. But maybe don’t drive some poor garden designer crazy by being sneaky about it.

With pink greeting card and awkward dinner date season upon us (I’m such a romantic), I couldn’t help but notice the plants that could easily be a valentine. It got me wondering, does anyone have a heart shaped leaf fetish? If they did, they could easily make a whole garden out of nothing but hearts.

How could you grow a heart themed garden? Let me count the ways…

Starting with the tallest and working toward the ground, Katsuras have such beautiful delicate looking leaves that are extra sweet in fall when they turn orangey gold and smell like caramel corn.

cercidiphyllum japonicum tree by jean pol grandmontjpg
Cercidiphyllum japonicum, photo by Jean-pol Grandmont

Cercediphyllum japonicum ‘Red fox’ is especially festive when new growth emerges red.

cercidiphyllum japonicum red fox by dancing oaks
Cercediphyllum japonicum ‘Red fox’ by Dancing Oaks

Weeping Katsuras would let you admire those gorgeous leaves up close and look impossibly romantic.

cercidiphyllum japonicum pendulum by Karl Gercens III
Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’ by Karl Gercens III

Katsuras span anywhere from 15 to 60 feet. Below that, you could tuck some more heart shaped leaves in the understory with Redbuds that grow anywhere from 6 to 25 feet.

cercis occidentalis by stan shebs
Cercis occidentalis, photo by Stan Shebs

cercis canadensis the rising sun by gracepete
Cercis canadensis ‘The Rising Sun,’ photo by Gardening with Grace
cercis canadensis silver cloud by karl gercens III
Cercis canadensis ‘Silver Cloud,’ photo by Karl Gercens III
cercis canadensis forest pansy by Jonathan Billinger
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy,’ photo by Jonathan Billinger
cercis canadensis ace of hearts by Josiah Lau Photography
Cercis canadensis ‘Ace of Hearts’ by Josiah Lau Photography
disanthus cercidifolius by keeping it green
Disanthus cercidifolius by Keeping it Green

I can’t help but love Catalpas for a dramatic big leaves. I’d be inclined to coppice them for a big dramatic shrub instead of letting them grow into huge trees.

catalpa bignonioides aurea by karl gercens
Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea,’ photo by Karl Gercens III

I’m intrigued by Piper auritum, which goes by the common name Root Beer Tree or Mexican Pepperleaf. It’s new to me. I’m hoping it’s true we can grow it in zone 8 because now that I’ve heard of it, I have to have it. Why the sudden crush?

– Big tropical corrugated leaves
– Weird (in a good way) white flowers
– Smells like root beer when leaves are crushed
– Easy to grow
– Fast growing
– Essential flavor in Mole Verde
– Flavors Mexican dishes, fresh or dried
– Works as a houseplant in colder climates

piper auritum by brians botanicals
Piper auritum, photo by Brian’s Botanicals

There are hundreds of Epimediums to choose from and I love them all, but the red edging on Spring Wedding and Sweetheart really call attention to the heart shape.

EPIMEDIUM GRANDIFLORUM 'SPRING WEDDING'
Spring Wedding, photo by Sebright Gardens

Me, I’m partial to the prickly ones, like Epimedium wushanense or E. Sandy Claws.

epimedium wushanense by Far Reaches Farm
Epimedium wushanense, photo by Far Reaches Farm

And finally, one of my long time favorites, Saruma henryi. It was love at first sight when I found this plant, and those fuzzy leaves still charm me as much today as they did the first time.

saruma henryi
Saruma henryi, photo by Megan Hansen (me)

You really could plant an entire garden with heart shaped leaves alone. More ideas:

Wild ginger, gorgeous groundcover with weird beautiful black flowers
Beesia, which is similar to asarum but with Actaea style flowers
Meehania montis koyae, a woodland mint groundcover
Mandevilla laxa, a vanilla scented vine
Hostas, I dig the ones with HUGE leaves
Brunneras, I’m partial to the gold-leaved variety
Violets, which are a more diverse bunch than I realized
Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’, a climbing hydrangea with silvery leaves
Aristolochia, or Dutchman’s Pipe, many varieties with heart shaped leaves, all with crazy flowers
Fallopia baldschuanica ‘Lemon Lace’, a fast and easy gold leaved vine
Ficus pumila, a self clinging fig vine

Some crafty, plan ahead type person could probably collect and dry some of these and make some sort of spectacular homemade card for their gardening sweetheart. I’m not that creative or organized, so I’ll just appreciate them in the garden.

The first photo in the post is Cercediphyllum japonicum ‘Red fox’ by Loree Bohl.