Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Shades of Grey in the Garden: The Final Chapter

The swirling waves of an Ornamental cabbage 

I have a marathon of images to finish off my grey-themed posts, so I will keep this introduction short and sweet. 

I always learn something in putting these post together. The pictures are bookmarks that reference the important passages in last summer's travels: Note to self: Remember this plant or that planting combination. Even if a plant is as common as dirt, I often see it used in such a way that I find myself thinking: now isn't that a great idea!

So, let's dive right in:

I am pushing it with this first example of grey. I hope you will forgive me, but you don't see this old-fashioned plant as often as you should these days. This is Basket of Gold, Aurinia saxatilis 'Compacta'. Its foliage is greyish-green.

Here it is tumbling down the rocky hillside of a former quarry. (The Rockery at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON). Height: 20-30 cm. Spread 20-30 cm. Care: Full sun, average to sandy soil. Drought tolerant when established.

Snow-in-summer, cerastium tomentosum in my garden

My mom always detested this ground cover, but though it can take over in a hurry, it does have some uses. In my garden it holds a sloping bank on the eastern side of the house. In the image below, snow-in-summer cascades down a steep embankment at the RBG in Hamilton.

Snow-in-summer, cerastium tomentosum. Height 15-20 cm. Spread: 60-75 cm. Care: As you can see this plant is a spreader. It is perfect in hot sunny areas with poor soil. Clip it back after flowering to keep it tidy.

Cheddar Pinks, Dianthus Height: 15-30 cm Spread: 20-30 cm Care: Full sun.

I couldn't leave these out. Beautiful grey foliage and a delicious, spicy scent.

A front planting that incorporates a pale, pink dianthus as well as a few grey-blue evergreens. Private Garden in Mississauga, ON.

Sea holly, Eryngium Height: 60-75 cm. Spread: 45-60 cm Care: Full sun

Sea Holly with purple Monkshood in the foreground. Larkwhistle Garden on the Bruce Peninsula.

Yarrow, Achillea taygetea 'Moonshine' has lovely silver foliage. Height: 45-60cm Spread: 50 cm Care: Full sun. Blooms June to September (with deadheading).

I have this silver yarrow in my garden. It is very reliable, quiet and well-behaved (never the class clown). It puts up with any amount of neglect I lavish on it.

Lavender Cotton, Santolina chamaecyparissus Height: 30-45 cm Spread: 30-60cm Care: Requires good drainage. Drought tolerant when established.

This is a plant I saw at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton and knew nothing about. I liked the foliage so much however, I wanted to know more. Lavender Cotton was often used in traditional herb and knot gardens. Its dried leaves are nicely scented and are sometimes used in potpourri.

Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound' Height: 25 cm Spacing: 35 cm Care: Best in full sun. Makes a nice compact mound of silver. 

I have Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King' in my garden. Now, if you are familiar with this cultivar then you are probably questioning my sanity. In researching this plant, I found a reference that described it as "a little aggressive for the average perennial border". 

That's a polite way of saying it spreads like mad!!

I knew 'Silver King' was a spreader, but I thought I could outsmart I planted it in the garden in a pot with a hole cut in the bottom. Foolish, foolish gardener!

'Silver King' laughed in my face and sent out runners that just skipped over the rim of the plastic pot. 

Despite the bad experience, I haven't given up on Artemisia. Look how great it looks in combination with the burgundy Barberry above. I am convinced that I just need to find another cultivar that is better behaved.

Artemisia 'Powis Castle' Height: 75 cm Spread: 45 cm Care: Full sun, well-drained soil. Excellent for hot sunny sites. Hardy zones 6-9.

What is your experience with Artemisia? Do you know a great cultivar we should all try. Here are a couple of options I saw last summer. Any comments?

Edwards Garden in Toronto Artemisia stelleriana 'Boughton Silver' with taller Calamint behind. Height: 15-30 cm Spread: 60-75 cm Care: Compact selection. Full sun. Clip back mid-summer to maintain low mat-like effect.

We had Lamb's Ears in the garden when we first moved in. Over time, the shade of mature trees made it harder and harder for it to prosper. Next summer, I would like to find a new spot and buy some new plants. 

I have to say that I am not fond of Lamb's Ear's in bloom. Stachys byzantina 'Silver Carpet' has dense clumps of soft, velvety silver leaves. Apparently this selection rarely blooms. Height: 10-15 cm Spread: 30-60 cm. 

Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia. Grey foliage makes a nice foil for warm colors such as pink and mauve. It can easily be a best friend for blue and purple.

The Music Garden, Toronto, ON.

Blue-grey evergreens in the Kinanen's backyard garden in Dundas Ontario. The garden's pond is right off the deck. Perfect for watching the fish dart around. Pond by Clearwater Ponds.

Really quickly, I will remind you that evergreens offer some beautiful garden greys.

Korean Fir, Abies koreana 'Siberlocke' You can read more about Koran Fir trees in this post by Alistair who writes the blog Aberdeen Gardening.

Aren't these grey pinecones interesting?

The Harrison Sister's garden in Hamilton, ON

A beautiful story in color and texture.

Here we are looking back the other way in the same garden. The Harrison Sister's garden in Hamilton, ON

Hostas also come in a nice range of grey and blue-grey colors.

Heather Bradley's garden in Mississauga, ON.

Finally, if you want to add grey to your garden next summer, don't forget to consider 
ferns like this Japanese Fern.

Edward's Garden, Toronto, ON.

I end with a mystery. I'm not sure what the name of this grey beauty. (You see, I really do learn from doing these posts.) Any ideas?


  1. Beautiful garden pics as always, can´t help with the name though - not my strong side..! :-)

  2. That last plant looks like an edible sage I had a few years ago. Seeing the grey plants in the different borders makes me realise just how striking they are; clearly I need to add some to our garden.

  3. I love the name 'Snow-in-summer'. I have seen that plant often over here as well but I don't know how it's called in Dutch. From now on, it's Snow-in-summer to me ;-)
    The colours of the Eryngium are so beautiful. I love that plant but I think it needs sun, doesn't it?....
    Also love the Russian sage.
    Guess I like grey and blueish purple tones combined, don't you think? Same with lavender, also a bit that combination, and also a no go in our garden but I often put it in pots on the terrace. Unfortunately they don't survive our winters then.
    Beautiful post! Will have a look at your previous post now.

  4. What georgous and inspriring plant combinations. These post gives me some wonderful ideas ~ thank you!

  5. I never realized there are so many grey plants in the garden world. I look to my gardens and can't think of one grey plant there at all. A new world to discover.

  6. Beautiful colourcombinations. The last picture is a Salvia, used as a herb but I don't know which cultivar. I love the grey colours but in my garden it is rather wet for them. I have Artemisia Powis Castle and Artemisia lud.Vallerie Finnis. The Cerastium tomentosum ia also nice but I have to cut it back too soon I think. You showed us beautiful plants and gardens. In comparison with that my garden looks very untidy. On the other hand it is November. Enjoyed your pictures very much!

  7. The sea holly is so pretty and you have captured some fabulous colours and textures. I'm already looking forward to next year!

  8. What a fantastic selection of silver leaved plants, I never knew there were so many!
    Unfortunately our heavy clay soil is usually too wet for most of these beautiful plants but Stachys Silver Carpet does well here.

  9. It does look like sage that I've grown here in North Carolina.

  10. It's funny how grey in the garden looks different than it feels. The color or hue of grey never comes across visually --- it's more of a cool feeling or an absence of saturated excitement than an actual color in the garden. You don't really see it, you sense it in combination with other plants. I love the examples you give here.

  11. Jennifer, think your mystery plant is a Clary Sage -Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica-- see my posting and scroll down to Asheville pics.
    I have Artemisia 'Silver Brocade' that looks like your 'Boughton Silver'. I have mine planted with Ajuga 'Black Scallop'. Love the various Artemisia. Another great post of silvers and grays.

  12. Great photos. Basket of Gold and Snow in Summer are definitely on my wish list.

  13. Great post, Jennifer! I love all gray colors in the gardens, especially in yours. Sea Holly, Snow-in-summer, Lamb's ears are ornamental plants as well an ornamental cabbage.

  14. These are wonderful photos, Jennifer.
    The ornamental cabbage is absolutely gorgeous!

  15. A lovely post, I do agree about the way Artemisia spreads, we used to have some in a UK garden years ago.

  16. Your first photo, the ornamental cabbage, has stolen the show for me. It is stunning, love the soft progression of colour in the swirling leaves.

  17. I'm taking notes! :) As for Artemisia, yes, I have one that I hack back several times a year. It has taken over one corner, but it would like to take over the world! I didn't know that until I planted it. Still, I love its sweet foliage, and the color goes so well with my roses' blooms.

  18. Lovely greys. Could your plant be the annual plectranthus?

  19. AHHH so much to take in!!! I have to come back to this post and study all the stunning combinations! As usual your photos are life like---insanely beautiful colors!!!!

  20. This is so cool! I love your shades of grey journey. In fact, I am planning to do a post on gray,blue, & silver plants in the garden...only all of my shades of gray plants will be different since we are down here in south Texas. I think I like your shades of grey better. Lovely post!

  21. I agree with Janet that your last picture is clary sage. The edible sages have longer, thinner leaves. I have an yarrow called Schnellenberg (Or something close to that) with very silvery grey leaves and yellow flowers. I never thought that would be a combo I'd like but I have it planted with some pinkish purple monarda. The yarrow hasn't bloomed yet because I just added it last fall but I have high hopes for next summer. I'm using the grey foliage and some white balloon flowers to cool off a hot color combination. I'm so glad you added dianthus. Cheddar Pinks are one of my spring favorites. :o)

  22. Dear Jennifer, I think the last picture is Plectanthrus argentatus. I haven't heard of Artemisia being a problem spreader here. I have 2 Powis Castle plants , they haven't been in for long, but so far seem to be doing well. I love that Sea Holly, like something from another planet. I adore all the grey plants really.

  23. I love all these grey foliage plants. We have had the Artemisia Powis Castle but it grew to a helluva height here. I was well chuffed when I saw that you had added a link to my blog, thank you. My first thought when I saw your unknown plant was Sage, perhaps salvia turkestanica. Then I saw Carolyns suggestion of (plectranthus) which also looks very much like it, it wont survive your Winter if it is this one.

  24. Wonderful, inspirational post. Grey, in all its forms, does add a wonderful dimension to the garden.

  25. Loved this series Jennifer, so many great ideas on combinations here. As I read along I realized I have actually accumulated an awful lot of grey in my garden. Artemesia, sea holly, dianthus, lamb's ears (I have Helen von stein, extra large ears and rarely blooms, love it). The purple barberry really caught my eye and made me think about how a contrasting colour could really pop with grey. Thanks as always for the well thought out post and the ideas you inspire.

  26. All your photos are gorgeous, Jennifer, but the stunning ornamental cabbage has stolen my heart! :D Simply a stunner!

  27. So many great examples of gray and gray-tinted plants and how they can be used in the garden! I have some Artemesia that tagged along with a daylily trade, and true to form it's spreading all over. It hasn't gotten that big or muscled anything out of the way though. I don't know what the cultivar is; the foliage is only dusted with gray, and is not very finely divided, but it has that nice characteristic Artemesia scent.

  28. Last photo looks like some sort of sage! Oh how I miss my Massachusetts garden! Beautiful series of photos always enjoy my visit here! Loooooove the first one!

  29. Your gray plant is one hundred percent definitely Plectranthus argentatus. From Australia. It will grow huge in one summer, and die the second it freezes, but it's worth it.

  30. I am supprised to see how many grey's there are Jennifer. A beautiful blog with gorgeous photograps.
    Have a wonderful week.

  31. You have an amazing garden. Your first photo of the cabbage makes me want to grow some just to look at! It's my favourite photo of the lot.


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