Gray/Silver Foliage

When I think of my favorite plants, flowers always come to mind.  But there are advantages to more muted plants.

Dusty Miller or Silver Dust (Centaurea Cineraria) originates from an island off of Italy.  It’s an old fashioned plant grown in the thirties, forties, and fifties by rural people.

Silver gray plants provide a shimmer or cool calmness to the landscape.  This one was bought in the spring and has exploded.  Many plants with gray foliage, including Dusty Miller, grow well in full sun.

The individual leaves are not that striking.

But when silver/gray plants are framed by a background of dark green, an interesting contrast occurs.  Sunlight lights up the silver color and makes them a focal point.

Globe mallow or Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) has round, cupped orange flowers in the spring.  But its foliage is also worthy of attention.

Its ruffled leaves have a different form than most gray plants.

Native to the drier regions of North and South America, in the Southwest of the U.S., sheep and goats graze on them.

When purchased, this was labeled Prairie Sage, but I haven’t been able to positively identify it.  It doesn’t bloom, has a tendency to flop down from the middle, and keeps most of its foliage during the winter.

The silver color is attractive but not sure I would recommend it.

This was given to me, unidentified.

Grey Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is aromatic and has a wonderful soft texture.  My only compliant is that it tends to become misshapen.

But I do love the look and touch of it.

My favorite silver/gray plant is Powis Castle Artemisia (Artemisia arborescens x absinthium) because it is soft, hardy, and can grow in sun or filtered sun, although I think it does better in mostly sun.

A versatile plant that fits in most landscapes.  This one is in a pot, but it does well in the ground.

This is not an extensive list of gray plants, just some that I have grown.

“Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”  Arthur YorinksSave

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Heat Lovers

Some plants thrive in this crazy heat and don’t even bloom until July or August when the furnace heat waves hit.

Duranta (Duranta erecta), with its long, draping branches, starts to flower the latter part of July.  In this picture, Duranta is flanked by Bird of Paradise, one old and one coming up from the roots of the original tree.

This particular branch leans over into the grass, making it difficult to mow, so the grass is a little bit tall here.

A sprawling shrub, Duranta has clusters of delicate purple flowers near the ends of the branches.

Named for an 15th century Italian botanist, Castore Durante is native to the Americas.  Why an Italian?  Who knows?

Although Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) blooms more in the spring and fall, it certainly survives well in August and blooms occasionally.

The common name Crossvine comes from the cross-shaped pattern seen when the stem is cut.

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) comes to its full gorgeous self in July and August.  This patch is about two feet tall.  Native to North America, it is in the mint family.

The individual flowers look like Foxglove, but are much hardier here.  When I bought this at a club plant sale, I was warned that it was aggressive.  That was a few years ago.  It has spread some, but I’m enjoying the forms and color.

My favorite thing about Gray Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is its soft texture.  The common name Lavender Cotton makes no sense to me.  It’s an evergreen mounding ground cover that reaches about two feet tall and three feet wide.  Santolina is native to the Mediterranean area of Europe and Africa.

This picture was taken in early June, so the yellow flowers have since died.  But the overall low growing shrub gets a jolt of growth during the late spring and early summer weather.  The only complaint I have is that when it blooms, the plant seems to get more misshapen.

So glad that these plants and some others do well in this desert-like heat.  This year, so far, we’ve had 13 inches of rain.

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”  A.A. Milne

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