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Sage, Lavender And The Role Of Silver-Leaved Plants In Garden Design - by Jonathan Yaakobi

Plants that have colorful foliage are commonly found in ornamental gardens. Often or not, they are just thrown in without sufficient thought or consideration. They are most effective however, when their specific design potential is understood. This is true for a large number of garden plants whose foliage color is some variant of silver, grey or bluish-green.


Silver grey foliage is both typical and indicative of dry climates and arid conditions. Sage, Lavender, Santolina, and herbs or aromatic plants like Artemisia originate from the Mediterranean, while the silver–leaved bush Leucophyllum frutescens grows wild in Texas. (it is known locally as Texas Ranger) The leaf size of such plants is characteristically small, narrow and delicate in texture.


Therefore, in stylistic terms, grey-leaved plants are most suited to Mediterranean-type gardens, associating well with olive and Cypress trees, junipers, small-leaved shrubs like Pistachio and Sumac, herbs and cushion plants. Small, grey-leaved grasses like Festuca glauca can serve as a subtle transition between silvery-grey plants and a group of larger ornamental grasses such as Pennisetum and Miscanthus. They blend beautifully with blues, lilacs and pinks and enhance the effect created by ornamental pebbles.


Another role for silver plants is as a sharp contrast with plants that have deep purple foliage. The Dusty Miller plants, Centaurea cineraria, or Senecio cineraria, can be quite dramatic against a background of Prunus pisardii, or Euphorbia cotinifolia. Similar effects can be created when they are combined with reds and oranges. It is here though that the inexperienced tend to get carried away. Contrast plants should be used sparingly and judiciously, with green being the dominant foliage color.


Grey plants do not combine well with obviously tropical plants. Typically, plants of tropical origin are deep green and possess large, sometimes massive leaves. Bird of Paradise and Philodendron “Beefy” are but two examples, with which silver plants appear incongruously out of place.


Grey colored foliage can be found amongst all the different plant groups. From trees such as Russian Olive, (Elaeagnus angustifolia) varieties of Juniper like “Grey Owl”, shrubs, herbs and prostrate ground covers. Amongst the latter, suitable for small areas, are Dichondra argentea, and the sensational Lotus berthelotti (Parrots Beak)

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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach

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