Silver Belles

A little holiday song, for those who’ve stuck it out through my Twelve Months of Colour blogs in 2016:

Silver belles, silver belles,
It’s Christmas time in the city.

Ding-a-ling?? No, they don’t ring,

My “Silver Belles” just look pretty.

Row 1:‘Pictum’ Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum); ‘King’s Ransom’ Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla); ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ giant sea holly (Eryngium giganteum); Agave parryi; Row 2: Hosta ‘Ultramarine‘; ‘Bascour Zilver’ hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum); ‘Blue Glow’ fescue (Festuca glauca); Heuchera ‘Rave On’; Row 3: ‘Montgomery’ blue spruce (Picea glauca); ‘Silver Carpet’ lamb’s-ear (Stachys byzantina); ‘Blue Star’ juniper (Juniperus squamata); ‘Sapphire Skies’ yucca (Y.rostrata)

Yes, we’re finally in December, and as befits the tinsel month in my year-long celebration of monthly colour themes, I’ve pulled together a treasure box filled with pieces of silver (and some nice blue-greys) for your garden. You should know that I’m a big fan of grey, especially mixed with that little dash of brown that tips it into ‘taupe’. In fact, my house is painted that colour, and my deck and fence are stained a darker shade of stone-grey. It is a beautiful background for all plants.

janet-davis-deck-house

If you add a little blue-green to silvery-gray, you get a colour we often describe as “glaucous”. That word has travelled a long way since it was first used by the Greeks, including Homer, as glaukos to mean “gleaming, silvery”. In Latin, it  took on the meaning “bluish-green”, and in the 15h century, the Middle English word glauk meant “bluish-green, gray”.  That fits the color of luscious Tuscan kale, below.

brassica-nero-di-toscana-montreal-botanical-garden

So we’ll look at some lovely plants with glaucous foliage as well.

Shrubs & Trees

Let’s begin with a few trees and shrubs.  Weeping willowleaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) is a pretty little (20 ft – 7 m) tree with silvery-grey foliage. Here it is at Victoria’s Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, underplanted with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’.

pyrus-salicifolia-pendula-horticulture-centre-of-the-pacific

Then we have a true willow, dwarf blue Arctic willow (Salix purpurea ‘Nana’). This is a very hardy, useful shrub, standing about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and wide, that will lend its soft greyish texture to a variety of applications, including as hedging or a filler.

salix-purpurea-nana

As for conifers, there are lots of blue junipers and silver firs, and of course, blue spruces. For a big silvery tree, perhaps none is as stately as the concolor or white fir (Abies concolor ‘Candicans’).

abies-concolor-candicans

If you want a cool blue-grey spruce at garden level, consider Picea pungens ‘Glauca Procumbens’.

picea-pungens-glauca-procumbens

And I love the look of Juniperus conferta ‘Blue Pacific’, especially as it takes on mauve hues in winter, below, along with Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’.

juniperus-conferta-blue-pacific

Speaking of winter, there’s even a shrub with silvery fruit that persists into winter: Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica).

myrica-pensylvanica-fruit-northern-bayberry

Though we often think of lavender as perennial, it is actually a sub-shrub. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has greyish-blue foliage, and even the commonly available cultivars like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ will provide a good colour contrast, as they do edging this beautiful potager.

louise-kappus-potager-lavender

But if you want a really silvery, hardy lavender, try ‘Silver Mist’, shown below contrasting with a bronze carex.

lavandula-angustifolia-silver-mist

And if you are in a climate where you can grow the more tender Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), there’s a gorgeous silver-leaved cultivar called ‘Anouk’.

lavandula-stoechas-silver-anouk

Perennials

Who hasn’t seen lamb’s-ears in a perennial border? And who hasn’t questioned whether the plant’s name should be a single lamb or a flock? Kidding aside, using hardy lamb’s-ears (Stachys byzantina)  is one of the easiest ways to inject a note of silver into the garden. Here it is with lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) at Burlington, Ontario’s Royal Botanical Gardens …..

Stachys byzantina with Alchemilla mollis

… and fronting a June border at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Botanical Garden.

stachys-byzantina-van-dusen-botanical-garden

I love the way my pal Marnie White intersperses her lamb’s-ears with pink portulaca.

stachys-byzantina-portulaca-marnie-white-garden

Sea holly has a few beautiful silver forms; this is Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’ with liatris and switch grass (Panicum virgatum) at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

eryngium-mrs-willmotts-ghost-liatris-panicum

Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) has several cultivars with lovely silvery variegation. This is ‘Jack Frost’.

brunnera-macrophylla-jack-frost

Artemisias are invaluable silver foliage plants. This is Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Silver King’ with liatris.

artemisia-silver-king-liatris-spicata

And this is Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ creating a silvery pool at the edge of a border.

artemisia-powis-castle

In the fern world, luscious Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) is literally ‘painted’ with silver variegation. The stunning cultivar below is ‘Pewter Lace’.

athyrium-niponicum-pewter-lace

Though they don’t come in pure silver, there are many blue-grey hostas to add texture to a shaded or semi-shaded place. At the Toronto Botanical Garden, I love the juxtaposition of Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ with the silvery-blue glass screen behind it.

hosta-blue-angel-toronto-botanical-garden

Here is an assortment of blue-grey hostas.

1 - Ultramarine; 2 – First Frost; 3 – Fragrant Blue; 4 – Earth Angel; 5 – Paradise Joyce; 6 - Halcyon.

1 – Ultramarine; 2 – First Frost; 3 – Fragrant Blue; 4 – Earth Angel; 5 – Paradise Joyce; 6 – Halcyon.

With their rainbow foliage colour and myriad leaf markings, heucheras have become a plant breeder’s bonanza in the past few decades. Below are ‘Rave On’ (left) and ‘Silver Scrolls’ (right).

heucheras

Euphorbias also offer delectable silver makings. Though it’s borderline-hardy where I garden in Toronto, I do love Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’.

euphorbia-characias-tasmanian-tiger

The silvery foliage of Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) can be quite stunning, but careful it doesn’t escape – clip those flowers before they go to seed.

onopordum-acanthium-cotton-thistle

Grasses

Blue-grey grasses abound. Here’s  Festuca glauca ‘Blue Glow’ with berried cotoneaster and silvery Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) behind.

festuca-glauca-blue-glow

This is ‘Heavy Metal’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum) – one of my favourites.

panicum-virgatum-heavy-metal

Little bluestem is a wonderful native prairie grass, and ‘Prairie Blues’ has a more pronounced silvery-blue hue.

schizachyrium-scoparium-prairie-blues

‘Wind Dancer’ love grass (Eragrostis elliotii)  is hardy only to USDA Zone 6, but I’ve seen it used as an annual grass to lovely effect.

eragrostis-elliottii-wind-dancer

Annuals & Tropicals

Montreal Botanical Garden knows how to create wonderful knots and parterres with silvery plants. This is the tender grass Melinis nerviglumis ‘Savannah’ (ruby grass – USDA Zone 8-10) with Angelonia ‘Serena Purple’.

melinis-nerviglumis-savannah-angelonia-serena-purple-montreal-botanical

…. and this is Cerastium ‘Columnae Silberteppich’ with lantana.

cerastium-columnae-silberteppich

Montreal Botanical’s Herb Garden has also used silvery herbs in formal design schemes over the years. The tapestry-like knot garden below features the sages (Salvia officinalis) ‘Berrgarten’ and variegated ‘Icterina’ in the circle, along with hedge germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) with the pink flowers; clipped lavender and santolina are in the background.

montreal-botanical-salvia-officinalis-berrgarten-icterina

Here’s a closer look at santolina or cotton thistle (Santolina chamacyparissus) in flower. Its ease of shearing makes it a prime candidate for parterres and knots, but it is only hardy to USDA Zone 6.

santolina-chamaecyparissus-lavender-cotton

There are several Mediterranean plants that fit our silvery-blue theme.   A tender perennial (USDA Zone 8) with silver foliage that can be used as a drought-tolerant annual is Greek mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca).

sideritis-syriaca

And Senecio viravira or silver groundsel has textural foliage.

senecio-viravira-silver-groundsel

Isn’t this combination at the Niagara Botanical Gardens beautiful? The big, felted silver leaves of Salvia argentea with Tradescantia spathacea ‘Tricolor’ seem made for each other.

salvia-argentea-tradescantia-spathacea-tricolor-niagara-botanical-garden

Also at Niagara Botanical one summer, I loved this juxtaposition of blue-grey cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) with the cascading silvery Dichondra argentea in the hanging baskets behind.

cynara-cardunculus-dichondra-argentea-niagara-botanical-garden

Speaking of dichondra, here it is at the Toronto Botanical Garden paired with Centaurea gymnocarpa ‘Colchester White’. This, of course, is the work of the TBG’s container wizard Paul Zammit.

dichondra-argentea-centaurea-gymnocarpa-colchester-white-toronto-botanical-garden

Dusty miller (Centaurea cineraria) is an old-fashioned annual that’s easy to source and offers a lovely hit of silver, as with this rich autumn combination of dusty miller and ornamental cabbages.

dusty-miller-senecio-cinerarea

We mustn’t forget the spectacular leaves of the newer Rex begonias like ‘Escargot’, below, many of which have silver markings.

begonia-escargot

There are loads of silvery succulents available, because being silver-grey (reflecting the sun) and being succulent (storing your own water in your leaves) are both adaptations to plants growing in extreme hot and dry environments. I loved this combination of Kalanchoe pumila ‘Quicksilver’ and Senecio serpens at Eye of the Day Garden Center in Carpinteria, California.

kalanchoe-pumila-quicksilver-senecio-serpens-eye-of-the-day

This pairing of blue sticks (Senecio mandraliscae) with Scaevola aemula at the Montreal Botanical Garden was simple, yet dramatic.

scaevola-aemula-senecio-mandraliscae

And the gorgeous container below was in the former Vancouver garden of garden guru Tom Hobbs and Brent Beattie, owners of Vancouver’s Southlands Nursery.  It features Echeveria elegans, salmon-red Sedum rubrotinctum and silvery parrot feather (Tanacetum densum), along with astelia in the centre.

hobbs-echeveria-elegans-tanacetum-densum

Succulents have been used extensively over the years by Paul Zammit at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Check out this silvery monochrome masterpiece.

silver-succulents-toronto-botanical-garden

And finally, this gorgeous windowbox from the TBG, with its luscious mix of silver echeverias, aptenias, kalanchoes, senecios, rhipsalis and more, all enhanced by the dwarf Arctic willow hedging around it.

succulents-toronto-botanical-garden

With that, I finish my monthly 2016 exploration of the garden paintbox. But not to worry!  2017 is a whole new ballgame, and there will be garden colour galore (plus the odd travel journal and personal reminiscence) throughout the coming year.

Not a Blog!

This is not a blog. I repeat: this is not a blog.  It is merely a taste of blogs to come this year. And they will be about COLOUR!  Or color (if you prefer it without extraneous British/Canadian vowels).

Flower Colour Array-ThePaintboxGarden

Yes, I thought it might be time for The Paintbox Garden to adhere to its stated theme. So each month of 2016 will be devoted to a different hue, beginning with JANUARY, which will be white as the driven (or walking) snow. White as in wonderland, appropriate to the season. White as an even paler shade of pale. And of course, white as in perfume – coming up soon.

White Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

FEBRUARY will be red, as in better — than dead, paint the town —, roses are —,  and UB-40s favourite beverage.  And the longest, boldest wave length in Isaac Newton’s spectral light arsenal. Plus, of course, swamp hibiscus.

Red Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

MARCH will be green (yes, I know, hackneyed Irish trope for St. Paddy’s). But it is the only really important colour in the garden paintbox, as all chlorophyll-lovers know.  Nevertheless, as Kermit is fond of saying, it ain’t easy being green.  My March blogs will help dispel that notion.

Green Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

But being Kermit-green is definitely easier than being chartreuse, which is half-green and half-yellow. I will squeeze some limes… and chartreuses…into my March blogs as well.

Chatreuse Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

Because it’s the cruellest month, as T.S. Eliot reminded us, APRIL will be blue. Actually, I chose blue for April because of all those lovely little azure bulbs that spring up from the snow. But there will be azure blues….

Blue Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

….and lighter sky-blues for the entire gardening season, too.

Sky-Blue Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

MAY will be pink, as in the darling buds. Think crabapples, weigelas, columbines, peonies, and phloxes and hydrangeas for later in the season. There will be lusty pinks…

Pink Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

…and delicate, light pinks.

Light Pink Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

I’ll skip magenta because I wrote a love letter to that neon hue in 2014.

JUNE will be purple. Riots often break out about what purple means (for the record it comes from the Greek word porphura, for little murex sea snails that bleed that dark crimson ‘purple’ dye). So let me say June will be about lilac-purple..

Lilac-Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

.. through lavender-purple…

Lavender-Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… into violet-purple…

Violet-Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… and finally rich, royal, Seagram’s Bag, Tyrian purple.

Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

JULY will be all sunshine: lots of yellow…

Yellow Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… and gold.

Gold Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

AUGUST will be black(ish). And hopefully some good thunderstorms!

Black flowers & leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

SEPTEMBER will be every lovely shade of brown, as in grasses and seedheads.

Brown Flowers & Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

OCTOBER will be jack-o-lanternly, clockworkly-orange.

Orange Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

And I’ll throw in peach (even though it likes to party with pink, too)…

Peach Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

…and apricot (even though it sometimes hangs out with the gold crowd)…

Apricot Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… and salmon for a well-rounded fruit & fish diet.

Salmon-Orange Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

NOVEMBER will be wine or burgundy, because who doesn’t fancy a little vino in dreary November.

Wine Flowers & Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

DECEMBER will be silver, as in bells, hi-ho, and Long John.

Silver Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

And that’s a promise!