Totara Waters – A Tropical Treat to Launch our New Zealand Tour

It was the first touring day of our 3-week garden tour of New Zealand with the American Horticultural Society and our Kiwi-born guide (and Pennsylvania-based landscape architect) Richard Lyon of Garden Adventures, Ltd.  We headed away from Auckland on the north island, stop #1 on the itinerary map below…

Garden Touring Map-New Zealand

… leaving its beautiful skyline behind us.

Auckland Skyline

Before long, we arrived at Totara Waters, Peter and Jocelyn Coyle’s specialist bromeliad nursery and subtropical garden in Auckland’s Whenuapai suburb.  If you can imagine a garden as the love-child of Roberto Burle Marx’s tropical tapestries and the spiky succulents of the American southwest, this one might be it. On a lush hillside overlooking a sound within Waitematā Harbour, we were met with beds of bromeliads under palm trees.

Bromeliad bed-Totara Waters

Peter and Jocelyn related the history of their garden, begun in 1999.

Jocelyn and Peter Coyle-Totara Waters

There were collections of cycads around the house, some adorned with the Coyles’ vintage planters and chimney pots.

Containers and cycads-Totara Waters

I loved photographing the cones of cycads, including this male cone of the sago palm cycad (C. revoluta).

Cycas revoluta-Sago palm-male cone

And as a honey bee photographer, I was fascinated to see them avidly harvesting pollen from that cycad’s cone.

Honey bees-Cycas revoluta-cycad-pollen-male cone

Near the house was Dasylirion acrotrichum or green sotol.

Dasylirion acrotrichum-Green sotol

On the hillside overlooking the water was an impressive collection of succulents.

Succulents-Totara Waters

It’s always lovely to see a well-grown spiral aloe (A. polyphylla)….

Aloe polyphylla-spiral aloe

….and a perfect agave…..

Agave-Totara Waters

…. including agaves in flower as well.

Agaves-Totara Waters

What a stunning Aloe bainesii.

Aloe bainesii-Totara Waters

At the bottom of the two-acre garden, there was an unusual water feature: the rusted hulk of a decommissioned navy ship, the Hawera.  The Hoyles added their own rusty art to echo the wreck.

Rusting Hawera & iron garden sculpture-Totara Waters

A small nursery onsite attracts bromeliad-lovers…..

Bromeliad nursery-Totara Waters

…. and also provides an outlet for Totara’s named introductions, like Neoreglia ‘Totara War Paint’, below.

Neoregelia 'Totara War Paint'-Totara Waters

Bromeliads, of course, featured large at Totara Waters, including a stunning Alcantarea imperialis in flower near the garden’s parrot cage…..

Alcantarea imperialis flower

….and a beautiful Vriesea splendens.

Vriesea splendens

There was a good collection of bonsai plants…..

Bonsai-Totara Waters

….carnivorous plants….

Carnivorous plants-Totara Waters

…and what is said to be the largest staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) in all New Zealand.

Platycerium bifurcatum-elkhorn fern-Totara Waters

In the garage driveway was a restored Chevy truck, appropriate for Peter Coyle, who made his career as a ‘panel beater’, which is Kiwi slang for a collision repair specialist.

Totara Waters-truck

It was a delight to be there; then we were in the bus and heading inland to another beautiful garden and our first communal New Zealand dinner.

A Plant-Lover’s Delight: The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Way back in mid-June, before the annual Bloggers’ Fling (with its wonderful garden tours) had begun in the DC region, my husband and I toured Washington’s beautiful Dumbarton Oaks as well as the National Mall, before driving south to see Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville VA.  The National Mall on a steamingly hot Sunday was impressive for first-time visitors, all 1.9 miles (3 kilometres) of it. We walked from the spectacular Lincoln Memorial at its west end….

Lincoln Memorial

…to the sobering Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall nearby….

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

…and the World War II Memorial a little further on…..

World War II Memorial

…past the towering Washington Monument….

Washington Monument

….and the White House northwest of the Mall at this point….

White House

…all the way to the Capitol Building at the east end.

United States Capitol

In the last half of the Mall you find the Smithsonian Institution, which owns eleven museums and galleries on the National Mall, including many gardens, but my favourite by far was the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden nestled between the historic Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshorn Museum.  You can see it below in the context of the entire mall: my little red arrow points it out. (Click to open for the best view.)

National Mall-Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

As the Smithsonian explains on its website:  “The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden was the inspiration of Mrs. S. Dillon Ripley, lifelong plant scholar-collector, active gardener, and wife of the Smithsonian Institution’s eighth Secretary. (They are shown together in the photo below, while on a trip to India.) Mrs. Ripley conceived the idea for a “fragrant garden” on the eastern border of the Arts and Industries Building – a location that was designated to become a parking lot. In 1978 Mrs. Ripley persuaded the Women’s Committee of the Smithsonian Associates, which she had founded in 1966, to support the garden. In 1988 the Women’s Committee recognized their founder and friend by naming the garden after her. In 1994, Mrs. John Clifford Folger of Washington, DC, and Palm Beach, Florida, initiated an endowment fund for the support and care of the garden in order that it might be preserved as it was first conceived by Mrs. Ripley. This thoughtful gift was given with the hope that others might add to the fund so that visitors would be able to enjoy the garden into the 21st century.”

Mary Livingston Ripley & Dillon Ripley

So let’s take a tour of the Ripley. First of all, if I’d completed this blog back in the summer, as I intended to, I could not have introduced you to the new president of the Perennial Plant Association – and the woman who has been the Ripley Garden’s enthusiastic and education-focused gardener for almost 2 decades, Janet Draper. (And though I didn’t intentionally give her that poppy seedhead tiara, she is definitely royalty in the plant world of the northeast.)

Janet Draper-Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

That Janet is an obsessed plant geek becomes clear as soon as you enter the garden. Let’s start at the north entrance. See that elegant finial behind the orange flame flowers (Jacobinia chrystostephana), below? It reminded me of the Washington Monument down the mall, but Janet explained its provenance in  the Smithsonian blog, and it has to do with the recently-completed renovation of the Smithsonian’s historic 1881 Arts and Industries Building.

Jacobinia chrysostephana & finial- Ripley Garden

The garden with its curvilinear walkways was designed in 1988 by architect Hugh Newell Jacobson. It was originally intended to be a sensory garden that would be accessible even to people in wheelchairs, so there are several raised, brick beds that put the captivating plant combinations at eye level.  Behind, you can see the delightful Arts and Industries Building. Though its 12-year, $55 million renovation was completed in 2016, funding was not there to open it to the general public and it is currently only open for special events.

Raised bed north-Ripley Garden

I loved Janet’s creative plant combinations, from this bronze carex with annual red gomphrena…

Carex & Gomphrena-Ripley Garden

….to the pink poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) peeking out through a cloud of Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)….

Perovskia & Callirhoe-Ripley Garden

….to a luscious combination of alstroemerias with catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Junior Walker) and ornamental grass.

Nepeta 'Junior Walker' & Alstroemeria-Ripley Garden

Janet mixes desert species like spikey Yucca rostrata with tropicals, such as the big-leafed banana near the wall, and all grow happily in Washington’s long hot summer.

Yucca rostrata-Ripley Garden

She uses old-fashioned combinations, such as fragrant lavender with anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’, below….

Anthemis 'Susanna Mitchell' & Lavender-Ripley Garden

…. but also includes oddities like annual Dianthus ‘Green Ball’…..

Dianthus 'Green Ball'

……and unusual plants like scarlet tasseflower (Emilia coccinea), below.

Emilia coccinea

By the way, unlike a lot of beautiful display gardens, Janet makes sure her visitors are not only wowed by the plants, but have the opportunity to learn their names as well.

Plant labels-Ripley Garden

Fittingly, as the new PPA president, she grows the Perennial Plant Association’s 2018 Plant of the Year, below, Allium ‘Millenium’. I grow this little onion (hybridized by my Facebook pal and allium breeder Mark McDonough) in my pollinator garden, and can testify to its hardiness and rugged nature.

Allium 'Millenium'-Ripley Garden

There are little surprises like the Tuscan kale popping up in a sea of chartreuse anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’)…..

Tuscan kale & Anise hyssop-Ripley Garden

….and conversation starters like Solanum quitoense, or naranjilla, which definitely discourages sensory contact!

Solanum quitoense-Naranjilla-Ripley Garden

One of the showiest plants in the Ripley garden is the tropical pipevine from Brazil (Aristolochia gigantea) with its big carrion-scented blossoms. Janet loves this plant and enjoys talking to visitors about it. If you read her blog about it, you’ll understand its relationship to the American native pipevine (A. macrophylla), which is a massive vine – too big for the Ripley – but a larval plant of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (the giant Brazilian plant is not).

Aristolochia gigantea

But after doing some sleuthing, Janet discovered another small pipevine, Aristolochia fimbriata, that does feed the larval butterflies, and she grows it now. Thus I was delighted to see a rather tattered, elderly pipevine swallowtail taking a break from egg-laying to nectar on zinnias in an orange-themed raised bed.

Pipevine swallowtail on Zinnia-Ripley Garden

Speaking of insects – and as a bumble bee photographer, – I was overjoyed to spot a local bee I’d never seen before, the black-and-gold bumble bee (Bombus auricomis) nectaring on anise hyssop (Agastache)…

Bombus auricomus-Black and Gold bumblebee on Agastache

….and cedarglade St. Johnswort (Hypericum frondosum).

Bombus auricomus-Black and Gold bumblebee- on Hypericum frondosum

Bumble bees make their own nests, of course, but there was also a lovely hotel for native bees in the garden.

Bee hotel-Ripley Garden

Incidentally, that bed in front of the bee structure perfectly illustrates Janet’s deft touch, not merely with plant collecting, but with lovely design, too. Look how all that pink Achillea ‘Oertel’s Rose’ draws the eye through the scene.

Achillea 'Oertel's Rose'-Ripley Garden

Though the garden has its share of hot, sunny sites perfect for succulents (and drowsy visitors)….

Urn of succulents-Ripley Garden

…it also has beautiful shady spots, too. That’s ‘Alice’ oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) way up on top.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice'-Ripley Garden

Look at the subtle way the brick retaining wall becomes lower at this point, and how the use of the same bricks for path and wall creates a seamless journey.

Brick retaining wall & Path-Ripley Garden

Walking toward the shady end of the garden….

Border & Path-Ripley Garden

….you pass the beautifully textural living wall on the right. A miniature version of some of the building-sized living walls that have become popular in recent years, it is composed of plants whose texture and colours create a living painting. In this blog, Janet explains the nuts and bolts of her first attempt, and in a second blog three years later, she expands on the process with succulents and talks about other fun ideas with topiary.

Living Wall-Ripley Garden

If other visitors are anything like me, they’ll want to take a rest in the shade after walking the mall on a hot summer day. And how lovely is this resting spot, with its chartreuse obelisk-decked planters flanking it?

Benches & Obelisks- Ripley Garden

Once again, we see Janet’s plant combination skills, with this ‘Frosted Curls’ carex punctuating a bed of luscious Asarum splendens.

Carex comans-'Frosted Curls' & Asarum splendens-Ripley Garden

Look at this spectacular border: who said there aren’t a lot of plants for shady areas?

Shade border-Ripley Garden

Gazing back under the old American elms (they had been there for decades when Hugh Jacobson designed the raised beds around them), I felt that I could have spent hours in the Ripley Garden, marvelling at plant combinations and chatting with Janet Draper. But the United States Botanic Garden beckoned and it was still a good walk east towards the Capitol building. Reluctantly, I headed out into the heat and crowds of the National Mall.

American elms &-path-Ripley Garden

Allan Gardens – Christmas 2017

It’s beginning to look a lot like…..peacocks? That’s right. At Toronto’s Allan Gardens, it’s beginning to look a lot like a beautiful peacock feathered with colourful succulents will be ready to strut his stuff well in advance of the Christmas Season.  I was there yesterday and got a sneak peek from gardener Mikkel Schafer, who is the designer of this year’s feature topiary (see my video below)  Made of colourful flowers of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana and various echeverias…..

Allan Gardens-Succulent Peacock-Christmas 2017

…. the big bird is preening himself amongst the alocasias and bananas in the grand Palm House, the glass-domed centre of the five-glasshouse structure.

Allan Gardens-Palm House-banana

Mikkel was still working on the peacock’s neck, which is made from pine cone scales and leaves of silver dollar plant (Xerosicyos danguyi).

Allan Gardens-Succulent Peacock neck-Christmas 2017

I loved the kalanchoe ‘eyes’ in his tailfeathers, below.

Allan Gardens-Succulent Peacock-kalanchoe and echeveria eyes

In the Tropical House, below, the succulent Christmas tree was already finished and standing in its place of honour amidst the bromeliads. It will greet many visitors when this year’s edition of the Allan Gardens Christmas Flower show opens on Sunday December 3rd, with seasonal music from noon to 4 pm. The floral displays will be in place through the holiday season daily from 10 am to 5 pm until January 7, 2018.

Allan Gardens-Succulent Tree-Christmas 2017

Look at the detailed work here…..

Allan Gardens-Succulent Tree-echeveries and kalanchoes

Mikkel posed with his topiary moose in the Temperate House.  Its antlers are encrusted with mosses and lichens.

Mikkel Schafer-Allan Gardens-Topiary Moose

This mossy tree in the Temperate house…..

Allan-Gardens-Mossy-Tree-Ch

….is hung with decorations, like these cool silvery ornaments made from the velvety leaves of lambs’ ears (Stachys byzantina).

Allan Gardens-Lambs Ears Christmas ornament

This one is fashioned from the dark seedheads of blackeyed susans (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’).

Allan Gardens-Rudbeckia seedhead Christmas ornament

Spiced orange pomander balls deck this topiary tree made from the leaves of red oak (Quercus rubra).

Allan Gardens-Red oak leaf & spiced orange pomander ball topiary tree

The pool in the Temperate House is a favourite destination for many, especially little kids counting the goldfish. It’s edged with azaleas this week.

Allan Gardens-Pool & Fountain

Head down into the Tropical Landscape House where…..

Tropical Lanscape House-Allan Gardens

….. apart from the usual gorgeous blossoms like hibiscus….

Hibiscus-Allan Gardens

….. there is a trio of Cryptanthus-adorned topiary trees under the magnificent cycad.

Allan-Gardens-Tropical

The Arid House will look like a sparkly yuletide desert by early December, when the lights are in place amidst the spectacular collection of succulents and cacti. (This photo is from a previous Christmas).

Allan Gardens-Arid House-Christmastime

I made a short video to whet your appetite for a seasonal visit to Toronto’s wonderful Allan Gardens this holiday season.  Please note, the show runs from December 3 to January 7th.

But rest assured, if you miss seeing all the beautiful Christmas touches, like this lovely wreath in the Tropical House…..

Allan Gardens- Christmas Wreath-2017

…Allan Gardens Conservatory is a cozy, leafy oasis throughout Toronto’s long winter months when a parade of flowering bulbs, tropical blossoms and spring bulb flowers beckons. Do make a date to go!

Allan Gardens-Tropical Array

In the Garden with Barbara & Howard Katz

Barbara Katz and I became Facebook friends a few years back, drawn to each other by our mutual love of colour combinations in plant design and also our great admiration for Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. In fact, it was on Barbara’s recommendation and with her introduction that Piet was commissioned to design a meadow garden for Delaware Botanic Gardens, being planted this fall. So it was with great anticipation that I made plans to attend the 2017 Garden Bloggers’ Fling in the Washington DC Capitol Region, a 3-day event that included a tour of Barbara & Howard Katz’s Bethesda, Maryland garden. We even decided to have dinner in a Washington restaurant before the tour, meeting face to face for the first time. (Our husbands got along famously too!)  And when our bus pulled up on Barbara’s street a few days later, it was easy to see which house was theirs for Barbara and Howard, an architect, were there waiting to welcome us.

Barbara & Howard Katz-Bethesda

But even if they hadn’t been out front, we would have known the house. Their luscious front garden (below) presented a welcome right at the street with a generous bed of summer perennials, carex grasses and succulents arrayed around an old ‘Halka’ honeylocust tree. Barbara, who has 30 years experience in garden design with her company London Lanscapes LLC, said that this bed, installed in mid-April while creating a new flagstone path, gave the front a needed facelift and some interest and pleasure for passersby. It was also a way to reduce the amount of front lawn and provide a buffer against dogs and snow.  But most important, as a plantswoman: “I needed MORE space to play with plants.”  Not surprisingly for a designer who knows how to use colour, there is a clever and subtle use of red flowers in this garden – the gaillardia at front and the echinacea in the rear – that carries the eye up and back toward the red chairs on the porch, the oxblood-red door, the red window shutters and even the Japanese maple.

Barbara Katz-Street Garden & House

Barbara worked the soil in the street garden to make it free-draining. “It gets baked in the afternoon,” she said, “So now I can use plants I hadn’t been able to before” (like the yuccas, below).

Sun-loving plants-Barbara Katz

I adored the beautiful iron scroll edging – staking out the property line with airy elegance. Barbara found it online at Wayfair

Gaillardia-Barbara Katz

The ‘Blue Boa’ anise hyssop (Agastache hybrid) was attracting lots of bumble bees.

Bumble bee-Agastache 'Blue Boa'

The veranda, below, is everything a good front porch should be: an attractive welcome for visitors, a well-appointed anteroom to the house itself and a place to relax comfortably with a view of the garden and street. Too often we restrict our seating areas to the privacy of a back yard where none of the neighbours can spot us reading a newspaper or sipping a glass of wine. But why?  A covered veranda is a sanctuary in the rain and obviously has a completely different outlook on life (and the neighbourhood) than the sitting areas we create out of view. Let’s tote up the good things about Howard’s and Barbara’s version. But first of all, a little background. When Barbara first saw this house, it was as a designer for the owner, who would have her redo the entire garden, including the complex topographical challenge at the back (more on that later). The year was 1995; the garden was installed in 1996. Fast forward six years and the house was for sale and Barbara and Howard bought it, including the garden she’d designed, worked with over the years, and come to love. As for the veranda, it was bigger then, with small wooden posts and railing, and a concrete bases and steps. Howard needed an office, so they took half the veranda and incorporated it into the house; removed the railing; used Azek (a plastic-wood product) to make the posts chunkier; rebuilt the steps to give them generous 18-inch treads with stone risers; then refaced everything with stone veneer. Add some Arts & Crafts lights, pots of easy-care succulents (can we get a cheer for iron plant stands?), a few handsome pieces of sculpture; and comfy chairs and it’s one of the prettiest makeovers ever.

Veranda-Barbara & Howard Katz

All the succulent containers, by the way, are Howard’s creations. He was born in South Africa where many succulents are native; they add their own textural note to Barbara’s herbaceous side of the ledger.

Succulents-Howard Katz-3

Wouldn’t you like to fall asleep in one of these Adirondack rockers? And another little colour tip, courtesy of the glazed green pots (as devotees of the artist’s colour wheel know): red and green are complementary contrasts and they always combine nicely with each other. I can only imagine how beautiful this foundation planting must look as the Japanese maples turn colour in autumn!

Adirondack Rocker-Barbara Katz

Let’s head around to the back, passing a little treasure trove of Howard’s succulents as we go.

Succulent collection-Howard Katz

The back garden is where the challenge lay for Barbara when she first saw it more than two decades ago. With a 12-foot elevation change from the back door up to the property line, it called for creative terracing. In the photo below, (when I got home, I realized I didn’t have a workable shot of the slope and asked Barbara to take a photo, which shows one side), you can see how beautifully the rich tapestry of perennials and low evergreens creates a frame for the cascading water feature.

Slope-Barbara Katz

In my experience, a designer who loves plants and knows how to combine them while also mastering the art of hardscaping is a rare individual. Barbara is skilled at both. Plants with purple, white and orange flowers and leaves are on one side….

Slope-Plantings-Barbara Katz

…including this butterscotch combination of carex and heuchera with peach echinacea and anise hyssop….

Heuchera & Carex-Barbara Katz

….while blues, yellows, pinks and maroons (below) are on the other side….

Echinacea & Coleus-Barbara Katz

…. along with a cool-green pairing of heuchera and euphorbia….

Euphorbia & Heuchera-Barbara Katz

But it’s the stone workmanship on the hillside that really impresses me. Let’s climb up the stairs, which have an excellent tread:riser ratio that makes navigating the slope easy…

Stairs-tread to riser ratio-Barbara Katz

We’ll pass some more of Howard’s delectable succulent confections on the way, like this one…

Succulents-Howard Katz-2

….and this one….

Succulents-Howard Katz-1

…. as well as a more traditional container, below.

Pot-Brugmansia-Barbara Katz

Halfway up, we’ll stop on the cool little grassed terrace, the only lawn in the back garden, with a sophisticated edging of boxwood and….. .

Lawn Terrace-Barbara Katz

…shade-tolerant plants above and below the sinuous retaining wall that supports the top terrace. The wall is impressive, and features little plants tucked into the crevices.

Retaining Wall-Barbara Katz

Even Howard’s succulent container is green.

Jade Plant-Katz

Reach the top, enter past the tall plume poppy (Macleaya cordata), and you’re rewarded with a cool rest in the gazebo with its green mosaic-tile-topped table, green mosaic candle-holder and green-cushioned chairs.

Gazebo-Barbara Katz

The woman knows colour!

Barbara Katz-Mosaic table

I’m not sure how many people would take note of this small detail, but for me it stood out as a superb way of disguising the necessary nuts-and-bolts of slope retention. The concrete block wall between the Katz property and the one behind them has been stained dark green – and presto! it vanishes. Well, except for the sweet little plaque to pretty it up. That airy iron trellis above it is Howard Katz’s effort to keep leaf-munching deer from leaping from the neighbour’s garden into theirs.

Stained Concrete Block Wall-Barbara Katz

There are lovely little touches of art in the garden, like this ‘bluebottle fly’….

Bluebottle Fly Art-Barbara Katz

And a wire grasshopper, among many other pieces.

Grasshopper Art-Barbara Katz

But the big focal point in the back garden is the terraced water feature. From the stone patio behind the house, this is what it looks like gazing up the slope.

Waterfall-lower-Barbara Katz

There are tropical waterlilies in the pool at the bottom, and goldfish.

Waterlily & goldfish-Barbara Katz

Climb back up those stairs a little, and you see how it courses down the rocks, mimicking a natural waterfall….

Waterfall-upper-Barbara Katz

…with a bubbling fountain in the very highest pool, below. Barbara wanted the effect of a series of birdbaths down the slope and it worked perfectly, since the Katz garden is now on the migration route of myriad birds, both spring and fall.

Fountain-Barbara Katz

I would have loved to linger a little, perhaps in the comfy seating near the house. Doesn’t the soft kiwi green look gorgeous with the sage green of the wall?

Sitting area-Barbara Katz

But it was time to get on the bus and head to our next garden.  Thank you Barbara and Howard, for your generosity and creativity. You are both inspiring!

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.