FIRE & ICE
Team aromatic ever-greys with flamboyant flowers, foliage, stems and berries
Autumn’s fiery foliage teams well with ice-cool silver foliage plants. These aromatic ever-greys are mainly Mediterranean so they need an open, sunny site in summer. Don’t cut them back before winter bites; their foliage provides interest as it fades to icy white. Culinary sage, Salvia officinalis, comes in many forms, but the most substantial is large-leaved ‘Berggarten’. The thickly textured grey-green foliage is rounder and the flowers spikes larger and paler. Use with a purple-leaved sage from the Purpurascens Group and you’ll get a crisp contrast of damson and stainless steel. You can also create silver roundels with later-flowering lavandins (Lavandula intermedia). They’re not as hardy as English lavender, but produce tall stems topped by tapering flowers above rounded bushes. In winter the felted foliage of L. intermedia Dutch Group looks almost white. Cotton lavender also forms a fine mound and Santolina pinnata neapolitana ‘Edward Bowles’ has finely divided foliage and cream summer flowers. To form round mounds, trim both lightly in spring. For something more upright, Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’ is a wormwood with jagged foliage, while Russian sage, perovskia ‘Blue Spire’, provides a steely octopus of white, downy stems covered in mid-blue flowers. The best winter skeleton of all, it’s hardy and can tolerate damper positions. For a front-of-the-border silver, Euphorbia myrsinites has prostrate stems topped with lime-green clusters in spring. Into this icy sea of silver, drop an infusion of colour from later-flowering perennials, such as garnet-flowered penstemon ‘Andenken en Friedrich Hahn’, dark-leaved hylotelephium ‘Purple Emperor’, Verbena bonariensis or dark dahlia ‘Karma Choc’. All flower into autumn, although the dahlia will succumb in frost so you may want to fleece it on cold nights. Colourful shrubs also work well behind a swathe of silver plants and low-growing spindle Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ colours up to lipstick-pink in September, while Siberian dogwood Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ displays warm-red stems. Or, use rose hips: the modest, cocoa-brown flagons of arching grey-leaved Rosa glauca, or large, round almosttangerine hips of lower growing Rosa rugosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’.
Scarlet-stemmed cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ fizzes against a cool sea of silveryblue Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Pinus mugo ‘Carsten’s Wintergold’
❤ CFalupfftiyonPein nhiesreetum villosum with pthlaeesteracpapytiolenaivnes of Phormium htenreax Purpureum Group
Glycyrrhiza yunnanensis seedheads against a backdrop of deschampsia ‘Goldtau’
Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’