Cre­ate some­thing dif­fer­ent in your gar­den with a splash of sil­ver,

Cre­ate some­thing dif­fer­ent in your gar­den with a splash of ethe­real, atmospheri­c sil­ver

Gloucestershire Echo - - PROPERTY & LIVING - With Diar­muid Gavin

SIL­VER plants used to make me think of the brash, vel­vety off-white bed­ding which was stuffed into hang­ing bas­kets to cre­ate blunt con­trasts with darker leaves or brighter

flow­ers. When I worked in a plant shop decades ago, we used to sell plas­tic trays of Senecio cineraria by the dozen. But sil­very plants have al­ways been more in­ter­est­ing and, dare I say it, more so­phis­ti­cated than that. Just think of Siss­inghurst, where a sec­tion of the gar­den was planted only in whites and sil­vers, its beauty best ap­pre­ci­ated when viewed by moon­light. Reach­ing its peak in July, white roses, lilies, del­phini­ums, pe­onies and ere­mu­rus min­gle with mounds of sil­very artemisia, san­tolina, stachys and the sil­ver-leaved pear Pyrus sali­ci­fo­lia. I’m not ask­ing you to be mid­night gar­den­ers, but I’d be de­lighted if you’d join me to ex­plore what these light re­flec­tive beauties can do. Sil­ver or grey hues work seam­lessly with pas­tels to cre­ate a sub­tle plant­ing scheme. So in­stead of – or in ad­di­tion to – white flow­ers, you could add pale pink pe­onies, apricot roses, dusty pink fox­gloves, soft yel­low ver­bas­cums and gen­tle blue laven­ders. Or how about some re­ally dra­matic sil­ver spec­i­mens? There’s a new senecio which you may have al­ready spot­ted in bed­ding schemes. It’s called Angel Wings and its large silky leaves are al­most white in ap­pear­ance. Very strik­ing. In my gar­den I have the won­der­ful Cy­nara car­dun­cu­lus, or car­doon, which has huge deeply cut sil­ver leaves and a flower stem that can reach 6ft with large buds that look like ar­ti­choke flow­ers. These open to be­come a pur­ple this­tle-like flower at­tract­ing bees in droves – a won­der­ful peren­nial spec­i­men for the bor­der. Other shim­mery favourites in­clude Astelia. This ar­chi­tec­tural peren­nial has long, sword-shaped leaves that are cov­ered with a fine sil­ver film. They set the scene beau­ti­fully and stand out strongly among other plants. Plant Astelias in large clumps if you have a big gar­den, or use them as fo­cal points to punc­tu­ate your space and lead the eye around the gar­den. To add in­ter­est and vari­a­tion to your plant­ing schemes, it’s al­ways good to in­clude dif­fer­ent tex­tures. Stachys byzantina is the classic sil­ver woolly ‘bun­nies’ ears’ that you just can’t re­sist rub­bing be­tween your fin­gers. It’s a real favourite with chil­dren and their clump­ing foliage complement­s deep green plants like anemones, helle­bores and aga­pan­thus beau­ti­fully, adding depth to plant­ing. Eryn­gium gi­gan­teum is a sea holly with steely sil­ver bracts and flow­ers – the cul­ti­var ‘Sil­ver Ghost’ is re­ally in­tense in colour. The com­mon name for this plant is Miss Will­mott’s Ghost, re­fer­ring to a gar­dener who loved this plant so much she would sur­rep­ti­tiously scat­ter the seeds of it in any gar­den she hap­pened to visit! Gen­er­ally, sil­ver-leaved plants have

a much bet­ter chance of sur­vival in poor soil con­di­tions and in times of drought. Their sur­faces are most of­ten cov­ered in fine hairs that en­able them to with­stand ex­treme heat by slow­ing down mois­ture loss, while the sil­ver de­flects the sun’s rays. This means they are a very good choice for a dry or gravel gar­den. Choices here could be laven­der, san­tolina, con­volvu­lus cne­o­rum and the curry plant, he­lichry­sum. Fi­nally, plants with sil­ver var­ie­ga­tion can do a great job in at­tract­ing light to shaded ar­eas. Brun­nera ‘Jack Frost’ is one of the best ground cov­ers for dry shade. Its lus­trous heart-shaped sil­ver leaves are ac­com­pa­nied by some bright blue for­getme-not-like flow­ers in spring. In a sim­i­lar vein, Ja­panese painted fern will also bring ra­di­ance to a wood­land plant­ing scheme, though it will pre­fer moist soil.

Eryn­gium Gi­gan­teum

Cen­tau­rea Cineraria

Cy­nara car­dun­cu­lus

Pyrus sali­ci­fo­lia ‘Pen­dula’

Artemisia ar­borescens

Stachys Byzantina ‘Bunny Ears’

San­tolina

Brun­nera ‘Jack Frost’

Senecio Angel Wings

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