Thursday, July 12, 2007
A Garden Symphony
If a garden were a symphony, gray and silver foliage plants would be the rests--the spaces of silence that help frame the music. Amid the cacophony of color, these lovely foliage plants are a refreshing change of tempo. The spots of silence they create in the garden help accentuate the brilliant blooms and vibrant hues of their neighbors. Foliage Among the Flowers For centuries, gardeners have relied on gray and silver foliage plants in their flower borders. For example, the famous English gardener, Vita Sackville-West's "White Garden" at Sissinghurst, England is probably one of the best examples of how silver and gray plants can be used effectively. In her border, she used a variety of white-blooming perennials, such as delphinium, roses, verbena, and lupines punctuated with mounds of silver foliage plants such as artemesia, Allium senescens, and Salvia argentea. In his book, Gardening at Sissinghurst, Tony Lord describes this garden as "the most renowned of all of Sissinghurst's component areas, the White Garden is an essay in the use of flowers and foliage among a feast of fragrances. Our attention is focused primarily on these while colour, provided by the subtle interplay of leaves in shades of green, is relegated to a secondary role." The white garden is a favorite among gardeners who, during the workweek, visit their garden only at dusk. The white flowers and silver foliage extend the view, and look simply celestial in the drenching of light from a full moon. Subtle Softness Silver and gray-leafed plants are often furry or woolly and absorb light rather than reflect it as glossy, green leaves do. The visual effect created is a more muted look wherever these plants are placed. The foliage of 'Silver Carpet' lamb's ears (stachys) are a visual as well as tactile treat. No one that encounters their velvety green-gray leaves can help but lean down to rub them between their fingers. Because lamb's ears evoke this intimate response, they are an ideal plant for edgings or borders. Lamb's ears thrive in a sunny spot and do best in well-drained soil. Visual Referees Gray and silver foliage plants provide a visual break between large masses of competing colors. You can also use low-growing silver-leafed plants to edge a bold border, to help keep the color in bounds. For example, plant 'Munsted' or 'Hidcote' lavender beneath roses--the glossy foliage and bright blooms of the classic rose shine next to a spray of dusty lavender leaves. Or, use lavender along a path to light the way--lavender lines the paths of some of the greatest gardens on earth.