Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Complete photo of dusty miller foliage, silver and fuzzy.

Dusty Miller looks great as a bedding plant (where it is often perennial) or as a mixer in a container.

Silver is not just the Lone Ranger’s horse or Maxwell’s favorite tool, it is a fantastic color for the garden.  Although not universal, most plants with silver foliage will be adapted to full sun, drought tolerant and deer resistant.  Of course, Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’, Japanese painted fern and Pulmonaria ‘Excalibur’ are examples of silver plants that will thrive in shade, but many of the plants we love for bright silver foliage are tough and sun and heat tolerant.  Consider the glory of silver brought to containers and beds by the simple Dusty Miller.  This plant is too often overlooked as a blending plant in containers.  The color is wonderful with purple fountain grass, deep purple petunias,  and others.

Ephedra equisitina is a super texture shrub with excellent drought tolerance.  Be the first on your block and others will ask you about your find.

Ephedra equisitina is a super texture shrub with excellent drought tolerance. Be the first on your block and others will ask you about your find.

Y’all know that one.  But how about these great silver plants?  Ephedra equisitina is a large drought tolerant shrub, about 6-7′ wide and 4′ tall.  The fine texture is unique in the garden, since it is composed of a myriad leafless stems.  Or, if you want a more reliably perennial form than Dusty Miller, Artemisia ‘Silver Brocade’ is a stunning groundcover that looks more like a Dusty Miller than the feathery Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’ that is another popular choice.

Artemisia 'Silver Brocade' is a perennial with silver foliage like a Dusty Miller.  A bright groundcover it is easy to manage.

Artemisia ‘Silver Brocade’ is a perennial with silver foliage like a Dusty Miller. A bright groundcover it is easy to manage.

If you have a rock wall, one of my favorite trailing plants is Teucrium haradjani.  The feather like foliage is bright silver and despite an exposed location and drought, our plants look perfect every year.  Tiring of all the dissected foliage?  Well, then get a very succulent foliage by planting a silvery agave such as Agave parryi.  Mature agaves look wonderful in the garden or in containers.  Agave parryi is hardy even into zone 5 most winters.

Bright silver foliage, very dissected and feathery texture.

Teucrium haradjani is a too little used low growing groundcover excellent trailing over a small wall.

Because the desert is full of little gems, there are so many plants to choose from for this post.  The tiniest foliage is on Gypsophila aretioides, long lasting dwarf gold flowers on Alyssum stribryni, or even the common Alyssum saxatile (Basket of Gold) is sure to please.  But I simply must show you Salvia argentea.  It has hairy silver foliage surpassed only by some of the wilder cacti, but this one is easy to grow and accessible.

The bright colors get much of the attention.   Our landscape customers rarely ask for silver plants…people ask for red, yellow, pink, purple and so on much more often.  But silver blends.  Silver survives.  Silver contrasts with deep greens and other colors.  And silver brightens the garden.  So place your bet on Silver.   Hi Ho!

Salvia argentea has amazing silver hairy leaves.  Even prior to bloom this plant entertains in the garden.

Salvia argentea has amazing silver hairy leaves. Even prior to bloom this plant entertains in the garden.

 

 

Agave parryi plant with toothed leaves.

Agave parryi is among the hardiest of the genus and has a lovely silver/blue foliage.

RED RED RED Autumn

Let's face it, when we think of red fall color we think of burning bush (Euonymus alatus 'Compacta') and maples (such as 'Autumn Blaze').  Of course, these are brilliant fall performers.  But my favorite fall performers come from many corners of the … [Continue reading]

Keeping the Nursery Well Stocked

The nursery business is seasonal.  Most customers come and make purchases in May and June.  Some come in April and July.  Only a trickle come outside of those months.  We're closed for retail browsing October-March.  That's a pretty short … [Continue reading]

How to Mulch with Bark

A couple of decades ago I learned that fine bark saves a great deal of labor.  Fewer weeds, watering is more effective, and the soil is improved over time as the bark decomposes into soil.  The warnings about the bark reducing the nitrogen in the … [Continue reading]

Buddleia: The Butterfly’s Bud

A shrub that is best friends with butterflies and hummingbirds and on the do-do list for deer, hmmm, how can that get any better?  Dare I mention rather extreme drought tolerance and beautiful flowers in a rainbow of colors?  What about a fantastic … [Continue reading]

Hot Lessons from Colorado

Colorado has been dealing with drought for several years and they have helped train the rest of us on the topic.  They have led the way in xeriscaping (drought tolerant gardening) and have introduced many of the finest plants for this purpose.  I … [Continue reading]

Summer Bake Off

We're setting records for heat and combined with our typical summer drought, we're ready for Betty Crocker to come see if we're done.  Certainly gardeners have chosen to be done with planting during this hot weather...the nursery has been very nearly … [Continue reading]

Lessons from the Wilderness

I'm a puny landscaper.  I work on tiny pieces of ground while God does the big work and the best.  So, when I'm trying to learn more about making landscapes wonderful, I go visit ones from the Master.  I also have the wonderful opportunity to go … [Continue reading]

Hummingbird Attractors

  She's little and she loves meTo my lucky dayHummingbird don't fly away...Leon Russell Not every garden is constantly visited by hummingbirds, but with the right plants, ours have been full of hummers for year after year.  You can … [Continue reading]

The Useful Hornbeam

The European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)* is a decorative and versatile stem in the garden.  This tree serves well as a street tree due to the narrow habit that won't tangle with vehicles.  It is gaining popularity locally for use in commercial … [Continue reading]