How To

Grey matter in the garden

Echium Plants in the Garden

Grey-leafed plants add light touches to the garden and provide welcome relief from the usual abundance of green. It’s worth remembering, however, that the grey colouring on the leaves is often the result of a layer of hairs or wax that’s evolved to protect the plants from extreme conditions such as heat, drought and salt spray. With such tough backgrounds, many grey and silver-leafed plants prefer open conditions with extra-good drainage. As well, some of the most popular come from the Mediterranean and also enjoy a once-a-year sprinkling of Yates Garden Lime. Here are some favourites:

Lavender is one of the most popular grey-leafed plants. The choice of varieties seems endless but all appreciate a relatively neutral pH and regular trimming to promote fresh growth. Lavenders can be produced quite cheaply. They grow readily from cuttings, while the semi-dwarf Lavender Munstead is found in the Yates seed range.

Catmint is another grey-leafed perennial that can be grown from a seed packet. Catmint’s often used as a ground cover near roses where its soft mounds provide a contrast to the rose’s upright growth.

Olives, with their silvery-grey foliage, make handsome potted specimens. Grow in full sun, mulch with a layer of pebbles, dress annually with lime and watch for pests like scale.

Agave attenuata is a succulent that was totally neglected a generation ago but has now come firmly back into fashion. It’s a traditional ‘granny’ plant that’s easily propagated from stem cuttings. Grow in a raised garden bed or a large pot and feed with Acticote Pots, Planters & Garden Beds.

Bearded irises have upright-growing, sword-shaped leaves with a blue-grey colouring. Their spring blooms come in a colour array that covers almost the entire spectrum. Split up crowded clumps after flowering and make sure the top of the swollen roots is exposed to the sunlight.

Globe artichokes provide background drama in a garden bed, especially in cold climates. The spiky-leafed plants glisten in the sun and add a foil to the large mauve, thistle-like blooms. These are delicious when eaten in the bud stage.

Germander (Teucrium fruticans) is often used as a clipped hedge. The hairy coating on the lives provides a layer of protection, so germander is often used in seaside gardens.

Another widely grown, grey-leafed coastal plant is the Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans – pictured). Its purple-blue flower spikes are irresistible to bees, helping to encourage these important pollinators into the garden during the spring blossom season. Remove spent flowers to prevent seeding.


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