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Display the family silver.

Create something different in your garden with a splash of ethereal, atmospheric silver 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 forget-me-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.
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Publication:Chester Chronicle (Chester, England)
Date:Jul 18, 2019
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