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As I sit in my garden, l look around all the plants, to see what flowers are blooming and how the ferns and shrubs are developing and unfurling their leaves or producing buds.
I listen to the wind rustling the trees beyond my fence, hear the planes passing overhead, watch the bees and butterflies gathering pollen, the squirrels scuttling across tree branches, and the birds flying around.
We used to get flocks of sparrows, but that's a thing of the past, and they seem to have deserted London, and possibly the whole of the UK a few years ago. Instead, nesting in the trees are blackbirds and magpies, with pigeons coming to visit. And for the first time in 2019 we even had a flock of green parakeets taking over the airways. All very calming and relaxing.
And then I begin to think about how I can make the garden better, and this is what got me thinking about the importance of foliage.
- Euphorbia or Mediterranean Spurge
- Lychnis or Rose Campion
- Snow-in-Summer or Cerastium
- Stachys (Lamb's Ears)
I've kept the list short to hold your attention, but you might like my companion article if you want to read about more silver leaf plants: Add Contrast to Your Garden With Silver Foliage
This is an easy-care evergreen perennial plant which seeded itself in my garden from a neighbour's garden. Some species of spurge are very invasive (although easy to pull out). But although I have had this one in my garden for about four years, I haven't had an invasion at all—in fact, quite the opposite. I would have liked a few euphorbia plants grouped together rather than a few single plants dotted here and there, but I was unlucky, and that's all I've got.
Euphorbia prefers good drainage and full sunlight but grows quite well in half shade. It is drought tolerant and will grow in poor soil.
Mediterranean spurge (its other name) has tall stems and reaches a height of about 4 feet (120 cm) and a spread of 3 ft (90 cm). It should be handled with care, as it exudes a sticky sap called latex—which is toxic to animals and humans if ingested and is a skin irritant as well. Make sure you wash your hands after touching any sap, just to be on the safe side.
This is one of my favourite plants. I just love the spectacular cerise-coloured flowers contrasted against the bright silvery leaves and stems. The flowering period is June to August.
Lychnis is a low-maintenance plant. But to prolong flowering, you need to deadhead it to prevent seeding and thus encourage production of more flowers. As it is a short-lived perennial or biennial, it is useful to collect some of the seeds to plant later.
It will grow in any well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade and is improved by adding fertilizer to the soil. It grows 2–3 ft (60–90 cm) tall and spreads to around 18 inches (150 cm).
Snow-in-summer, as it is usually called, is an evergreen groundcover plant that will grow in any well-drained soil—even in very poor, dry soil where other plants would not flourish. It is low maintenance and very drought tolerant. It only flowers from May to June, but the evergreen silver leaves are so pretty that it looks good all year round.
The plants grow to 6–12 in (15–30 cm) when mature, with a spread of 12–18 in (30–45 cm). They look lovely in a rockery, in crevices or at the front of flower borders.
Unfortunately, they are very invasive and can take over a large area within a year, so be warned. The roots are not particularly deep, so it's actually quite easy to remove any plants you don't want. Having said that, however, I got so fed up with trying to keep mine under control that in the end I got rid of it altogether. But I still have pangs of regret when I walk past other gardens where it is growing.
It's self-evident why this herb is also known as lamb's ears when you see and feel their soft, hairy texture. These low-maintenance plants prefer a sunny position or part shade, in well-drained soil. They will tolerate poor soil and drought.
If they are the flowering species, they flower in late spring to early summer. Many people cut off the flowers to encourage bushier leaf growth, as these plants are often chosen for their attractive leaves rather than the flowers. Some of them don't flower at all though.
They grow to a height of 6–8 in (15–20 cm) or 12–18 in (30–45 cm) when flowering, with a spread of 12 in (20 cm).
Because stachys is low-growing, it is useful as an edging plant at the front of your flower borders or as groundcover.
Lavender is an easy-care herb. It needs full sun and well-drained soil and can withstand drought conditions. I have found to my cost that it prefers light sandy soil rather than my London clay.
The photograph above shows French lavender, which is larger than English lavender, growing to about 2–3 ft (0.5–1 m) in width and height. In the UK, it flowers from May to September if deadheaded. It needs to be pruned after flowering to prevent it from becoming woody. It should be cut back to within an inch (2 cm) of the last year's growth, making sure that there is a green shoot left from which it will grow. If cut back so that only the old wood is left, it may not regrow.
It has a pungent easily identifiable smell and is used for aromatherapy and various perfumes and essences.
The tool above is officially called a "weeding trowel", but I use it for most of my planting as well.
In my opinion, because it is long and thin, it's easier to dig down deep with this tool rather than using a traditional trowel. So when I'm putting in my beautiful silver-leafed plants, this is my tool of choice.
© 2019 Diana Grant
RoadMonkey on January 12, 2020:
Love the look of the Lambs' Ears. I haven't tried that. I have tried lavendar but not with any success. Maybe I will try again.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 03, 2019:
We were planting last weekend our various pots in the cottage and adding silvery leaves really made them more beautiful. our daughter-in-law was so particular about the colours she included and she did a terrific job.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 03, 2019:
Marlene Bertrand: Remember that when describing Lamb's Ears, my words were "If they are the flowering species..." so when you grow some new ones, be careful to get the flowering type. I must confess that I've never seen them flowering, and learned something new when I got the photo from Wikipedia.
Marlene Bertrand from USA on July 02, 2019:
Lavender is a plant that I enjoy having throughout my property. I absolutely love the look and feel of the Lamb's Ears. They were planted in the back yard of a house I purchased years ago, but they never flowered the whole time I was there. Now that I see the blooms I think they are gorgeous and your article has prompted me to try growing them in my garden again.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 02, 2019:
Funnily enough, I don't much like the smell of lavender and never buy products scented with lavender, but I do like the lavender plant itself - very decorative
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on June 30, 2019:
Love the silver leafed Lavender. Now that is a plant that I would love to add into our yard if we had more room. Beautiful and the scent would be so relaxing.