Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Garden ghosts

Nothing complements a flowery garden quite like plants with grey or silver foliage. Small plants and shrubs act as a foil to bright flower colours, helping to bring the disparate shades into harmony. Sometimes, though, we want a shrub or tree to act as a focal point and nothing draws the eye quite like silver foliage.

If you have a large garden and would like a feature palm, you cant go past the striking Bismarck palm Bismarckia nobilis. Its a fan palm, with huge silvery leaves that make a bold statement. When young, it will take up lots of room, but it will eventually form a smooth grey trunk up to 10 metres tall, leaving space beneath for other plants. Bismarck palms like full sun and well-drained soil.

In a smaller garden, you might like to grow an olive tree. Although the upper side of the olive leaf is dull green, the underside is silvery and the trunk is pale. Overall, the olive has an attractive pale presence in the garden, and the flashing leaves look wonderful when they are tossed by the wind. Olives (Olea europa) have many named varieties, most of which need more cold than our climate offers in order to flower and bear fruit. Check the chill requirement of any variety you want for fruiting very carefully.

The felt or velvet plant Kalanchoe beharensis is a great choice to give a bit of height to small gardens and courtyards. It grows up to three metres tall eventually and forms an attractive candelabra shape. The large pale leaves are covered with silvery hairs, making the felt plant very drought tolerant, so its suitable for hot spots and well-drained soil. Treat it exactly like smaller succulents full sun, no extra water (once established) and no fertiliser.

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