Foliage Follow-up - July, 2015

Every month, after Bloom Day, Foliage Follow-up is held to highlight the real staying power of any garden, the foliage. Flowers are fleeting but foliage lasts much longer. Pam Penick of Digging hosts Foliage Follow-up, so be sure to check out her post for this month as well as the comments to leaf through posts by other bloggers (sorry for the pun, but not really).

This month I was going to do my usual random smorgasbord of foliage, but lately I've been feeding my addiction to silver foliage and decided to highlight some of the silver, grey, or blue delights that have been taking so much of my attention this year. I'm not a purist. While true, metallic, shiny silver is eminently drool-worthy, greys and blues are equally beautiful and expand the range of colors and plants available to addicts like me.

Since I began my Bloom Day post indoors, first up is a plant that is hands-down one of the best "weeds" that's ever come up in my garden, indoors or out. I bought this Phragmipedium Olaf Gruss last October. At that point, there was some evidence that there were a couple volunteer ferns growing in the pot along with the orchid. They were small and green and didn't look like much, but I left them to see what they would turn into. I've been watching them grow with increasing excitement. I'll give you a hint: I've been wanting a Phlebodium pseudoaureum and now I think I can cross it off the list!

It is a bit hard to tell with the glare of light reflecting off the leaf, but there is a definite blue bloom covering the leaf surface. There are two of them, which I just separated from the orchid the other day and potted them up individually. They are now in the greenhouse (overdue update to follow) where the increased light should intensify the blue color.

Sansevieria 'Bantel's Sensation' displays green, white, and all shades of grey-green in between, all in a low-care package demanding little water or sun, though I want it to grow and look its best so I give it as much of both as it can handle.

Like moonlight reflecting off patches of snow, the leaves of Begonia 'Moonlit Snow' earn their name and look great doing it.

Maranta leuconeura 'Silver Band' has swaths of molten silver down the center of each leaf.

Out on the deck, the metallic gold and pewter leaves of Rhododendron himantodes shine.

As do the silver leaves of Rhododendron rushforthii. Both vireyas, the above rhododendron is definitely not hardy, but R. rushforthii is hardy to 10F and has grown outside in the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden for several years now. Worth a try if you have a mild microclimate with shade and even moisture.

I'm including Cotinus 'Grace' in this post because the foliage has matured to an intriguing mix of green, purple, and blue, much more blue than I had anticipated. I love how the foliage of this fast-growing tree changes through the seasons.

The fuzzy white foliage of Arctostaphylos silvicola 'Ghostly' is one of those that is hard to get in focus, especially in bright sun. The glare on the camera screen is hard enough to deal with, but then you add in the angle of each leaf relative to the next and it becomes a very difficult feat.

It's easy to see how much this drought-tolerant shrub has grown this year by the contrast between the darker foliage from last year and the much lighter new growth. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this plant is doing, given that it is growing in terrible clay soil. However, the area was graded a few years ago so that water drains away from the house and, by extension, this bed. This is also my first summer-dry bed, where the plan is to not water at all in summer except for spot-watering new plants. Most of my garden is low-water in the summer, but I plan on doing any new areas to survive with little or no water in summer.

I purchased two Lupinus albifrons earlier this spring and planted them in the summer-dry bed. One died almost immediately, but the other has slowly been growing, putting out wonderfully silver leaves. This is one of those rare, true silvers that actually shines.

Another true silver-leaved plant, Convulvulus cneorum, also in the summer-dry bed. I planted one last year which unfortunately died, possibly due to cold, possibly due to an overflowing gutter that flooded the end of the bed it was growing in, probably some combination. But it's just too silver to resist, so I had to try again this year. This time, I planted closer to the center of the bed away from the area that flooded last year. Hopefully I have better luck this winter.

This year I've also been adding artemisias, which I had disdained for a long time, being familiar only with the leggy or more spreading kinds, the large shrubby types native to eastern Washington, and the related Jacobaea maritima (dusty miller) and not bothering to look further into the genus. What a mistake that was!

This spring, along with a hoard of other gardeners in the PNW, I was on the lookout for Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam'. When word went out that it was available at Xera, I drove down immediately and got two. I love the fine, grey foliage, which curls as it ages. My two plants are quite small, but being artemisia, they should grow fast enough to satisfy me. At least that's what I've been telling myself since visiting Loree of Danger Garden and seeing the much larger 'Seafoam' artemisias that she found at another nursery and planted in her expanded boarder. I could have bought one of those and made enough new plants from cuttings to have all the 'Seafoam' I could want. Ah, well.

The second artemisia I purchased this year is Artemisia schmidtiana, or silvermound artemisia. Though the fine, ferny foliage doesn't curl like 'Seafoam', it's a true, shining silver which 'Seafoam' can't match. I actually picked these up at Fred Meyers, on sale for a couple dollars each, and they've grown several times larger since I planted them. I've since learned that this one can be a bit of a spreader, so we'll see if it grows too fast for it's space. If so, I have lots of tougher locations where its vigor would be an asset. For now, it's growing in pretty ideal, fast-draining, loose soil in the newly-planted bed along the west side of the house. It makes a wonderful companion to the orange Carex testacea, as shown in the photo below.

The third artemisia I bought this year, which might be my favorite, is Artemisia abrotanum 'Silver', which I picked up at Cistus. This one I did take cuttings of, and now have at least five plants where I had only one before. It's a bit more upright than 'Seafoam' but has the same curly, bright grey foliage. It really makes the blooms of this Penstemon pinifolius pop.

What makes this artemisia my favorite is the subtle gold cast to the new growth, which echoes the warm olives and oranges in the Carex testacea, Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold', and Euphorbia 'Nothowlee' (a.k.a. Blackbird) that are going in the driveway island along with the artemisia. While I love the contrast of the warmer colors with the cool silvers and greys, I love even more this melding of silver and gold that bridges that gap.

I have two more plants that have silver and gold in one. Another new plant this year, also from Cistus, is Ballota pseudodictamnus, commonly called Grecian horehound. This plant is also destined for the driveway island when I get back to planting in fall.

My third silver and gold plant is one I've had for years, Alyssum spinosum. Where the last two plants combine silver and gold in their foliage, spiny alyssum has gorgeous grey foliage, deepening to blue grey in summer. The gold comes in the form of the ripe and empty seed capsules, which turn gold and, when they burst open, leave behind shiny circles like miniature versions of money plant. All my plants flower in warm whites to very pale salmon, which pair nicely with silvers and oranges, but my favorite stage of this plant is in summer, when the seed capsules have sprung open, leaving tiny golden hand mirrors shining on spiny gold branches above the blue-grey foliage. I'm planning to transplant the handful of seedlings that have volunteered over the years to the driveway island and along the west side of the house. I've also collected seed this year in the hopes that I can get more if I actually sow them rather than the one or two volunteers per year I get by letting nature take its course.

Back to new plants this year, Parahebe perfoliata also fell victim to my propagator's itch, as you can see in the photo below. It's resprouting nicely and I love the glaucous foliage. I had always assumed this plant was deciduous, but recently learned that it usually stays evergreen in our climate. So far it's loving live on the south end of the house with the yuccas and 'Ghostly' arctostaphylos.

Here we have the results of my cuttings. I now have seven Parahebe perfoliata to plant in the driveway island this fall, where their coarser texture will provide some much needed contrast to the fine foliage that has filled the bed for so long, especially in winter. They are so easy to root. Every cutting developed a strong root system. You can also see the newly-rooted Artemisia abrotanum 'Silver'. I got three well-rooted cuttings and stuck the rest in a fourth pot in the hopes that their meager root systems would continue to develop. Since they haven't died yet, I'm going to pot them up separately soon.

Also providing some courser evergreen texture in the driveway bed are these Salvia officinallis 'Berggarten'. I picked these up in 2-inch pots at Fred Meyers for less than $2 each and potted them up directly into gallons to give them ample room to grow over the summer. Hopefully by fall I'll have nice big plants to put in the driveway island. I pinched them back to encourage branching.

Two Ficus afghanistanica 'Silver Lyre' will be going out in the yard somewhere this fall. The foliage really does have a shiny silver sheen over the pale green.

Of course I can't forget my much beloved, and much photographed, grey heathers. This is an old photo. It's grown a lot since then, no less grey and fuzzy, but more challenging to photograph with satisfactory results.

 The humble bearded iris provides fans of wide, glaucous swords that look great with green and purple foliage.

 A new plant for me, Veronica spicata ssp. incana has grey foliage with bright white reverses. I'm hoping to see the 2-foot tall spikes of cobalt blue flowers by the end of summer, too, though the foliage is so gorgeous I won't be disappointed if this newly planted treasure waits until next year to bloom.

Penstemon rupicola has wonderful glaucous leaves. Now that the deer are shut out of the garden, I can photograph this plant without having to lift the protective cage of rusty chicken wire. Almost as easy to grow from cuttings as sedums, I need to get started on spreading this gem all over the garden.

 I even have grey weeds! Am I taking this new carefree attitude towards certain weeds too far? I don't even know what this one is, but it comes up here and there every year, especially here in the driveway island. This year I decided to leave them and see what they do. I actually rather like them.

One of my favorite plants this year has been this Geranium robustum. I grew this South African geranium from seed last summer and planted a couple in the garden. This one, on the south end of the house, survived and has grown rapidly with ferny, silver leaves.

 At over a foot tall and about as wide, it's now several times larger than it was last year and is stunningly gorgeous. I took cuttings and am crossing my fingers. I know we had a mild winter, but I was really pleasantly surprised that this plant survived. It was only a seedling, and I planted it late and in clay soil. The other seedling was in the flooded area with my last attempt at Convulvulus cneorum, while this one was at the other end of the bed. I also had several plants of Geranium pulchrum, also from seed, but none of them returned this year.

Well, would you look at that? I've gone overboard with another monster post. Gee, I never do that, do I? (No need to answer that.) I didn't even cover all my silver, grey, and blue plants, but I think you get the idea, right?


  1. It's hard to capture the silvery look of much foliage, as I discovered today, but I sure do love it. I'm seeing some here that must be sought out.

    1. Yes! It is so hard to do silver plants justice! Especially the true, shiny silvers like Convulvulus cneorum. So which ones caught your eye?

    2. They all have appeal, but the ones I want to actively seek are Veronica spicata, 'Silver Lyre', Artemesia abrotanum 'Silver' and Lupinus albifrons.

    3. The first and last of those I got from Xera. The second and third came from Cistus.

  2. I've avoided Artemisia as well, because of experience with a weedy one. I do like that Seafoam, though, especially with the orange Carex. I didn't know it was so easy to start cuttings from that Parahebe. I planted a bunch earlier this spring, and I wish I had more, so maybe I'll try cuttings.

    1. Actually, the artemisia with the carex is A. schmidtiana, not Seafoam. Sorry that wasn't clear. Definitely try cuttings. I just used a bit of rooting hormone, stuck the cuttings in a pot of moist perlite with a plastic bag over it with a few holes for circulation, and set the pot on a heating mat under lights. This was before the greenhouse was ready, or I wouldn't have needed the lights. So easy.

  3. You have a great collection of handsome foliage, Evan. I love that Sansevieria and I'm reminded that I must locate that Artemisia 'Seafoam'. I've grown Lupinus albifrons, which was gorgeous until it was suddenly and mercilessly brought down by an army of the most disgusting beetles I've ever seen.

    1. Thanks, Kris. Japanese beetles, or something else? Hopefully it's not something we have in Washington.

  4. Great foliage post, Evan, so many silvery plants, they surely are tempting. I was amazed with the wide variety of photos in google images of Veronica spicata ssp incana. I'll have to look for some of them.

    1. Thanks, Hannah. I'm interested in seeking out some of the different forms of that veronica, too.

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  6. Salvia officinallis 'Berggarten' is a favorite plant of mine. It is beautiful even without the flowers, and wait till you see rain droplets on it's fuzzy leafs. I've lost a gorgeous Convulvulus cneorum to winter a few years back; with our milder winters I should give it another try.

    1. I've heard some reports of Convulvulus cneorum surviving for years in Portland. My garden gets a bit cooler in winter than the city, but my temperatures are generally similar to those of Portland, so I'm giving it another shot. I think the main reason my last one died was winter flooding.

  7. I love Ficus afghanistanica 'Silver Lyre', sadly mine isn't displaying that silver sheen - or maybe I'm not looking in the right light. Will you try to propagate Lupinus albifrons? I might have some seeds, or might have done away with them all - I'll look! I brought two plants back from the Bay Area last fall, both died. I was happy to score more at Xera this spring.

    1. The figures seems to display it more on the new growth. Maybe the leaves on yours have matured more. I didn't notice the silver on the parent plant in the garden, either. Perhaps it shows develops better in bright shade than under direct sun. I'll have to try planting them in two locations to test that theory. I'd be happy to try growing Lupinus albifrons from seed. Let me know if you find them!

    2. Ah! I've been autocorrected! Curse you, tablet! Ficus, not figures.


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