Past Articles Library | The Gray Ladies of the Garden Space
Gray is a color that many people never consider when they are involved in a garden or landscape plan. For some individuals, these silver or gray ladies, may not show much potential but their strength comes from how they hi-light other colors on the color wheel.
All of these plants listed below work well in a landscape plan as border plants.
Mullen Rose (Lychnis coronaria and cvs)
This beauty is gray-green in color that greats the spring with its spear shaped leaves. Each plant appears first as a low circular mound of leaves that is around one foot in diameter. Then, in midsummer a two-foot flower stalk appears and is topped with magenta flowers.
This plant is very disease resistant and can be started by seeds, division or basal cuttings in the early spring.
When planning on using this plant, make sure to place it in a sunny area that contains well-drained soil. For maximum impact, always plant in groups or in a mass.
Lamb’s Quarter (Stachys byzantina)
This beautiful gray lady displays her grandeur with silvery-gray foliage that is 6 to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The plant produces a 12 to 18 inch flower stalk that is topped with pinkish purple to white flowers in late spring to early summer.
Prior to using this plant, one must remember that it can be an invasive species in many areas. To prevent this from happening, always place a barrier around the plant material.
Seeds or divisions are ways by which Lamb’s quarter can be started. It more commonly moves from one place to another by root spreading.
When deciding to use this plant, always place in a soil that is well drained and located in full sun to partial shade.
While lamb’s quarter is a perennial, it does require some maintance. First, the flowers will need to be deadheaded and dead leaves will need to be removed. To reduce the rooting of the leaves, always lay down mulch. This will wick away the moisture form the soil surface and prevent the low-lying leaves from rotting on damp soil.
Another task that will need to be done is the replanting of lamb’s ear every 2 to 4 years. This is due to the fact that this plant spreads from the center out. When this happens, a dead zone is created in the center. Dividing and replanting will improve the appearance.
Due to the texture of this plant, it is a favorite of kids and in doing so can be found in many kid gardens.
Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)
The dusty miller is a gray lady that can be an annual and a biennial in USDA planting hardiness zones 9-10. It can be used in container gardens and as a border plant in both formal and informal garden spaces.
The leaves of this plant are silver-gray in color with a blunt-tip and are 6 to 8 inches long. The flower stalk is 2 1/2 to 3 inches in height and is covered with yellow blooms the second year.
In areas where the dusty miller is grown as a perennial, the plants can reach 2 to 2 1/2 feet in height. Areas where this plant is grown as an annual one can expect the plant to reach 8 to 15 inches in height and a width of 12 to18 inches.
Dusty miller is very flexible in its soil requirement. It can successfully be grown in areas where the soil is very rich and very poor but regardless of the soil type, it needs to be well drained.
While its soil requirement is very flexible, its sun requirement is not. Dusty miller can only be grown successfully in a full sun environment.
Propagating this plant is very easy and can be done by either planting seeds or stem cuttings.
The gray ladies of the garden will add texture to any garden space and can be effectively combined with any color combination. They also provide their own individual splash of color that can be the first sign of spring when they bloom or provide color when other flowers are taking some down time. So this year, give the silver headed gals a try. They will not disappoint.