Caleb Melchior is living the prairie dream as a graduate landscape architecture student. He looks forward to the day when he, once again, has a garden of his own in which to grow all the plants that catch his eye and tickle his fancy.

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Shining Silvers
by Caleb Melchior       #Feature   #Landscaping

When the summer sun blazes down, we humans turn into shriveled lobsters, scuttling to hide beneath beach umbrellas and lurking in the far reaches of the basement. Plants don’t have these options. Instead, over the millennia, they have adapted their physical characteristics (morphology) to deal with harsh conditions. Different species have adapted in different ways.

Many plants from the hottest, driest regions have shimmering silver foliage that reflects, rather than absorbs, the sunlight. This reflection allows the leaves to stay cool by slowing down evapotranspiration. So, when Shasta daisies have turned to toast and your hydrangeas are sadly shriveled, silver-leaved plants will be basking in the sun’s radiance.

A. ‘Dewey Blue’ switch grass, B. ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia, C. ‘Blue Dune’ grass, D. ‘Shimmer’ evening primrose, E. Cider gum eucalyptus.

The five silver-leaved plants in this flowerbed have a variety of leaf shapes and plant forms creating interest throughout the year. A few produce showy flowers for seasonal change. The two grasses, ‘Dewey Blue’ switch grass (Panicum amarum‘Dewey Blue’) and ‘Blue Dune’ grass (Leymus arenarius‘Blue Dune’), will provide a base of soft bluish-green throughout the growing season. They will also provide upright forms during the winter. The lower ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia (Artemisia‘Powis Castle’) is a full, mounding sub-shrub, which is also evergreen in mild climates. It has shimmering filigree foliage and an elegant rounded habit. The slowly-spreading evening primrose ‘Shimmer’ (Oenothera fremontii‘Shimmer’) bears flowers, like yellow tissue, above mats of long silver needles. For a contrast of shape, the tender perennial cider gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii) can be strategically used as an upright foliage accent with strange circular leaves on stems that stick out.

All five plants perform best in full sun, with well-drained soil, where they’ll shine through the garden’s hottest days and gleam in the light of the muggiest moonlit nights.

‘Dewey Blue’ switch grass

Cider gum eucalyptus

‘Shimmer’ evening primrose

‘Powis Castle’ artemisia

From State-by-State Gardening January/February 2014. Photos courtesy of Caleb Melchoir.


Posted: 04/07/14   RSS | Print


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