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What color will you try this year?

Silver Falls dichondra is a wonderful vining plant for hanging baskets or patio containers. John Zvirovski / The Sun

My creative edge is in full swing now that the month of January is nearly over. To me the cold is not a hindrance as much as it is a good time to take out my notebook and jot down all the ideas in my mind and new design elements I want to try for this year. I have found everyone gardens around their favorite color for the most part. I like to say that I don’t have a particular color that outweighs itself over any others in the garden, but that is wrong. My predominant colors tend to be bold pinks and purples with various accents. My sister adores the predominance of white and my best friend is very prone to using reds throughout the design.

Of course each year I like to try something new to gain a new appreciation for other colors. Some years orange is a stand out and others sunshine yellow tends to warm my soul and this year I think there will be a focus on the color silver.  

There really isn’t a difference between the colors of silver and gray in the landscape, it is all in the eye of the beholder. Most of the color derives from the leaves and stems of the plants. Each year I enjoy planting Silver Falls dichondra as it reminds me of the Spanish moss in the south. With its long silver vining stems in pots, they create an amazing display.

Dusty miller is another one of my favorites for borders. It comes in a thick leaf and a fine lacey leaf that always looks so delicate. The plant grows to 12-15” wide by the same tall. In rare years this plant will develop small yellow flowers, but that is typically when it is allowed a long hot season.

Annual eucalyptus is a nice accent for container plantings when you are looking for something tall. In the fall time, the long stems can be cut for drying and using in doors. Although not as strong scented as the clumps sold from trees, this still has a nice mild aroma.

Licorice vine is another nice add-in to planters, especially when used with bold colored plants to really set off its unique coloring.

Silver sage is one of my favorites that is perennial in warmer regions but is borderline here. It has thick grey wooly leaves that grow from a central rosette. They only reach about a foot tall and wide. Russian sage is a much more common perennial that can reach 18 inches to as tall as 4 feet depending on the variety selected. Its lavender flowers really set themselves off combined with the silver foliage.

Lavender is a perennial that many people want but few people grow as it doesn’t always come back from one year to the other. The hardiest for our area is Munstead with its grey needle-like foliage and small lavender blooms that are perfect for picking and drying.

Artemesia is another beautiful silver leaved plant. One of the originals that made a smash in the landscape world a few decades back was called Silver Mound. A beautiful soft mound of ferny foliage that reached up to 3 feet wide by about a foot tall. Artemesia stelleriana is a large leafed upright plant that is quite stately in the middle to the back of the garden.

Sugar Frosting and Silver Gumdrop coral bells are nice perennials that make the shady spots shine. Jack Frost brunnera and various lungwarts will also add to the brightness of your shady areas and they remain rounded throughout the season. All three types get small delicate flowers in various shades.

Lambs Ears is a wonderful soft grey foliage plant that slowly spread and reaches about 24 inches tall. Children love to rub the leaves against their face because they are so soft to the touch. They eventually develop lavender flowers. Firewitch dianthus develops beautiful hot pink flowers and Snow in Summer is an excellent ground cover of silver foliage and white blooms.

If you are a fern fanatic, try experimenting with Japanese Painted Ferns with their burgundy accents and silver veining. These look amazing in front of darker leafed ferns or among the hostas.

Color, regardless which ones strikes your pallet, there is one for everyone. Silver is not the first item people talk about in the garden until they see it paired well with other colors. You may want to try this color as an accent this year, or maybe there is another color you want to try for the season that you haven’t dared try or one in which you need a new appreciation.

Remember that gardening is part experiment and part experience, but above all it should always be fun. During these cold days of winter, let’s enjoy a few warm thoughts of summer.