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Gray and Silvery Foliage

The gray and silver-leaved plants are also important in color compositions. They add charm independent of their blossoms. In background plantings, they lighten heavy or monotonous masses of dark green, and at the same time they heighten the effect of distance. In the border, they bring conflicting colors into pleasing relationship.

Mrs. Wilder wrote of these: "But of all the colored leaved plants and shrubs none is so really beautiful and so entirely indispensable as those that wear the silvery or bluish tones. These fill a place in the garden that no other plants can fill; among the gay garden flowers, the trails and mounds and breadths of soft neutral foliage soothe our color-excited nerves and give us great aesthetic pleasure. ... To be wholly effective, these sober-hued plants should be used with a fairly lavish hand, not dotted about among gayer colors where their quiet sway would scarcely be felt."

Gray-foliaged plants are more effective with light-tinted flowers, soft lavenders, mauve, pale yellow, buff, and soft pinks. But they are also good with strong colors. Gertrude Jekyll felt that gray foliage with pink and purple flowers was so important that a whole border might be given over to such a combination. She suggested bold clumps of hollyhocks, tumbling masses of Clematis jackmanni, lavatera, globe thistle, purple and white China asters, dwarf and tall ageratum, babysbreath, deep blue and purple delphinium, double pink godetia, pink snapdragons, together with Eryngium giganteum, Thalictrum glaucum, santolina, Stachys lanata, and dusty miller (Centaurea cineraria) to be used in a composition for midsummer.

We have long used the gray-green foliages as foregrounds for compositions. There are several excellent low-growing, gray-green perennials and annuals. Some of the less compact sorts like Scotch pinks can be sheared after blooming into compact forms to accentuate the front edge of a border. Alyssum, both annual and perennial, arabis, especially the double-flowered form, Nepeta mussini, southernwood, and Veronica incana are all good gray-green edging material.


Abies concolor
Buddleia davidi
Caryopteris incana
Cedrus atlantica glauca
Chamecyparis pisifera Graymoss (squarrosa)
Eleagnus angustifolia
Hippophaë rhamnoides
Juniperus virginiana glauca
Lonicera korolkowi floribunda
Picea pungens glauca
Viburnum carlesi



Achillea umbellata
Alyssum saxatile
Androsace languinosa leichtlini
Anthemis montana
Arabis alpina
Centaurea cineraria
Cerastium tomentosum
Dianthus caryophyllus
Erynigium maritimum
Nepeta mussini
Thymus serpyllum lanuginosus
Veronica incana


Achillea tomentosa
Alyssum argenteum
Artemisia albula Silver King (annual)
Artemisia stellariana
Campanula sarmantica
Centaurea cineraria
Eriophyllum lanatum
Eryngium planum
Hosta fortunei
Lychnis coronaria
Salvia farinacea
Santolina chamaecyparissus
Senecio cineraria (Cineraria maritima)
leucostachys (Cineraria candidissima)
Stachys lanata


Elymus glaucus
Eryngium giganteum
Perovskia atriplicifolia
Rudbeckia maxima
Ruta graveolens
Thalictrum glaucum
Verbascum olympicum Miss Willmott


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