If you find a grey plant, especially if it is fuzzy, you have a plant that is water saving.  The fuzzy hold moisture so that it can not evaporate easily.  So I planted a number of grays in the parkway, bounded by the driveway, the street, and a sidewalk.  They do fine.  Most of them are not heavy bloomers so for spring I have a clump of hyacinth bulbs that must like dry summer as they have been there for 5 years.

            Artemesia species are also known as Mugwort, Sagebrush, and Wormwood. “ Powis Castle ” may get 24 inches tall and is one of my favorites.  It is rather woody and may be 24 inches across with featherly leaves.  The flowers are not much to brag about so I cut them off. Since it is listed for zone 7, I usually take several cuttings in the fall.  They will root easily and be a nice sized plant by May.  However, many years the original plant will survive.  We had no snow cover this last winter and I always shovel snow on top of my plants so last winter it did not survive.  I had a Yucca in there but it was spreading so fast I tried to take it out and replace it with one of the cuttings. As you might guess on July 11th there were 2 new Yucca plants coming up.  Another Artemesia “Sea Foam” grows foamy grey curls only about 8 inches high.  For me it is very sensitive to a rainy spring and lives only about 2 years.

          Antennaria species (also called Cats Ears or Pussy-toes) forms a mat only 1-2 inches high with flowers on very short stems that I cut off. It is a native of Nebraska so likes hot and dry areas.  It even crept over the sidewalk for some space.  It is recommended for rock gardens or in wall crevices. It is so named because its fuzzy blooms look like an upside down cat’s foot (small one).

          Lamb’s Ears (Stachys) will take over space if it doesn’t get watered too much.  The leaves are big, soft, and fuzzy. One of the neighbor kids likes to come and pet them.  The flowers are not especially pretty so I generally cut them off.  In nature they are found in rocky hills, wastelands, and dry banks so are ideal for rock gardens. There are 2 different size leaves.  Stachys byzantine (sold as Big Ears) can get 18 inches tall but tends to lean over.  It is also known as Wooly Betony with leaves 4 inches across and 10 inches long.

-        A new grey this summer is Dwarf Silver Leaf Sage (Salvia daghestanica). Deer or rabbits are said not to like it. It hugs the ground until ready to bloom with bright blue spikes of flowers. So far it is spreading quite rapidly but may slow down now that summer heat has struck.  At the edge of all this grey I have a number of red Carpet Roses. 

          Some years I have had Silver Mound (Artemisia schmidtiana). Supposedly a perennial, it lasts just one or two years for me and as the summer goes on it tends to get a bare center spoiling the silver pillow it had in the spring. Since my grey garden is in the parkway, I have to limit plants that do not grow very tall.  Sweet Annie, whose stems are used to make wreaths, and Tarragon would like that area, but grows to 4 feet tall.

          Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) clumps of grass edge one side of the garden and is quite blue but goes in well with the grays. After a couple years it does, as many other clump grasses will do, and that is it dies out in the middle and needs to be replaced or dug up in the spring and cut into pieces.

          In the spring the nurseries and garden centers have any number of silver plants, most of which are annuals.  Depending upon the form of leaf you like, the bare spaces can be filled in.

          Mixed in with the others in one bed, I have a blond! Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa species) when they bloom have small, soft, 6 inch wide up to 15 inches tall clumps that blow in the wind like a blond head of hair. They like hot and dry too. Sometimes the clumps will live over winter but they also seed around a bit.  Lack of snow cover was hard on them last winter so I had to wander around to find the babies and bring them back.  Sometimes called Needle Grass or Spear Grass, they stand up in the snow all winter.

          This year I have a plant I haven’t had for several years, Jobs Tears (Coix lacryma). The seeds are big, hard, and shiny. They become pearly grey when mature, and are often used in necklaces or rosaries.  It must be started after frost and requires a hot summer.  I started the seeds inside under lights after soaking them all night in warm water.  They will grow to 3 feet tall with seeds 1/2 inch long.  They are tear drop in shape and are fairly easy to string end to end as they have a hole down the middle that is easily opened with a needle. Kids love to make jewelry from the seeds. 

Copyright 2009




          A number of people have asked me, “Why do I have crabgrass now in late July and early August when I put crabgrass preventer on in March?” There are three possible reasons why:

1. Pre-emergent products must be watered in thoroughly (at least ½ inch) within 24 hours to be effective. The sun will break down the chemicals if not watered in.

2. If a pre-emergent was put on in March, it was applied about a month too early and by the 4th of July was worn out and the crabgrass started growing.

3. The pre-emergent crabgrass preventer may have been put on at the right time and watered in, but some products keep working longer than others. Products with Balan or Benefin (Team) as the active ingredient, has a residual or lasts only about 60 days. The same with Pendimethalin (Scotts Halts and Miracle Gro Pre-emergent). Barricade (Earl May Crabgrass Preventer with Barricade and Ferti-lome Crabgrass Pre-emergent with Barricade) lasts about 90 days.

          Next year, do not apply the pre-emergent until mid to late April as crabgrass does not usually germinate until about May 1st. Then use a product with a long residual. If you want to make sure you have season long control, put on an application of pre-emergent without fertilizer the first couple of weeks in June . This will give you control for the rest of the summer. This second application in June will also help to control spurge and foxtail as they do not germinate until early to mid-June.

Copyright 2009