Silver-White Lovelies at Waterwise

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

Waterwise Botanicals nursery in Escondido, CA has newly planted display gardens, and one includes silver-white plants.

Looking at the assortment made me wonder what legendary British designer Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) would have thought. (She created a famous white garden at Sissinghurst that people come from all over the world to see.) Sackville-West doubtless would have wanted any plants shown here that were not available at the time. We take a lot for granted when it comes to our gardens, not the least of which are new cultivars and plants bred for performance.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ is a mounding, woody perennial with fine, feathery leaves. It’s hardy in all but the coldest zones and eventually grows to 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. To keep it compact, remove flowers when the plant comes into bloom in late summer.

Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) looks a lot like Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ but isn’t as shimmery. Leaves have a marvelous scent reminiscent of curry powder. (It’s not a source of curry, which is a blend of Indian spices.) The plant produces clusters of yellow flowers from midsummer to fall. Zones 8b-11.

Like curry plant, Centaurea cineraria is a woody perennial in Zones 8b-11 and an annual elsewhere. There are several plants known as dusty miller; this one is not as common as the others but I think it’s hands-down the prettiest. The others have more finely cut leaves. Flowers usually are purple, but a white-flowering variety is available. Blooms in spring.

This succulent, Senecio haworthii, looks like it was photographed in black-and-white. It’s uncommon and I’m not finding much cultivation info on it, though I suspect it’s similar to Senecio serpens, which looks much the same except is sky blue and not fuzzy. Senecio serpens is hardy to the mid-20sF, and this one might go even lower because leaves are covered with fine fur. This will rub off with handling, exposing green leaves beneath the white—something to bear in mind if you want to keep the plant pristine. 

Leaves of Cotyledon orbiculata are about the size of the palm of your hand, and coated with a white powder that rubs off easily. Like all cotyledons, it produces gorgeous umbels of tubular red or coral flowers. Frost-tender.

Cotyledons often are confused with crassulas (jade plants) because of their similar appearance. This grayish-white jade with leaves rimmed with red is Crassula arborescens. Like the cotyledon shown above, leaves have a white pulverulence. It blooms in midwinter and is frost-tender.

White is nice, but I don’t know about you, it’s like going on a diet. Right about now, I’m feeling starved for color. The next photo shows plants growing a few feet away from those shown above (those are the same picnic tables as in the first photo).

I’m eager for the entire display garden to fill in and to see all that silvery white juxtaposed with the bolder colors of dwarf red Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns) and golden jade.

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified. 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
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carolyn mullet February 4, 2012, 7:35 am

In garden design, silver is one of those colors that makes pastel flowers look great and I won’t even start on what it does for white blossoms. Isn’t it fortunate that silver leaved plants also tend to need less water? Thanks for reminding us.

Hi, Carolyn — You’re right, soft pinks and yellows look terrific with silver plants. Roses especially! — Debra

susan hirsch February 4, 2012, 1:57 pm

this all one color display garden is a great idea!

Yes, I wonder why you don’t see them more often. It’s eye-catching in an understated way. — Debra

Karen Chapman February 4, 2012, 4:51 pm

Love all those plants but sadly many are not hardy in the Seattle area. Convolvulus cneorum is a fabulous substitute for a shrub though and several sedums such as ‘Capo blanco’ give us the ‘ever-silver’ succulent foliage.

And we have a hard time keeping ‘Cape Blanco’ going during our long, hot summers. — Debra

Ian Cooke February 4, 2012, 8:23 pm

The comment about Sissinghurst poses an interesting question. When maintaining and restoring such gardens, should one use just the plants originally available or be more adventurous and use ‘plants in the style of’. I was responsible for a Jekyll garden for a while and took the more liberal approach.

I vote for “in the style of.” Get inside the original designer’s head and ask yourself what they’d do with today’s plant palette. — Debra

Hoover Boo February 7, 2012, 3:25 pm

I love silver plants best of all. Those are beauties!

Glad you like them! Thanks for stopping by. — Debra

Debra Lee Baldwin February 8, 2012, 12:18 am

Tom Jesch, the garden’s designer, notes: “The Centaurea cineraria is unique in another very special way from othe Dusty Millers. When it blooms, the leaves remain arranged in that big, broad rosette down low, and only slender flower stems arise. All other Dusty Millers start to elongate, then bloom, then the whole plant kind of shatters and falls over. I’ve found this Centaurea to be hardy to well below 0, as I’ve grown it in my native homeland of the high Sierras, on the east side. The Senecio haworthii is slow growing, and really needs to have full sun, whereas Senecio serpens actually enjoys some shade. The Cotyledon cultivar of orbiculata is new, brought to me by Jeff Moore of Solana Succulents. He says it’s the whitest he’s ever seen! I say, “…you have the white to remain silent!,” it’s so white. We’ll be introducing this plant into production this coming fall/winter. It will be a limited, collector item.”

Candy Suter February 14, 2012, 8:06 pm

These are very pretty and some I have never heard of. But I am like you and like color. These in combination with our beautiful succulent palette would be wonderful. Great post!

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