Silver Linings and Gold Fever

    It’s time for our annual guerilla gardening under the partly sunny skies of the South Sound… the weeding, digging, plotting and planting.  The to-do list is unending. If we didn’t look so forward to May and June it might be completely overwhelming. Even making good plant choices can be daunting with all of the color available in the well-stocked nurseries. You can’t go wrong with an infusion of…

Silver Lights

Repeat plantings of silver (gray) foliage lights up dark areas, sets off bright color spots and blends with pastels. It goes with everything and comes in spreaders, clumpers and vines.

     Silver Thyme  (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Silver Queen’) is an 8” tall easy to grow spreader to 18” with the added benefit of being both deer and rabbit resistance. It is drought tolerant and great for both containers and directly in the ground. Its tiny edible leaves are a good foil for dark leaved plants, like Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus). Thank goodness it has a common name


     On the other end of the silver spectrum is the gigantic Silver Sage (Salvia Argentea). Not many plants are “pettable” but the large leaves of Silver Sage are far too tempting not to touch. Its wooly leaves are 6” wide and grow in rosettes to 2’ wide x 3’ tall. It is a stunner that belongs where you can both see it and touch it.

    Midway between the thyme and the sage is a whole range of silver leaved Artemesias like the globes of “Silver Mound”, the spikes of Absinthum and the tall fine cut leaved ‘Powis Castle’.

Silver foliage shines in the moonlight.

Silver lightens and…

Gold Brights

Gold foliage illuminates. If a garden has a golden leaved tree, shrub or ornamental grass, the eye zooms right in on it. Gold stands out.

    For every silver leaved foliage plant there is probably a golden variety too.

     Gold Variegated Lemon Thyme  (Thymus citriodorus ‘aurea’) is a 6” ground hugger with small leaves and a lemon scent. The leaves taste as good as they smell. It spreads fast and gives you plenty of tiny leaves for chicken and fish marinades, soups and even desserts. Like other thymes, it likes full sun and fast draining soil. It’s a beautiful addition to mixed planters. It’s both a “filler and a spiller”.

     Golden ornamental sedges and grasses like “Bowles Golden Sedge” (Carex elata “Aurea’) and Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) are medium sized perfectly round sprays of golden blades that almost glow in the dark.

     Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ is gawker gold. It is 3 feet tall and can have a spread of up to 9 feet. It is slug resistant (what slug would dare?) and unlike most hosta, it thrives in sun. Give it a rich moist soil and stand back.

     Two garden books focus specifically on gold and silver foliage plants…

“Silver Linings” and/or “Gold Fever” by Karen Platt

Many garden books have small sections that focus on gold and silver plants but Platt’s series of books concentrates on specifics. “Silver Linings” and “Gold Fever” have a few flowers sprinkled about but they are mostly about foliage, comprehensive and well researched.  In England her books are well known as “designer color” garden books. Landscape designers depend on them. They can be found at the usual vintage or used book stores online or you can order directly from Karen at get signed copies.


“Gold Fever”, 1350 plants, 250 color photographs, Black Tulip Publishing 2004, 200 p. from $4.90 to $62.

“Silver Lining”. 2400 plants, 350 color photographs, Black Tulip Publishing 2004, 200 p. from $4.24 to $61