async defer src="//" My Enchanting Cottage Garden: August 2017

About Me

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Gardening is my middle name. I have been an avid gardener for 50 years.  My goal is to help anyone who wants to start a Cottage Garden, be able to do so without the expense and frustration of beginning gardeners. I hope to encourage readers to share their thoughts and experience and help make this blog a knowledgeable and fun read.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"Fifty Shades of Gray" in the Cottage Garden


The ethereal and striking shades of grey is a rare and sought-after flower. There is a human tendency to desire things that are hard if not impossible to have. Years ago, the illusive white marigold was so sought-after Burpee offered a $10,000 prize to the first american gardener to first grow it. Mrs. Vonk produce a snow-white marigold in 1975 and won the $10,000 prize. 

Grey can be an elusive color in floral terms… not many (if any) flowers are grey but there are ways to achieve that hue with some clever use of foliage, flowers and plants. 
Luckily for us gardeners living at the desert Southwest with copious hours of solar radiation and minimal cloud cover, gray and silver leaved plants thrive well in our compost-poor, yet mineral sufficient soils. Low water and low maintenance will keep these lighter colored plants not just surviving, but thriving. 
And so, it goes with using plants with white, gray, or silvery foliage in shrub beds, flower borders, and any fashion of container. They can range from nearly pure white to gray, gray-green, and with a bluish cast, to a shiny silver hue, all with darker and lighter tones or patches of variegation.
Grey foliage plants all but glow at dusk and light up gloomy shade and dark corners – including indoors - but when used on their own, gray and silver plants can lead the eye while mellowing the landscape, taming intense colors, or serving as buffers between design changes. They also help bring out the best in brighter colors, which shine a bit more with the contrast, and continue to create interest when nearby flowers are finished or not yet in bloom. I think of the neutral gray color, as in real life, to include many shades of gray – dull gray to shiny silvery white, hues of blue-green and gray-green colored leaves. They come in all sizes from thin and tiny (Cerastium tomentosum, snow in summer), to large, flimsy (Salvia argentea, silver sage), tough and fleshy (Stachys byzantina, lambs ear) and thick succulent (Agave parryii, Parry's agave and Echinocereus reichenbachii albispinus, white spined lace cactus), both smooth and prickly. Regardless of the form and appearance, silver and gray leaved plants found in nature (as opposed to white, hybridized variations) can usually be relied upon to be more drought tolerant and sun adaptable than their green relations.

Gray, interspersed with green foliage plants, increases the interest of a bed or border, although all silver or gray gardens can be dull, gloomy and unappealing. Plants with gray and silver foliage pair exceptionally well with pastel and bold colors alike from their green leaved relations. Monet, in his garden at Giverny, was fond of the color combination silver, red and green and silver, red, green and pink. 

Rose breeders seem particularly interested in breeding a variety of a grey rose such as Earl Grey; Stainless Steel and Sterling Silver.   

Other choices in the grey color family are dusty miller and Artemisia which both are easy to grow, trouble-free, and readily available all season at garden centers. I have containers filled with gray and silvery Agaves, Sedums, Echeverias, Santolina, curry plant (Helichrysum), Mexican ghost plant (Graptopetalum) and several species of gray or silvery Sansevieria.  In addition to the dusty miller (Senecio) and Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, flower beds brimming with all sorts of foliage and flowering plants are both spiced up and toned down with silver sage (Salvia argentea), oversized cardoon plants (Cynara), snow-in-the-summer (Cerastium), Russian sage (Perovskia), Giant Silver Mullein (Verbascum), Dianthus, and Texas sage (Leucophyllum). I also lay claim to a huge Silver Princess Eucalyptus tree in my small front yard.

I think of the neutral gray color, as in real life, to include many shades of gray – dull gray to shiny silvery white, hues of blue-green and gray-green colored leaves. They come in all sizes from thin and tiny (Cerastium tomentosum, snow in summer), to large, flimsy (Salvia argentea, silver sage), tough and fleshy (Stachys byzantina, lambs ear) and thick succulent (Agave parryii, Parry's agave and Echinocereus reichenbachii albispinus, white spined lace cactus), both smooth and prickly. Regardless of the form and appearance, silver and gray leaved plants found in nature (as opposed to white, hybridized variations) can usually be relied upon to be more drought tolerant and sun adaptable than their green relations.
Gray, interspersed with green foliage plants, increases the interest of a bed or border, although all silver or gray gardens can be dull, gloomy and unappealing. Following nature's cue is often a safe bet. Even in desert communities the combinations of green with the gray is common. Only in the more extreme environments, mainly in highly salty or sodic soil communities, does gray appear to overwhelm, at least with our green-trained vision.

Here are Fifty Shades of Gray, more or less, that will shine in your gardens, in sun or moonlight.
Acantholimon hohenakeri, prickly dianthus, evergreen blue-green foliage, pink flowers in spring. Low growing, compact and mounded form, prickly, not for the front of borders, up to 8-12” tall. A rock garden plant.
Achillea ageratifolia, Greek yarrow, light gray-green ever-gray foliage, low growing white, daisy-like spring blooming flower.
Achillea serbica, Serbian yarrow, gray-green evergray, low growing white daisy-like spring blooming flower to 6”T. Forms a low, spreading mat for hot and dry areas.
Achillea x 'Moonshine', yarrow, silver-gray foliage with lemon yellow flowering late spring to summer, drought tolerant 18'W x 24”T.
Agastache ruprestris, hyssop, light gray green leaves, orange flowering mid-summer to fall to 36”T, water every other week.
Agave parryi, Parry's agave. Gray green thick smooth succulent leaves that form a rosette up to 2 ½ feet. Cold hardy to Zone 6 .
Alyssum wulfenianum, Wulfen's Madwort, low growing gray leaved with yellow spring flowers to 6” tall.
Argemone albiflora, white prickly poppy, bluestem prickly poppy. Southern native, silver blue leaves, white blooms spring into summer. Argemone polyanthemos, silver blue leaves, crested white prickly poppy, native, white flowers in late spring.
Artemisia filifolia, Sand Sage, Western native, grow on the dry side for better appearance. 3-6' tall.
Artemisia frigida, Fringed Sage. Low growing 1.5’ x 1.5’ silvery shrub grows from 3000’ – 11,000’. SW native.
Artemesia ludoviciana, white sagebrush, silver foliage, native to most of the US, any soil/condition nearly.
Artemisia x Powis Castle, large mounding perennial with ferny silver leaves. Forms large rounded mound 3'T x 4'W.
Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound', small mounding silver with silver leaves, about 12” x 12”.
Artemisia stelleriana, Dusty Miller, Old Woman, Beach Wormwood. Perennial native to Japan and Kamchatka has naturalized along the Atlantic coast. Silver white leaves with pale yellow flowers. 'Silver Brocade' is a named variety often planted.
Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam'. Curlicue sage, yellow flowers with unusual silver foliage. Mounding shrub 18-24”T x 3' W.
Atriplex canescens, Four-wing Salt Bush, Chamiso, 1-6' x 4-8', saline, heat and drought tolerant. Treat lean. SW native shrub.
Atriplex confertifolia, Shadscale, silver gray semi-evergreen leaves. 2 x 2', suited to the garden but grows well under extreme conditions. SW native shrub.
Baileya multiradiata, desert marigold, annual or re-seeding annual. SW native with silver leaves and yellow daisy like flowers.
Berberis trifoliata (Mahonia trifoliata), Agarita, or B. haematocarpa, also called Algerita. Western native shrub, gray blue evergreen leaves and prickly, grows to 8 feet. Makes a good screen.
Bukiniczia cabulica, formerly Aeoniopsis cabulica, small rock garden plant biennial that reseeds. Drought tolerant. Blue-green rosettes with mottled leaves, small pink flowers the second year. Unusual with a fun name.
Cerastium tomentosa columnae, Snow-in-summer, small white daisy-like flowers, summer blooming, low growing and spreading.
Chrysothamus nauseosus nauseosus, Dwarf Chamisa, Silver green leaves and stems, 2 ft. tall, pale yellow flowers in summer. SW native shrub.
Echinicereus reichenbachii albispinus, white spined lace cactus, attractive clumping columnar cactus with bright pink flowers. White spines are so dense as to make the cactus look white.
Eriogonum umbellatum, sulfur flower, gray green foliage with showy sulfur yellow flowers in late spring to early summer. SW native.
Eschscholzia californica, California poppy, annual; reseeding annual. Finely laced blue gray leaves. Yellow cupped spring blooming flowers.
Heterotheca canescens, Gray golden aster, silver foliage, yellow native wild flower, mid summer to fall blooming.
Krascheninnikovia lanata, (previously Ceratoides lanata), Winterfat, 1-3' x 2-4', beautiful winter interest. Native shrub to SW and Western US.
Lavendula, Lavenders. Several species and many varieties grow in well drained soil, medium water-use. Light gray green leaves with white blue, purple and pink flowers, depending on the variety. Spanish lavender (Lavendula stoechas) is usually not cold hardy in the Texas Panhandle.
Leucophyllum minus, Big Bend Barometer bush, 3'T x 2'W, summer flowering after rain, Silver gray leaves. May be the only Leucophyllum reliably cold hardy for the Texas Panhandle.
Nepeta x faassenii 'Select Blue' & 'Walkers Low', blue catmint, gray-green leaves, late spring to fall blooming, low water-use, mounding.
Oenothera caespitosa, White tufted evening primrose, drought tolerant, gray green foliage, white blooms. SW native. Oenothera macrocarpa ssp. incana, Silver edged Missouri evening primrose, native summer with silver-blue leaves, long yellow, chalice shaped blooms.
Orostachys iwarenge, Dunce caps. Succulent from Japan, small, low growing glaucous gray rosettes, dunce caps in late summer.
Perovskia atriplicifolia, Russian sage, blue gray leaves, blue summer flowering shrub, low water-use. Spreading shrub 3-3 ½ 'T x 3'4'W at maturity.
Poliomintha incana, Mint bush, gray frosted mint or hoary rosemary mint. Southwest native shrub with blue gray leaves, lavender white flowers in spring. Grows to 3 ½ – 3 foot tall and wide.
Psilostrophe tagetina, paper flower, perennial herbaceous native, gray green foliage with yellow blooms spring and summer.
Ruschia pulvinaris, shrubby ice plant. Small low growing and mounding with blue gray succulent leaves, tiny magenta flowers to 6”. Attractive for the rock garden.
Salvia argentea, silver sage, biennial foliage plant with silver-green leaves with annoying sticky dirty white flowers on stalk. Leaves look tough like lambs ear but tear easily and are easily damaged by hail.
Salvia chamaedroides, New Mexican sage, Beautiful shrub with gray-green leaves with blue summer flowering, 2' x 2'. Native to the upper Chihuahuan deserts.
Salvia daghestanica, Dwarf silver leafed sage. Xeric, 10” x 12”, violet blue, flowers for 3 – 4 weeks, late spring.
Salvia dorrii, small, xeric, 12” x 12”, silver leaves with purple flowers. SW native.
Salvia officinalis, the herb sage. Gray green leaves with blue flowers in spring. Low water-use.
Salvia pachyphylla, Mohave Sage, xeric, 30” x 30”, unusual sage, Silver leaves with stunning purple sticky flowers.
Santolina chamaecyparissus, gray santolina with small yellow flowers. Gray foliage, mounding and spreading. To control growth, trim back after flowering.
Senecio cineraria, (now Jacobaea maritima) Dusty Miller or silver ragwort. Perennial subshrub native to the Mediterranean region with yellow daisy like flowers, whitish silver leaved plant grown as an annual. Cold-hardy in Zones 8-10. Senecio flaccidus, Threadleaf groundsel, native perennial, silvery blue green leaves with yellow daisy-like flower, can grow to 2'T x 2'W.
Shepherdia argentea, Silver Buffaloberry, grows to 6-18’T x 4-15’W. Gray green leaves. Cold hardy to -30. The flowers are inconspicuous, but in July the female shrubs are filled with red fruits.
Sphaeralcea angustifolia, globe mallow, light gray green foliage, light pink flowers throughout summer and fall, native to the Davis Mountains. Sphaeralcea coccinea, caliche globe mallow, silvery gray foliage, spring blooming orange and orange red flowers, local native perennial. (Also S. ambigua and Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia, gooseberryleaf globemallow, red, native to SW, xeric.)
Stachys byzantina, (formerly Stachys lanata) lambs ears and 'Helen von Stein' 'Silver Carpet' et al, lambs ears, tough but soft, gray tomentose leaves with pink fragrant flowers.
Tanacetum niveum, white bouquet tansy, silver gray leaves, small white daisy-like flowers late spring.
Teucrium aroanium, gray creeping germander, gray green evergreen foliage, deep lavender pink fragrant flowers summer long.
Thymus pseudolanguginosus, woolly thyme, small gray leaves, a low to the ground ground cover. Rarely flowers.
Veronica incana, silver speedwell, silver gray leaves with blue flowers on spikes summer long.

Veronica pectinata, woolly creeping speedwell, woolly grayish green evergreen leaves, blue flowers, drought tolerant ground cover.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Are "Safe" Insecticides-Pesticides Good to Use in Your Garden?

There is an alarming and discernible decline in the population of pollinator insects that make seeds and fruits magically appear on plants, shrubs and trees. While this decline is not news for those of us interested in gardening and farming, we need to educate everyone about the far-reaching effects a loss of our pollinators will have on everyday ramp up our efforts to reverse this trend.

Your garden is an ecosystem, and involves an intricate web of life, from the soil microbes underground to the birds in the trees. It’s easy to grab the spray bottle to kill off the dandelions and blow down the flies, kill foliage eating caterpillars but what are the knock-on effects?  Many of the insects we think of as a backyard nuisance often provide services we don’t see. For example, many native wasp and fly species (even blowflies!) are pollinators as adults. And as larvae, they control many of the insect pests we see on our plants, or decompose organic wastes. Small reptiles, like geckoes and skinks, mostly feed on small insects that annoy us, like mosquitoes and midges.  

When you grab a bottle of insecticide/Pesticides to kill off that annoying scavenger you are disrupting the food chain in the ecosystem. Insects we think of as indispensable are a favorite food source for many beneficial insects. Aphids and scale insects produce a sugary substance called honeydew as they suck on plants, which is an important sugar source for some beneficial insects like wasps, bees, ants and hoverflies. 

Insecticides can kill beneficial insects, or affect them indirectly by disrupting their metabolism or reproductive cycles. Overuse of herbicides removes important food resources, like dandelions, that pollinators rely on if other flowers are scarce.

Native pollinators, especially bees, are a keystone species in most of our nation's diverse ecosystems. Nearly 70 percent of all flowering plants need pollinators to reproduce. More than a third of our food and beverage supply relies on the plants they pollinate.
Pollinators, like bees and butterflies, need nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. Diversify your native plantings so that you have different flower fragrances, shapes and colors throughout the spring and fall. Often native shrubs, flowers and trees reseed themselves thus becoming the most sustainable and, therefore, most available of plants.
Not only are our native bees in decline (did you know that there are roughly 4,000 species?), so is the European honeybee, introduced in the 1600s and now critically important to our nation's agricultural production. The honeybee condition described as Colony Collapse Disorder continues to be the subject of much research with no single culprit identified as cause. Disease is also striking our native bumblebees (there are nearly 50 species in North America!).

What's a plant lover to do?
Native plants are survivors. They are disease resistant and less susceptible to drought conditions, making them more able to offer up their pollen and nectar when other plants are succumbing to infection and rainless summer conditions. Reducing or eliminating your use of pesticides and herbicides will make a tremendous difference in the recovery of pollinator populations. Dusts and sprays are not picky and will leave an equally toxic coating on pollinators. Limiting synthetic chemical use is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enhance wildlife in gardens. So, I recommend, forget the spray and hand pick the annoying pest off your plant and relocate it to another area of your garden so the ecosystem in your garden won’t be disrupted.