Silver in Your Garden

Monday, August 22nd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums give the brightest colors for fall. Choose them in bloom now at your nursery.
    • Feed fuchsias, begonias, summer annuals and container plants to keep them green and blooming right up until frost.
    • Matilija poppies are a hardy perennial with flowers that look like “fried eggs.” Plant them in a sunny spot with good drainage.
    • Tree collards are delicious winter vegetables. Set out plants now.
    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce.

Silver in Your Garden

One of the fun parts of designing a garden is working with color. Flowers bring the most color to the garden, but the subtle palette of foliage colors is also full of possibilities. Gray gardens are somewhat of a tradition in England, and since there are many drought-tolerant, gray-leafed plants, it’s easy to create one here as well.

A garden of silvery foliage and calming shades of lavender and blue can be a place for relaxation and contemplation. Many of these perennials are wonderfully fragrant and since silvery leaves reflect moonlight as well as sunlight, this is a perfect garden to plant near your patio or deck.

Gray-leafed plants need plenty of sun and excellent drainage with only moderate summer watering. They tolerate tough conditions like wind and rocky soil and most are deer-resistant.

Begin your design with some of the taller lavenders like Lavendula ‘Provence’ which grows 3 to 4 feet tall and as wide. The bright blue flowers have a nice fragrance and are good for potpourri or lavender wands.

Russian sage, Perovskia, is a graceful, upright shrub with sprays of lavender-blue flowers atop its silvery stems. The finely cut foliage is very attractive. Of course the popular wallflower, ‘Bowles Mauve’ is also a fine landscape shrub that blooms with purple flowers over a long season, from February to July.

Once you have the larger plants placed, you can fill in with some smaller perennials. ‘Lamb’s Ear’ is a great favorite for its woolly, silver-gray foliage. Some varieties have flower stalks with small, purplish flowers but ‘Silver Carpet’ doesn’t bloom at all.

For a little flower variety, add Teucrium fruticans. This silver-foliaged evergreen shrub has wonderful azure blue flowers most of the summer on a 3-4 foot shrub. The flowers attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Many of the sages have silvery foliage. Culinary sage, Salvia officinalis, has excellent ornamental qualities, with lavender-blue flowers and wrinkled, gray-green leaves that are frequently used fresh or dried as a seasoning.

Salvia apiana, white sage, is a striking native sage, growing 3-5 ft. tall and wide. The distinctive whitish aromatic foliage cover this shrub with long flower stems of lavender tinged white blossoms. Used in smudge bundles as a natural incense, it is a bee and hummingbird favorite.

Lychnis coronaria, known as rose campion, is an easy-to-grow perennial with fuzzy gray leaves and tall stems of showy, magenta flowers. Lavender cotton, Santolina chamaecyparissus, makes a fragrant, dense mound with attractive grayish-silver foliage. The small, bright yellow button flowers light up the plant in early summer making it a good border shrub.

‘Moonshine’ yarrow has finely cut silvery leaves and yellow flower heads on upright stems 2-3 feet tall. And even old-fashioned dusty miller is a favorite because it looks good with everything.

Explore the colorful world of silver and blue and create a special garden all your own.

Harvesting Herbs

Saturday, August 18th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Set out starts of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and lettuce for a fall harvest. Spray weekly with BT to keep the cabbage worms at bay.
    • Roses have more flowers all summer long than any other shrub. Plant them in a sunny location and feed monthly for continuous blooms.
    • Impatiens will give you instant color in shady areas and continue blooming right through the fall.
    • Mottled leaves are often a sign of spider mites. Check for them with a hand lens or bring a leaf into your nursery for identification and treatment options.
    • Japanese maples may be pruned now in order to shape them.

Harvesting Herbs

Herbs are plants with many uses. They are used for cooking, medicine, aromatherapy, pest control and fragrant potpourris. Usually the leaves and stems are used, but sometimes the flowers, fruit and even the roots contain the desired substances.

It is important to be sure that you have the right plant before you use it for culinary or medicinal uses. Common names are often misleading, since the same common name may be given to different plants. All herbs are toxic in excess, so be careful about self-medication.

Herbs should be harvested when the oils responsible for flavor and aroma are at their peak. Most herbs can be cut and used fresh throughout the growing season.

Herbs grown for their foliage, such as sage, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and basil, should be gathered when the flowers are about to open. The oils in the leaves, which give each herb its distinctive flavor and aroma, are at their maximum levels at this stage of growth. Remove up to 1/3 of the stem’s length.

Cut basil frequently, 6-8 inches down the stem. This will keep it bushy and prevent it from flowering. You should get many cutting through the summer. In the fall, you can cut the plants at ground level before the first frost.

Harvest herbs grown for seeds just before the seed heads turn brown so that the seeds don’t fall off while cutting them. Cilantro, if left to go to seed, is called coriander. Dill and fennel are also grown for their seeds.

Collect herb flowers, such as borage and chamomile, just before full flower. Harvest herb roots, such as echinacea, chicory, comfrey, and goldenseal, in the fall after the foliage fades.

Herbs should be harvested in the early morning, after the dew has evaporated and before the sun becomes too hot. After harvesting, rinse the herbs in cool water. Shake off excess water and place them on paper toweling to dry for a few minutes.

Air drying is the most popular method used to dry herbs. Gather 8 to 12 stems in a bunch, tie the ends of the stems together and hang each bunch upside down in a warm (70-80°F), dry, shady area. Herbs grown for seed can be dried on screens or inside brown paper bags. The herbs should be dry in 2 to 4 weeks. When thoroughly dry, strip the leaves or seeds from the plants, and store in them in airtight jars in a cool, dry place.

Store dried herbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, moisture, and heat. Many herbs can be keep for a year if stored properly.

You can make a potpourri mixture of dried herbs and flower petals to preserve the aromatic fragrances of summer. Most potpourris start with rose petals or lavender flowers as a base, to which other dried herbs are added.

By growing your own herbs, you can spice up your cooking with fresh, flavorful tastes and freshen a room with the delightful perfumes of summer.