Arrangements With Grey And Silver Foliaged Plants

It would be difficult to over estimate the value of these plants for indoor decoration, either used on their own, or in contrast to other foliage or with flowers. The main assets are: their beauty, unusual shape, colour, their long lasting qualities—most of them will last literally for two to three weeks without any trouble or coaxing—and their availability throughout most months of the year, and often at a time when deciduous shrubs and plants are losing their leaves and it is important to have something else to take their place.

Two or three essential factors in growing grey foliaged plants which one should perhaps mention before concentrating on the different varieties suitable for use in flower arrangement are, firstly that under no circumstances, and at no time of the year, will they tolerate their roots being waterlogged. Secondly, they dislike extremely bitter winds or draught. It is interesting in this context, I think, to notice the original homes of some of the most attractive of these white leaved plants. For example, many of them come from the Mediterranean—Artemesia splendens, known as the wire netting artemesia on account of its deeply cut leaves, is to be found growing at the foot of cliffs at heights varying up to 5,000 ft. high in Persia and the Caucasus, whilst others come from North America. Many helichrysums grow indigenously in South Africa and Australia, and some of the best of the senecios in New Zealand.Arrangements With Grey And Silver Foliaged Plants

Most of the situations where they are to be found growing naturally are dry, sunny and well drained. Sharp sand and good root drainage, sometimes with richer soil and compost to a depth of nine to ten inches (as in the case of Convolvulus cneorum this seems to be essential; Senecio leucostachys is one of those which does not require compost—it thrives and keeps its colour better on a starvation diet).

Many of the grey foliaged plants have yellow flowers, and if these are cut off when still in bud most of them will grow into sturdier plants. An exception is the white flowered pearly everlasting (Anaphalis) which has charming, small daisy like flowers which dry on the plant and make valuable contributions for dried arrangements.

In spite of suggesting that the yellow flowers should usually be cut off I would like to put in a special plea for one or two which are particularly attractive. For instance, the clear yellow of garden ragwort (Senecio laxifolius) is such a good colour, especially when used in contrast with deep blue delphiniums or to lighten the rather harsh orange of marigolds, that I always leave a few sprays to come out. I also like to see the tight white buds with other white flowers, especially campanulas. The soft indefinite yellow of the curry plant (Helichryswn angustifolium) before it is fully out also makes a useful contribution to certain colour schemes.

One of the dangers of using grey foliaged plants is to use too much material at one time. It is so easy to overcrowd an arrangement and to end up with a bunchy effect, resulting in a loss of shape and outline. Given breathing space and used sparingly very beautiful effects can be obtained.

Mulleins might also be included here although they are so different in size, habit, and shape of leaf, from any of the plants already mentioned. The smaller leaves sometimes resemble those of foxgloves in their definite shape and soft colouring, and can provide a useful contrast to the lacy effect of the grey foliaged plants.Grey And Silver Foliaged Plants

Now let us mention some specific plants that are suitable and reliable for use in flower arrangement.

Perhaps the best known are the cotton (sea) lavenders, or santolinas, which make sturdy groups in the border, provide abundant material on quite a small bush, and are among the hardiest of all grey foliage plants. From an arrangement point of view (perhaps a word of warning might be forgiven) the formation of the leaves and small interlaced stems may easily give the bushy appearance I mentioned earlier if the longer, thinner stems are not cut. In all other respects this is an excellent plant, literally lasting for weeks and eventually drying off.

A variation of garden ragwort, Senecio cineraria (Cineraria maritima) is a popular dramatically decorative bedding plant used where spectacular effects are required. With its silver-white foliage cut and patterned like old lace, a little goes a long way. It is generally considered to be half hardy, but given good drainage and a sunny, sheltered position and protection from frost it will usually come through the winter. (Bracken is most satisfactory for this purpose.) One of the best of the Senecio cinerarias, White Diamond has especially opulent foliage.

Senecio laxifolius (or greyii) is familiar to many people as garden ragwort. This is a valuable plant indeed, and if suitably trimmed will grow into a well shaped sturdy bush. The foliage on one side is a beautiful dark grey and on the reverse almost a chalk-white. Stems and buds are also white, and the latter, growing in decorative clusters, are especially attractive in an arrangement.

As already mentioned they will eventually break out into clear yellow daisy-flowers. Garden ragwort can grow into a sizeable shrub and keeps its foliage throughout the year.

Immortelle is another dramatic grey and chalk-white plant, but with quite a different growth and habit to the other two. Its branches are spiky in character and the small leaves grow in tufts rather than in any definite order. However, it does have yellow flowers (rather small) which should be cut off in bud if a sturdy bushy plant is required.

Lamb’s ears (Stachys lanata) is so widely grown that it seems hardly necessary to include it in this list, but I wonder whether its uses as a dried flower are equally well known. If cut at the appropriate moment, on a fine day when it has been well baked in hot sunshine, and hung in bunches in a warm, sunny position, Stachys lanata will provide an interesting addition to a group of dried flowers and a good foil for dark colours.

Lastly, there are two more plants, quite different in shape, colour and texture of leaf, different from each other and from the previously mentioned plants. These are yarrow (Achillea) with grey green foliage, long, narrow and serrated, and rue with clover like blue-green leaves which produce a few small yellow flowers. The rue, especially, provides a delicate and valuable accompaniment to small winter flower arrangements.

Having already said lastly’, I still want to mention two more plants which officially do not quite come into the silver-grey category. These are lavender and rosemary, two of the best loved of all flowering shrubs for gardens or for cutting. They do have a certain claim to being grey foliaged, although they do not have any silver in their colouring.

Rosemary is known for its rather spiky habit of growth and enchanting dark green leaves lined with grey, to say nothing of its soft blue flowers in the spring. But for arrangement it is the foliage that is so important and so valuable throughout the year.

Lavender makes charming clumps in the garden, and there is little to equal the beauty of a good lavender hedge. The leaves, a soft grey-green, can be so useful for arrangement, but the flower spikes themselves are perhaps even more important. Used in bulk they can give an effective outline to a group, or can provide a contrast with more bulky material, such as hydrangea flowers, dahlias, zinnias, etc.

Finally, there is the added attraction of the subtle scent of a few spikes of lavender in a flower arrangement. These can bring their gentle perfume into a room in such a discreet fashion that it would be impossible to realise where it comes from.

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