Investing in Silver: These Silver Plants Require Little Maintenance to Add Their Coolness to a Texas Day and Their Magic to the Moonlight
Published November 2000 By LIZ DRUITT
The wide-open Texas sky brings with it a wide-open blast of sun. Many gardeners focus, with good reason, on plants that can take the resulting heat and drought without wilting, frying, and just folding up. We also tend to focus on plants that look wonderful at dawn or dusk, the times when, let's face it, we're most willing to go out there. To come up with a planting that can cool down a hot noon and shine under the midnight moon is a major achievement.
Bill Seaman, a Dallas-based garden designer, worked out a remarkably pretty and functional entry planting that performs this way all year long with minimal maintenance requirements. He chose plants, in consultation with homeowner Barbara Wolin, that would accent and soften the native limestone steps leading from the street to her front yard. "The plants also had to be very forgiving of foot traffic," explains Bill. "Because they are planted into cracks and crevices around the steps and landing, there is definitely opportunity for them to get stepped on."
Barbara truly likes toughs plants that perform. "She thinks a lot like I do," Bill says. "We both feel there are so many really good plants out there that don't have to be coddled, why not take advantage of them?" With these sensible guidelines in mind, and the knowledge that drainage would not be a problem, Bill enjoyed developing the basic silver color scheme. "The gray and silver foliage shades are cooling to the eye in the Texas heat, plus they enhance the reflective qualities of the rugged limestone," he says. "And," he adds, smiling, "the Wolins don't have to use any extra lighting for their pathway at night!"
Bill created planting pockets in and around the stone steps by filling crevices with decomposed granite to anchor the plant roots and a layer of compost for nutrition. "While a planting like this is new, it actually does need frequent watering, just like any garden bed," he explains. He also suggests the application of a little extra compost to help the plants fill out and get their roots well developed. "Once everything is established," Bill says, "minimal irrigation, an occasional deadheading, and an occasional light top dressing of mulch or compost are all that you need to keep the planting looking fresh year-round."
For extra color, Barbara adds a few annuals, such as violas, to the silver planting every season. And the various perennials in the beds bloom off and on, in cool shades of purple, mauve, and white. "Bur for the most part, say Bill cheerfully, "the basic planting looks good all year, all by itself, no matter what. It really doesn't have a significant downtime, which is unusual for a perennial bed." Terrific, in fact, especially for a Texas garden. It's a shining example for the rest of us.