I´m sure you´ll all remember – and have read – that blockbuster book of a couple of summers back, 50 Shades of Grey and the two sequels. Well, this summer I´m offering you two further sequels so that you´ve got something really good to read over the summer months. Take it to the beach with you!
So here we go with 50 Shades of Grey, Silver and Blue, in two parts.
In honesty, I don´t think I´ll make the best-seller lists, nor sell over 100 million copies like the original book, nor be printed in 52 languages. I´m not much good at writing eroticism (or maybe I´ve just never tried) so the level of blueness will be dictated by the plants and the sultriness by the weather! I can tell that you´re disappointed already! But you will be able to loan it to your friends and get it back covered in grubby fingerprints and wineglass stains - just the same really.
My first experiences – and passion - for grey, silver and blue were in Africa, with a climate very similar to ours here and far from the verdant greenness of English summers and mundane browns of English winters! These steely shades look great under searing sunshine and, more importantly, are nearly always associated with drought resistance and heat tolerance.
Many of these silver-plated plants are native to dry regions but a good many too are found on windswept mountaintops and salty coastlines – all found within our adopted homeland, Spain. Their adaptations to extreme growing conditions are ingenious and numerous. The light colouring, of course, reflects heat away and many are covered in tiny hairs that reflect sand, salt and solar rays too. Those same hairs form an insulating layer against cool night-time temperatures and deflect the wind thus decreasing water evaporation; equally, during the daytime, they can lower the temperature on the leaf surface by several degrees. Thick waxy type coatings perform the same purpose and both are useful at deterring herbivores. Many form low growing rosettes of leaves which funnel any rain or dew into the root area. These devices may seem infinitesimal but they often make the difference between life and death and usually thriving instead of surviving.
Many of these plants that we conceive to have grey leaves are actually green and it is the colour, length and density of the hairs that give the grey sheened appearance. A good indication of a densely hairy, woolly or furry plant is given with the Latin tomentose added to the plant name, thus cerastium tomentosum or popular snow-in-summer. Equally, the following botanical Latin additions to plant names are great indicators – look out for them when buying plants.
Alba, album, albus meaning white. Ipomoea alba or moonflower.
Arachnoides, cobweb like. Sempervivum arachnoideum or cobweb houseleek.
Argentea, argentus, meaning silvery. Salvia argentea or silver sage.
Caesius meaning bluish/blue-grey. Dianthus caesius or Cheddar Pink.
Candicans meaning whitish. Echium candicans or Pride of Madeira.
Glauca meaning grey-green/grey-blue. Festuca glauca or blue fescue.
Incana meaning light grey.
Veronica spicata incana or silver speedwell.
Hirtus, hirsutus meaning hairy. Gossypium hirsutum or Mexican cotton.
Laevis meaning smooth.
Callistemon laevis, bottlebrush
Lanatus meaning woolly or downy.
Salvia lanata, woolly sage
Leuc from Greek meaning white. Leucophyllum frutescens or Texas sage.
Obviously a garden that is full of greys could be a little dull and unappealing, but used in small areas or as a backdrop to other plantings it´s a total winner. Grey – ranging from silvery through to slate - is probably the best foil and compatible with bright jewel colours as well as the range of pastels. The classic grey and white is immensely calming and cooling too. Our minds and vision are conditioned to shades of green but open your mind to a grey wave and make your garden more efficient too.
Summertime doesn´t have to mean constant watering. By using these tough plants that are adapted to harsh living, you can cut your water bills and give yourself more time to laze and enjoy the summer. So, next month I´ll give you lots of specific planting ideas for 50 Shades of Grey, Silver and Blue and, maybe, in autumn you can start to incorporate some of these into your garden plantings.
Happy Summer reading!
Please remember that as of 3rd June we are on summer hours,
9 until 2 only, so that we can all enjoy our siesta! And throughout the Sale period too.
Lorraine Cavanagh owns the specialist garden centre Viveros Florena, Competa, Malaga (garden centre, designers & landscapers) and is author of the best-selling Mediterranean Garden Plants and Citrus, The Zest of Life.
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