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Posts Tagged ‘Grey leaves’

This time of the year usually is warmer and the Roses would be in full bloom, I guess I will have to wait a bit more. In the meantime I am reminded that there are so many other plants which are now stealing the show and some of them do it in a way which is more subtle than just big wonderful blooms. Often we overlook fantastic foliage which accompanies the flowers. How about this novel idea, a plant which the foliage is just as much the star if not more, a tall order I would say! One plant I and many other gardeners would nominate is Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (Moonshine Yarrow).

Achillea 'Moonshine is part of the street plantings in Brentwood Bay and looks good year round, tidy foliage and bright non-fading flowers.

Achillea 'Moonshine is part of the street plantings in Brentwood Bay and looks good year round, tidy foliage and bright non-fading flowers.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ comes from the famous plantsman Alan Bloom(1906-2005) and Bressingham Gardens. If you look through perennial plant books you will see the name Alan Bloom and Bressingham Gardens mentions many times. Alan Bloom came from a plant family, his father grew cut flowers and fruit for a living . Alan left school to go into the business, his wise father said he should try as many areas as possible to find where his interest were and he settled on hardy perennials. After working as an apprentice Alan started his first wholesale perennial nursery in Oakington, the place of his birth. It took only 4 years for Blooms nursery to become the biggest of its kind in England. In 1946 he purchased the Bressingham Hall (near Diss in Norfolk) which included 228 acres of land. He  began developing it during the 1950s and early 60s, during this time he also introduced nearly 200 newly named  plant selections and hybrids which originated from his nursery and the famous  gardens.

The golden flowers and silver foliage of Achillea "Moonshine" is bright and soft at the same time making it an easy plant to work into garden designs.

The golden flowers and silver foliage of Achillea "Moonshine" is bright and soft at the same time making it an easy plant to work into garden designs.

‘Moonshine’ Yarrow is a cross between A. clypeolata (silvery foliage ,strong chrome yellow flowers) and taygetea( ferny foliage and creamy yellow flowers). It was discovered as a seedling around 1950 and introduced into gardens about 1954. It was quickly recognized to be an outstanding plant and was awarded an A.G.M.(Award of Garden Merit) from the Royal Horticultural Society. The plant has proved to be one of the best ‘Blooms’ introductions and is seen in many situations from well maintained gardens to the tough street side planting.

The silvery foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine combines the delicate 'ferniness' of A.taygetea with the silver sturdiness of A. clypeolata.

The silvery foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine combines the delicate 'ferniness' of A.taygetea with the silver sturdiness of A. clypeolata.

I first encountered Achillea ‘Moonshine’ a the wholesale perennial nursery I worked at in the early 1990s and I knew at once that this was a great plant compared to the other Yarrows which were grown there at the time. The foliage was beautiful by its self and the slightly creamy yellow flowers seemed to bloom for the longest time. These plant were always quickly bought up by the local nurseries, landscape architects and designers who put in orders or came to visit the nursery to see the plant stock we had there.

Here Achillea 'Moonshine' is used as a way to hide unsightly Rose stems along the exterior of the Rose Garden at Government House in Victoria.

Here Achillea 'Moonshine' is used as a way to hide unsightly Rose stems along the exterior of the Rose Garden at Government House in Victoria.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is an easy to grow plant which tolerate a good amount of neglect which makes it a very versatile plant for use in many situations. It does require full sun to produce the silveriest foliage and the most golden flowers, but, this is little to ask for such a grand reward! It takes most kinds of soil as long as its well-drained as wet feet can lead to trouble for most Achilleas. It is a fairly compact plant growing 60 cm.(2 ft.) high by about the same wide. Keeping it slightly under-watered will keep the floral stems from sprawling.Cut it back after its first flowering for it to repeat later in the summer. Divide it every couple of years to keep it vigorous.

Achillea 'Moonshine' is excellent as cut or dried flowers and will continue to give pleasure long after other flowers are spent.

Achillea 'Moonshine' is excellent as cut or dried flowers and will continue to give pleasure long after other flowers are spent.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is hardy to -30 c.(-20 f.) and takes wet climates well as long as the soil is well drained. In the hotter areas it is said that the plant melts out in full sun conditions but I can find no explanation as to what this means. I might assume it is better to give it richer soil(moisture retaining) in those areas. Use this plant in any hot border, such as that with Lavender and Sages. Let the yellows and purples play together with the silver foliage to create a classic color combination.It works as an accent, specimen, in borders or containers and massed. It attracts butterflies to your garden during the summer. An added bonus is it is both deer and rabbit resistant and drought proof.

These "Moonshine' Yarrow have been cut back and are now coming into their second bloom of the summer.

These "Moonshine' Yarrow have been cut back and are now coming into their second bloom of the summer.

Mining For Moonshine:

Good advise for growing you own ‘Moonshine’ http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.010.500

Alan Bloom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Bloom_(plantsman)

Bressingham Gardens are worth a visit if you travel to England:

http://www.bloomsofbressinghamplants.com/about-us/the-perennial-tradition/the-bressingham-gardens.html

Other people comment about there experiences with this plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/48885/

…………I hope you mine some gems here and come back soon…………

 

 

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When I write one of these articles I first do some research. I might think I know a plant quite well but I always learn some more in the process of looking in various places. I need to make sure of the botanical name, where it comes from and if possible I like to know who discovered the plant and why it was named. I also like to make sure I know the best way to grow it and what to expect in climate, pests and disease. It is not just  it’s looks and scent which are important, it’s a total of all aspects of the subject that help to inform me if this is the kind of plant to I would recommend. Without a doubt there will always be some mysteries I can not figure out. One such plant for me is the Echinops (Globe Thistle) that is seen growing in gardens for I can not say for sure ‘which species is which’ with any great authority. In this case it really does not matter as all Echinops are shining stalwarts in the garden and should be grown more.

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen form in the Victoria area

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen species in the Victoria.

Echinops have been known and noted in writing as early as the 16th century, it was Linaeaus who gave them their formal name in 1753. Echinops Latin name meaning is very descriptive; echinos(hedgehog) ops(looks like), put it together and you have an ‘Looks-Like -a-Hedgehog’ plant!  Globe Thistle are old world plants which means they come from Europe and spread through parts of Asia and northern Africa. Not surprisingly theses are members of the Asteraceae(Compositae) family which many other thistley things belong. All members of this family have composites of many tiny flowers which are close together. The Echinops flower structure is a good example of this, each of it flower ‘spheres’ is just that; a ball of tiny flowers close together.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Many people do not think of spiny plants as being attractive garden plants and Echinops show how wrong we are about this.  All parts of this plant are beautiful, the leaves are whether they are grayish or bright green are thick and leathery and stand up well through the seasons. the spherical balls which turn into the flowers are stunning during their whole development. The overall silvery grayness works very well in with many colors in the garden and this makes Globe Thistles very versatile.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

We must consider ourselves lucky as Echinops are extremely easy to grow and are very hardy. Like all slightly silvery plants Globe Thistles like as much sun as they can get, full sun is the best to bring out the fullness of color. Full sun will also help combat any possibility of mildew discoloring the foliage. Average soil will do. Less than average amounts of water is better, these plants do quite nicely in drier situations and are less prone to disease.  Echinops are all large plants which can reach 2m(6ft) in height and nearly as wide.

his appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

This appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

Generally Echinops are considered hardy to zone 4(-20c) but I have read about situations where they live in places with temperatures regularly going down to -40f(-40c) or zone 3a. Echinops flowers are excellent in arrangement and as dried subjects they should be harvested before the pollen shows. Globe Thistles are prickly but not so much as to be really dangerous.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

The many shades of blue, the silvery overtones on the foliage and unusual flowers, what more could one ask for in a plant? I like the foliage hairy, prickliness which contrasts with all the other smooth leaves which usually surround Echinops.  It makes me think of the common thistles living here and makes me wonder how one might use them in a landscape. When looking to buy a Globe Thistle you can choose a named form which will give the certainty of color or you can grow them from seed.  In species you can usually choose the blues of ritro, bannaticus, humilis and several more. Whites are commonly  represented by exaltatus and sphaerocephalus . Seed is easily germinated with no special tricks needed.

A Great

A great Globe Thistle planting at Finnerty Gardens with late summer colors.

Now is the time to Look for Echinops in gardens, the late summer heat here has produced a bumper crop this year. I have found them in many of the larger public parks which have perennial borders. Usually they are far enough in the plantings so that no one has to worry about little ones grabbing them and being surprised or scratched.

This very blue Echinops  is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

This very blue Echinops is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

More information on Echinops:

The Asteraceae family and their intricate flowers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteraceae

Look at the middle of this page to see what others have to say about growing this plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/634/

Growing Globe Thistles: http://www.garden-grower.com/flowers/echinops.shtml

Until we meet again Later….

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