Silver Linings

I know where you can let go of worry, stress, and fear in one afternoon — in the garden. Thank goodness for spring. Get outside and do some guerrilla gardening when the partly sunny skies beckon you outdoors. Weed, dig, plot, and plant — the to-do list really is unending, and your neighborhood and your soul will appreciate your efforts.


If you have a chance to hit a garden shop in the near future, mine for silver!

Repeat plantings of silver (gray) foliage light up dark areas, sets off bright color spots, and blends with pastels. It goes with everything and comes in spreaders, clumpers, and vines.

Silver Thyme, an 8-inch-tall, easy-to-grow spreader to 18 inches, has the added benefit of being both deer- and rabbit-resistant. It is drought-tolerant and great for containers and directly in the ground. Its tiny edible leaves are a good foil for dark-leaved plants, like Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus). Thank goodness it has a common name.

On the other end of the silver spectrum is the gigantic Silver Sage. Not many plants are “pet-able,” but the large leaves of Silver Sage are far too tempting not to touch. Its woolly leaves are 6 inches wide and grow in rosettes to 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall. It is a stunner that belongs where you can both see it and touch it. Look for other silver and gray plants to add to your garden.


Hosta Sum and Substance. Photo by David J. Stang, Creative Commons

Gold foliage illuminates. If a garden has a golden-leaved tree, shrub, or ornamental grass, the eye zooms right in on it. Gold stands out. For every silver-leaved foliage plant, there is probably a golden variety, too.

Gold Variegated Lemon Thyme is a 6-inch ground hugger with small leaves and a lemon scent. The leaves taste as good as they smell. It spreads fast and gives you plenty of tiny leaves for chicken and fish marinades, soups, and even desserts. Like other thymes, it likes full sun and fast-draining soil. It’s a beautiful addition to mixed planters. It’s both a “filler” and a “spiller.”

Golden ornamental grasses like Bowles Golden Sedge and Golden Japanese Forest are medium-sized, perfectly round sprays of golden blades that almost glow in the dark.

Hosta Sum and Substance is gawker gold. It is 3 feet tall and can have a spread of up to 9 feet. It is slug-resistant (what slug would dare?) and, unlike most hostas, it thrives in sun. Give it a rich moist soil, and stand back.

Books Dedicated to Silvers and Golds

Book images © their respective publishers

Silver Lining and Gold Fever by Karen Platt

Many garden books have small sections that focus on gold and silver plants, but Platt’s series of books concentrates on specifics. Silver Lining and Gold Fever have a few flowers sprinkled about, but they are mostly about foliage, comprehensive and well-researched. In England, her books are well-known as “designer color” garden books. Landscape designers depend on them. They can be found at the usual vintage or used book stores online, or you can order directly from the author at and get signed copies.

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