Despite the fact we live on a former lime orchard and are surrounded by the remaining lime trees, lime is not my favourite shade of green. I like dark green, blue green and grey green, and if I could think of a way to grow our lawn in a different shade, I would.
Fortunately, we do have a garden in front of the courtyard, euphemistically referred to as “the front garden”, which will lend itself to a revamp in my preferred shades of green.
In recent times, it’s been the repository for every orphan plant that nobody really wants and can’t think what to do with, and the recent repaint of the wall behind it served only to highlight its shortcomings.
Having said that, the now burnt orange wall is the perfect backdrop for three existing astelia and the silvery trunks of the palm trees that shelter the courtyard. The rest of the plants in there will be re-homed and the front garden is due to become “the silver garden”.
While we live in a high- rainfall area, summer is usually a drought, so a silver garden is actually quite appropriate, especially for an area like this where the soil is free-draining.
I won’t have to panic over it in the summer, and in the winter any excess water will leak out onto the driveway in front of it and create a large puddle precisely where the Partner gets out of his car.
Silver gardens provide an oasis of sanity in a large, colourful garden, and they are also ideal if you want a meditation area, a quiet sitting space, or even a memorial garden for a friend, relation or treasured cat whose ashes you might like to put there.
In my case, the “treasured cats” are still alive and will in all likelihood use the area as their personal memorial garden for the bodies of the mice they’ve murdered the night before.
When it comes to hard landscaping and decorative items for a silver garden, there’s a wide range of choices.
Happily, my junk pile currently contains a sheet of corrugated iron, about 2m of chicken mesh and a holey aluminium jam pan looking for a new mission in life. I’m turning them over to a friend who once said she’d like to have a go at making funky sculptures from scrap metal. She probably wasn’t expecting a commission quite this early in her career but sometimes you just get lucky.
Other elements that will work in a silver garden are weathered hardwood items (beams or furniture that has gone silver) grey rocks (especially those with silver lichen on them), old metal watering cans and tin buckets.
A battered tin container full of holes takes on a new look when planted with a creeping silver convolvulus with white flowers.
And don’t discount a bit of cheating. Hit the hardware store, buy two or three spray cans of metallic silver paint, and transform anything you think would look good in the garden but is the wrong colour.
Be careful, though. If you’re a junk shop queen, it’s easy to find yourself buying any old pieces that catch your eye, and before you know it you’ve got half a dozen old ash cans and 10 dead tin buckets in the pile outside your garden shed.
Once the bare bones of your garden are sorted, you can plant it. Check out the ideas for silver plants above, and think about adding a dash of bright colour. A dark-leafed hibiscus with a hot pink flower would be one option, and hot orange or bright red would also work.
Lighting will accentuate your silver garden too. It’s the one area where the blue tinge of solar lighting can enhance the look, although 12-volt lighting may give you more options.
About Lee Ann Bramwell
Lee Ann wasn’t always a gardener - she lead what she terms ‘a normal life’ as a newspaper journalist and then television producer in Dunedin until the nineties, when she started moving north. Working on various lifestyle magazines in Auckland, Lee Ann eventually published her own garden design magazine, Alfresco, for 10 years.more of this author