For the past several weeks – well, since the end of January, actually – there has been a pile of junk proliferating beside our garden shed.

It contained (until I went mad and paid someone the equivalent of a case of quite good Chardonnay to take it away) items as diverse as 17 rotting timber posts and the cast iron frames of two elegant garden chairs which, unless you happen to know a willow weaver who can craft new seats for them, are beyond repair.

Because I was too mean to pay the equivalent of two cases of wine to the rubbish removal man, a few miserable items were left behind, awaiting our next trip to the dump, which is about 30k away.

For some reason, the holey watering can, the two tin buckets, the end of a roll of wire mesh and an offcut of corrugated iron from  the roof of the lean-to annoy me more than the entire pile did.

Sometimes, though, it takes only a photo or a sentence in a garden book to send you down a whole new path to solve a problem, and my saviour this morning was a copy of a defunct English magazine called New Eden.

New Eden started in 1999 but sadly, only five or six issues were published. It was about a decade ahead of its time, evidenced by the fact that I am re-reading my copies now and finding them innovative, exciting and fresh.

The issue that accompanied this morning’s breakfast had one article about mass planting and another about a silver themed garden, and miraculously, the two joined together in my head and gave me a way to i) solve the problem of the remaining rubbish, ii) fill in a dry, dreary corner than has been crying out for replanting and iii) add to The Partner’s lengthy list of Things Which Must Be Achieved Next Weekend.

Here’s the plan. We’ll lay weedmat on the ground and cover it with crushed shell. (Something will have to be found the border the area but thank the lord it won’t be the 17 rotting posts that are probably being turned to mulch at the recycling centre as we speak.)

The sheet of corrugated iron and the wire netting will be turned into a fantasy sculpture by an artistic friend who mentioned the other day that she’d like to have a go at something like that. She probably wasn’t expecting a commission quite this early in her career but sometimes you just get lucky.

The disintegrating watering can and the two tin buckets will become containers for dry garden plants, and the area will be bordered by mass plantings of three silver leafed plants.

I like the idea of a silver garden with white or very pale flowers as an island of sanity within the wider confines of the property. It would also make a fine garden of remembrance if you have had a treasured cat or relative whose ashes you might like to put there. (In my case the treasured cats, who are all still alive, are likely to dig up the shells and leave dead mice in front of the sculpture.)

Other elements that will work in a silver garden are weathered hardwood items – beams or furniture that have gone silver -

grey rocks, especially those with silver lichen on them, decorative metal balls, and mirrors.

Bear in mind, too, that if you have objects you’d like to put there but they’re the wrong colour, a spray can of silver paint will transform them in a heartbeat.

But if you’re going to have a themed garden area, you’ll have to be disciplined. It’s easy to become obsessive and find yourself buying any old pieces of metal that catch your eye. Before you know it you’ll have collected dozens of old ash cans and the pile outside your garden shed will cost a crate of very good champagne to get rid of.

What to plant? Try these.

For mass planting, astelia is ideal. It looks great in a thick clump or a double row. Astelia chathamica Silver Spear is popular, as is Chatham Is. Astelia which has large silvery leaves, drooping at the tips. Astelia fragrans is very good for planting under large trees or where it’s hard establish other plants. As a bonus, the flowers are honey scented.

The soft, feathery foliage of Silver Mound Artemisia forms a compact, silky, cushion-like mound. It’s a good filler for hot, dry areas and combines especially well with dark leaved plants.

Cineraria Silverdust has the common name ‘Dusty Miller’ and is noted for its silver coloured leaves. Cinerarias are good plants for containers and, interestingly, are said to be useful in curing cataracts. 

My current favourite is Hebe Quicksilver. It’s a small shrub with tiny silvery/blue leaves on dark stems and it produces pale lavender flowers in summer. It likes full sun and doesn’t mind being dry. After all this rain and cold, who doesn’t!


(Order number: silver garden 5)