It requires a brave designer, and an equally bold client, to use this much gray foliage in a garden. But in the sun-soaked hills above Santa Barbara, landscape architect Isabelle Greene made it work--wonderfully. Shades of gray carry the eye far into the distance, toward a silvery sea and a misty gray horizon, with no end in sight. Silver turns to ashen gray, rebounds in a pearly gray, bounces off the gray-green of shrubs to either side, then back to the blue-gray of gazanias and a distant acacia before it all dissolves in the faraway sparkle off back-lit waves.
That much gray might seem less comfortable in a garden not surrounded by native California plants, as this one is. Gray foliage, after all, is not uncommon in the chaparral, and some of these gray plants--such as the sage pictured at left--are natives. The steely gray foliage of St. Catherine's lace ( Eriogonum giganteum ) is native to the islands just offshore. The incredibly silvery Senecio leucostachys (foreground, far left) is a rare dusty miller from Argentina (and Turk Hessellund Nursery in Santa Barbara). The English lavender (lower left) is an elegant gray-green. Snow-in-summer (below, center) and gazanias are the carpeting gray plants--the hollows between the hills of silver.