09 March, 2016

Silvery grey tree

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Brachylaena discolor

I love grey foliage. My Dusty Millers are already getting gangly. In winter I'll take cuttings and make silver fountains again, instead of the elbows and shoulders. This smaller garden needs the paths kept open. Lamb’s ears are so much happier in misty moisty air and a little afternoon shade. Santolina was tiny cuttings, now overflowing the path and ready to roam. All three are commonorgarden foreigners.

Brachylaena leaves
shiny above, felted below

Grey foliage has more impact when it is a treeful. We planted Brachylaena in our Camps Bay garden about 40 years ago when we were finding our garden way. The underneath of the leaves is silver, and they flash when the Southeaster catches them. Ours was planted in the far bottom corner. Where, as the years passed, we saw - a gnarled grey trunk, and our neighbours saw - the dancing silver leaves. In our Porterville garden we planted a few between us and the wall towards the mountain view. For Pam @ Digging's Foliage Followup

Twigs of coast silver oak

False Bay is our third garden and here I have the tree planted in the courtyard at our livingroom window - where I can enjoy the sparkle as the polished dark green side flips to silver velvet. Garden Lesson Learned! In neighbouring False Bay gardens I can see Brachylaena allowed to soar and spread as a tree (4-10 metres in a garden), or neatly confined as a topiary. Both ways display the two-tone leaves.

Brachylaena bark

Brachylaena discolor, coast silver oak, Asteraceae/daisy family. Found in forest, and down to sand dunes. From the Eastern Cape to Mozambique, so not in our mediterranean climate. Discolor for the leaves which are green above and silver below. 'Oak' thanks to early settlers from Europe. The wood is used for boatbuilding, fence posts and carving. Nectar for bees and birds. Makes good honey. Shade, full sun, or containers. Excellent hedge. Stabilises dunes. Male and female trees (which do we have now?) It is both drought and frost resistant. From PlantZAfrica.

In Life is what happens (when the axis of our world shifted from Porterville) I wrote - We will plant trees to shield us from the neighbours, but still catch a glimpse of the hills. Choosing the smaller indigenous trees or Brachylaena, whose leaves flash the silver below when whipped by the southeaster.

Brachylaena flowers
August 2011 in Porterville

My tree comes with a bonus of weird little thistle flowers (August 2011 in Porterville). This link of the daisy chain, is a true daisy tree.

Planted in December 2014
(below the Eye)

Ours was planted in December 2014. Just over a year old and it is taller than us despite the Pruning battle in January this year between Ungardener GRRRumbling Gartenzwerg and Pissed Off Gardener. Resolved in February. POG won. The tree was pruned, a little.

Dozen for Diana 5

Silver and green Brachylaena discolor joins the four plants I have chosen to add to our new old garden. Melianthus with its dramatic leaves, white Pelargonium for 'colour', Dusty Miller in grey fountains and Hypoxis with yellow star flowers and arching leaves.

Brachylaena discolor
showing the two-tone leaves sparkling to the window

I was hoping to choose March lilies this month ... but mine are delayed. Perhaps in April? As the seasons turn, we from summer heat to autumn fresh, you from winter chill to spring flowers - what plant says March in your garden?

Pam in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania welcomes spring with snowdrops and Tahiti daffodils
Donna in upstate New York reminds me to add bark that charms with colour and shine on her red twig dogwood 

Brachylaena discolor
as you walk thru our garden

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Pictures by Diana Studer
(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
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27 comments:

  1. Your sparkling Brachylaena discolor seems the perfect tree. I hope I can find time to join you and post about my perfect march plant.

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    1. would love you to bring me a plant!

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  2. What a versatile tree, and so kind of it to show off in a windstorm. I think wind is an overlooked factor in garden design--movement in general, but also the flickering of light. My ipheion bulbs are starting to bloom--the pale blue star flowers that were the signature of Microcosm. They nod brightly in spring breezes.

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    1. I miss your Microcosm, now we are in our own microcosm.

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  3. You bring up a number of factors to consider when choosing a tree. The signature plant here in March is the evergreen clematis. It is just beginning to burst its buds and will soon engulf the front deck in clouds of fragrance.

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    1. Trying to find a space for our indigenous clematis.
      Is yours the lovely purple one?

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  4. How nice to have the opportunity to successfully apply the lessons you've learned from previous gardens. We are having an unseasonably warm March; today's high temperatures smashed the old records. The snow is almost all melted, and I may soon be seeing signs of April in my March garden.

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    1. unseasonably warm, but kindly with flowers, not battling drought like California?

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  5. Such an interesting selection of plants, Diana, I like the many shades of green.
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Mine is a leafy garden, with flowers coming second.

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  6. Oh, to see life through your eyes. Think I'm taking so much for granted. Lovely post.

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  7. What a beautiful tree....I don't know of any around here that have silvery gray foliage here in the NE. I will have my Dozen plant in a couple of weeks.

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  8. I also love silver/gray foliage. Lamb's Ears are a favorite, though they are aggressive growers in my garden. I can't keep my hands off them. I find I must pet them.

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  9. love that B. discolor, and agree with your love for grey plants. Brachyleana reminds me of Eleangus - has similar leaves and colour. What you said about Lambs Ears explains why mine are not very happy. They survive, but sulk a lot.

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  10. I love silver foliage too. I really like trees that have a silvery color to them. The leaves of the Brachylaena discolor are very pretty!

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  11. Love your bicoloured leaves, funny, isn't it, how with some plants it takes us a while to learn how to best place them. My battle tends to be between where is best for backlit foliage or grass heads and what will spoil the view of the sea.

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    1. backlit foliage?
      That will be a whole 'nother - where shall I plant it 'battle'.
      Getting very crowded here.
      Sometimes my camera agrees to capture the backlit magic.

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  12. The light in theses photos is very different from how it seemed in your first Elephant's Eye. Is it a new camera or a contrast between where you are now and where you used to live?

    I decided it would be funny to have a 'testimonials' page on my blog http://tinyurl.com/zhlzlsz (They always look suspicious!) and I've included a quote from you and a link to this blog.
    Hope this is ok and that the idea amuses you. If not, I can easily remove the quote and the link. Let me know. Best wishes. Esther Montgomery.

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    1. It takes a photographer's eye to see a difference I hadn't noticed - but perhaps crisp dry air in Porterville, and now the misty moisty air on False Bay.

      Thank you for the link - I have been dipping into your new blog.

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  13. It's a very attractive tree, in all its aspects. I wonder why I've never seen it here? Our climate should also be suitable.

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    1. but you have manzanita - which I would like to grow, if I lived in California

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  14. Ah yes, the joy of beautiful scenes outside the window. I enjoy silvery-grey foliage, too. Actually, I enjoy any foliage in the right setting, but the silvery-grey can have quite an impact. The two-toned and two-textured nature of the Brachylaena leaves makes them especially fascinating. I've just returned from a trip to S. California, where S. African plants seem to thrive. I learned much about your plants at the San Diego botanical garden. Thanks for sharing your Lessons Learned for the meme!

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  15. March for me is all about daffodils and cherry blossoms. No one prunes anything in my garden except for me. My husband can make a suggestion but whether or not to act on it is my choice. I don't tend to favor silvery plants but I do love anything soft and felty.

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    1. I have a Jersey lily in bud and September will bring me spring blossom on Prunus nigra.

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  16. Beautiful choice for your 'dozen.' The only tree in my garden with the silver under-leaves is the invasive Russian olive: beautiful but not desirable. I caught up on my blog today with Feb and March picks. P. x

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