In the Garden

Every year a new plant catches everyone’s attention, and this year the gardening buzz is all about Stachys “Bello Grigio.”

The foliage of this unique lambs’ ears (Stachys byzantine) relative is so soft and fuzzy, no one can resist petting it. The most stunning attribute of ‘Bello Grigio,’ however, is its brilliant silver-white footlong leaves. It mixes well with perennial and annual flowers of practically any color; plus the bold foliage contrasts beautifully with a wide variety of forms and textures.

It’s a great candidate to liven up the front of the border, but it’s a real knockout in containers where its spiky form adds a huge “oh, la, la!” factor to any design. Stachys ‘Bello Grigio,’ by the way, is strictly a foliage plant. Evidently, it only flowers when it’s about to die.

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Speaking of which, this evergreen perennial is so new, even though it is thought to be hardy to about minus 30 degrees, no one is sure it will survive our cold, soggy Puget Sound winters. It is purported to prefer a sunny location and well-drained soil.

Hey, a plant this showy is worth buying even if it only lives one season, but if you don’t want to miss out, buy one soon. I’ve seen them at many nurseries but they’ve been flying off the shelves, and there’s a good chance they will sell out early in the season.

Create a succulent “pizza”

Impress the living tweetle out of everyone by planting up a succulent “pizza.” Begin by purchasing a wide, shallow pot making sure there are adequate holes for drainage. Then visit your local nursery to choose some showy succulents. The ones that look best in a pizza are those that feature rosettes of colorful leaves.

One of the showiest is Kalanchoe thyrisiflora (aka paddle plant). This South African beauty is adorned with large rounded, fleshy, grayish-green leaves margined in red. Equally spectacular is Aeonium arboretum ‘Schwarzkopf,’ known as the black rose. This gorgeous succulent features 6-inch-wide rosettes of black-satin leaves perched atop purple stems.

No succulent pizza is complete without the addition of a few Echiverias. These Mexican cuties come in a wide variety of psychedelic colors. The leaves are often wavy or frilly and some varieties are even encrusted with exotic warty bumps.

Once you’ve made your selection, it’s time to pot them up. Use cactus soil and cram the plants in as tightly as possible to create a full look. For an extra attractive appearance, cover the soil surface with a top-dressing of colorful pea-gravel pebbles available at your local nursery.

Keep your succulent pizza in the hottest, sunniest location possible, and water whenever the surface looks dry. Fertilize with full-strength houseplant food once per month to encourage the plants to grow big and beautiful.

Keep your potted pizza looking good for a number of years by overwintering it in the house or an unheated garage by a bright window or under a grow light. Water very sparingly until you move the pizza outdoors in mid-spring to once again show off your masterpiece.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.