10 AGM-winning trees and shrubs with silver foliage

Trees and shrubs with silvery or greyish foliage are invaluable for two reasons. Firstly, they don't clash with other colours in the garden, so they can fit in anywhere. Secondly, many are unusually tolerant of drought – a useful feature in dry summers and with watering becoming more expensive.

H1 - H7 indicated the new hardiness ratings

Full details of hardiness ratings (510kB pdf)

Acacia baileyana

This bushy shrub or small tree has prettily-divided evergreen silvery leaves and, in late winter and spring, each leaf joint carries a fluffy bottlebrush composed of bright yellow pompom flowers. They stand out from a distance and last well both on the plant and when cut. Best in full sun, and with the protection of a sunny wall in colder areas. 3-6m (10-20ft). H2.

Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila

The snow gum is one of the hardiest of all eucalyptus, and makes a small to medium sized evergreen tree with large, leathery, grey-green, leaves held on white twigs. The effect is of a mass of shimmering silver. The trunk is attractively patterned in grey, cream and green and there are also clusters of creamy flowers in late spring and summer. 6m (20ft). H5.

Lavandula × chaytoriae ‘Richard Gray’

Many lavenders feature silvery foliage but this hybrid between old English lavender, L. angustifolia, and the woolly leaved Spanish species, L. lanata, is one of the best. It combines broad, bright, leaves covered in silvery wool with good hardiness and a long season of prolific, deep purple flowers. Best in full sun with fairly well-drained soil. 50cm (20in). H4.

Lotus hirsutus

Long known as Dorycnium hirsutum, this rounded and usually evergreen Mediterranean shrub has grey-green stems and foliage - all of which are covered in silvery hairs. White flowers open in the shoot tips from pink buds in summer and autumn. Best in full sun and dislikes winter wet - but is lovely backed by a gravel mulch. 60cm (2ft). H4.

Melianthus major

One of the most bold and most enticing of small shrubs, the leaves are up to 50cm (20in) long, divided like a rose leaf into many pairs of segments and the whole leaf is greyish or blue-green in colour. Spikes up to 75cm (30in) long of dark, brick red flowers develop in the shoot tips in their second year. Best in well-drained soil in sun, protected from cold winds. 2m (6ft8in). H3.

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’

With almost white stems carrying deeply cut silver leaves, before flowering begins in late summer the whole plant has a pale delicate look about it. Then 30cm (1ft) spikes of deep blue, almost violet flowers develop in the shoot tips making a very appealing combination. Leave the silver stems for winter colour, then prune back hard in spring as growth is beginning. 1.2m (4ft). H5.

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Queen'

This neat and bushy evergreen features small, glossy, grey-green leaves, each with a narrow, slightly irregular margin of white creating a pale shining effect. There are also small, black, fragrant flowers in summer. The shoots are good for cutting, the plant can be allowed to develop informally or pruned in spring to restrict its size and develop a neater, formal shape. 3m (10ft). H4.

Salix exigua

A tall shrub that can restricted in size by annual pruning, its main feature is its slender 10cm (4in) grey foliage covered in silky silver hairs creating a slightly ghostly presence. There are also catkins in spring as the leaves open. It can also be trained as a small tree but its tendency to sucker adds a difficulty to this approach. Good on sandy soils. 2-4m (6ft8in-13ft4in). H5.

Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Small-Ness'

This is a very neat and compact version of a plant that often develops into rather a straggly habit in its usual form. The finely dissected silver foliage makes a tight evergreen clump and then from midsummer there are bright yellow, button-like flowers. Best in a well-drained sunny site, clip over in spring to keep it neat and prolific. 20cm (8in). H5.

Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’

Forming an attractive columnar shape, this small to medium-sized tree features broad, boldly ribbed leaves covered early in the season in a thick layer of creamy down. As the heads of white flowers open in late spring the down blows away but there are dark red berries later. Thrives on dry chalk as well as more fertile soils. 8m (26ft8in). H6.

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