Rescue a tired front border



Silver-leaved foliage plants can transform this pretty front garden into a show-stopper, says Ian Hodgson


This attractive front garden is full of seasonal interest, with the pretty pink cherry in blossom, a passionflower clambering up the house walls, a handsome globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus), fragrant lavender and rosemary shrubs, and hellebores and daffodils for bright spring flowers.

Clearly the owner has spent time planning this display, so my comments here are suggestions on how to augment the silver and pink colour scheme in order to give the plants a real sense of purpose.

First things first: the cherry tree is planted too close to the house, I’m afraid. In about 10 years this will become a real nuisance.
In the meantime it’s worth ‘limbing up’ – removing some of the lower branches so the canopy develops higher up the main stem, but it’s likely that you’ll have to remove the tree altogether at a later date.



To partner the cynara foliage, which acts as a silvery foil for the pink blossom, I’d add more silver and white foliage plants. Sun-loving Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ would lend an impressive architectural note, and if the soil is light and well-drained, I’d use a couple of silvery artemisias: A. ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’ and A. schmidtiana ‘Nana’ to bring in welcome contrasts of shape and texture. The velvetine silver foliage of Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’ is another good option that will cover the ground, or you could also include dwarf evergreen Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Small-Ness’. Spiky eryngiums and/or perovskia would pick up on the spiky cynara foliage, too.

In contrast to all the sophisticated white, grey and silver plants, add a few pink and red accents to chime with the pink blossom in spring, such as heuchera ‘Sugar Frosting’, whose marbled silver leaves are shot with burgundy underneath.

Encourage the hybrid hellebores by dividing them and adding more pink or burgundy ones to the mix. For later flowers choose magenta-flowered campion, Lychnis coronaria, blooming July to September.

• Does your front garden need Ian’s help? Email


Cynara scolymus Thistly perennial with serrated silver foliage. Leaves develop early in year, and globe artichokes Aug-Sept. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. H2m (6½ft) S1.2m (4ft)

Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’ Groundcover shrub that forms a silky cushion of feathery foliage. Prefers moist but well-drained poor soil. Deer and rabbit-resistant. H30cm (12in) S45cm (18in)

Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ Variegated hardy sub-shrub with bushy habit and white flowers May-June. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. H90cm (3ft) S75cm (30in)

Heuchera ‘Sugar Frosting’ Perennial foliage plant with silver marbling on burgundy leaves and white flowers April-May. Prefers sun or part shade in moist but well-drained soil. H45cm (18in) S40cm (16in)

Athyrium niponicum pictum Decorative hardy fern ideal for a shady spot beside shrubs or small trees. Foliage stands well over winter. Thrives in moist but well-drained soil. H30cm (12in) S45cm (18in)

READ MORE Subscribe to our digital edition