Plectranthus argentatus carries its sophisticated felted silver leaves around a downy square stem, and makes a wonderful background foliage plant. In September, almost by magic, tiny white flowers start appearing on the lilac spires, opening seemingly at random, and it sparkles. The softness of the colouring is matched by the gentle Tulbaghia violacea, and complemented by the apricot tones of Chrysanthemum ‘Double Ginger’. That would be enough perhaps, but the smell of the heliotrope, Heliotropium arborescens ‘White Lady’ is irresistible; much ‘fresher’ than that of the purple varieties, which can be a bit cloying. Fortunately, it is a scent that fills the air, so no need to bend close and risk disturbing the leaves of the Tulbaghia that give off a garlic smell when they are brushed.
How to achieve the look
Photo by Andrew Montgomery
Cultivation and care
Surprisingly for a silver-leafed plant, the Plectranthus will actually thrive in light shade, but all these plants need good drainage, shelter and heat, so a protected position by a house where there is sun for part of the day is ideal. If you can bring it all into a greenhouse for the winter, this combination will flower for a good few years. There are many varieties of Tulbaghia available from specialist nurseries, so be choosy if you favour a white one, or a stronger, darker flower. This hardy, golden chrysanthemum was one I bought from a local nursery but I’ve never seen it anywhere since. The rather lovely C. ‘Topsy’ would bring a similar hue to the arrangement.
It’s great to find a container that is wide, and deep enough for fulsome planting, but not so huge that it becomes impossible to move it around or to set it on a large table. This kind of flexibility means you can bring it into full view at its most floriferous moment, and then move it wholesale into the greenhouse for the winter. I love the corrugation as well.
Heliotropium arborescens ‘White Lady’ Flowers summer, half-hardy perennial. 30cm.
Chrysanthemum ‘Double Ginger’. I found this hardy chrysanthemum at Overseas Farm Nurseries, but haven’t seen it anywhere since. The burnt-orange C. ‘Topsy’ is a good alternative. 75cm.
Plectranthus argentatus. Flowers in autumn. 75cm.
Tulbaghia violacea. Flowers late summer to autumn. 60cm.
Photography by Andrew Montgomery