Unless we are talking about compost, brown in the summer landscape is usually a sign of trouble.  Brown grass is grass in need of rain.  That cinnamon orange color means the yew is stone cold dead.  Burnt brown leaves on a shade tree can mean a lot of things-none of them good.  Brown blotches on the maple tree leaves and roses-a fungus at work.  But there are some brown foliaged plants that are quite handsome.  Having planted my pots at home with color loud enough to make some people wince, I decided maybe a quieter year was in order.    

Pairing the brown vine with silvery grey green seemed like a moody choice.  At first, it even seemed crabby.  But it did not take long for me to fall for it.  This is the best part of gardening with containers-the opportunity to try something new.  I have has these Italian terra cotta urns a long time.  That goat man is a feature of this pot; the blue sedum in front will never obscure that face.  The silver dichondra grows long.  By the end of the summer, it will reach the ground.  The leaves are amazingly shiny.  That surface is a good textural contrast to the felted leaves of the dusty miller.     

The potato vine references the color of the Italian clay. A variety of grey foliaged plants, including Victorian rosemary, sage, variegated licorice, and variegated thyme are talking quietly amongst themselves about texture and form.

The red-brown foliaged hibiscus grows tall and wide.  By summer’s end, it will make a wall of its own at the end of the terrace.  The leaves of pink polka dot plant are green, splashed with pink.  From a distance they look brownish.  The blue flapjack kalanchoe in the small pot is not a grey foliaged plant, but the color harmonizes well with grey.  

A variegated lavender and variegated sedum has the same blue green look as the kalanchoe.  The variegated centerpiece whose name I do not know had decidedly brown stems-a subtle feature that pleases me.  The carex frosted curls is as graceful as can be.

My antique Italian olive jar is home to an olive tree Rob bought me at a nursery in Austin Texas.  This is its first summer outdoors-I usually keep it in the shop greenhouse.  It must be happy-it is growing.  The ruff of santolina adds a little substantive transition between the tree and its pot.  I greatly like how these plantings harmonize with the color of the brick, the furniture, and the old decking.  This has been a fairly easy planting to look after, as all of these plants are drought resistant.   

I am growing two of what I call fancy leaved begonias.  The escargot begonia looks brown, or green, or grey, depending on the light and time of day.  The pepperomias on either side are a dark steely grey.  Though I am a fan of pepperomias in general, I have always shied away from this one.  Some plants are of a color that is hard to use.  I am so glad that this pepperomia and this escargot begonia found each other.  The white arrow leaved caladiums make the dark colors read clearly.  A green backdrop would make the colors of the foreground plants look muddy.  The silver leaved begonia has grown considerably in just 2 months.  The underplanting of green tropical ferns disguise those begonia legs.  So far, so good with these.  I am very careful to keep them as dry as possible, which helps avoid rot and fungus. 

In the driveway, the chocolate coleus makes a very strong statement.  I like it better than anything else I have ever planted in front of this wall.  As this garden is primarily viewed from away and above, a little white in the form of mandevillea, petunias, euphorbia Diamond Frost and 3D osteos keeps things lively.  

The colorblaze Velvet mocha coleus I would use again.  It is a very willing grower.  The color is clear and rich, and does not fade.  It makes a very handsome annual hedge.   

I will be interested to see if the 3D osteospermum come back into bloom in the fall.  But for their stubbornly bushy and mostly green state, I am enjoying what is going on here.  These colors look great with the brown of the driveway brick, and the yellow brown stone walls. 

These bits of brown in the garden-I like them.


  1. Michael K says

    I believe that it is height of chic. So unexpected and so sublime.

  2. Truth be told, and as I said to you when I was on this year’s Garden Tour, I was really bowled over by the color combinations — really unexpected and really beautiful. Strangely beautiful. To my eye it had something to do with the color values together…and less to do with the hues. Values and saturation…that is what I remember. Only a true artist has that kind of eye. Thanks for leading the way.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michael, it seemed very strange at first-I was worried. Strangely beautiful-I hope so! Thanks for this, Deborah

  3. I love this color combination. I’m always a fan of the grey foliage plants. Grey looks so stylish. The grey combined with the “orange-brown-purple-cool” colors of the potato vine and coleus, is stunning. And the extra bonus is that everything matches the stone and brickwork so perfectly. You are amazing! Truly…

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, thanks for this. I always thought grey was gloomy. It matters what you put it with. And it seems to make a difference to use a lot of it at a time. Deborah

  4. Have you tried Arctotis instead of Osteospermums? I find they bloom all summer unlike Osteos, the foliage is attractive and there are some vibrant colours as well as white.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Suzanne, I have never tried it-but clearly I should. I thought this new osteo was able to take the heat-not so. Deborah

  5. Silvia Weber says

    Very chic, sublime, lovely –yes definitely!
    Once again, artistic horticulture – genius!
    It’s difficult to believe, but “flowers” not missed. What fun it is to look at these plantings!

  6. Silvia Weber says

    By the way, your “loud colors” of last year – loved those too!

  7. At work, and feeling way under the weather = unproductive = reading blogs. I have been a fan for a long, long time. Enjoy/listen to your approach/commentary. Tell me about the brown and gray combo, and I would not like it – the picture makes it a must-do, sometime. Don’t you think it is time that you opened a store in the NY Metro area? Westchester County, NY and Fairfield County, Ct are calling you……….

  8. Your aesthetics/style would be so well received here. What you have made for the shop, what is purchased in France – people here hunger for it all, the good, high quality stuff that for some reason is getting harder and harder to find,

    I grew up in the Purchase, NY/Greenwich, Ct area and know the upper Westchester and lower Fairfield counties very well. If you guys are ever in the area I’d be happy to show you around. The NYC metro area has a large population of people who would eat your stuff up!


    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear J, what we have must be well recieved here too, as we have been in business 16 years. And we do ship! But the idea of a second location-interesting. It wouldn’t be me moving out there-I like the midwest!

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