The leaves of these plants still contain chlorophyll, with most of the silver coming from structural colour, which increases reflection. Tiny hairs called trichomes or waxy coatings also reduce transpiration, helping to keep the leaves cool.
Utilising this evolutionary success and planting silver-leaved plants in areas of the garden that are prone to drought and receive direct sunlight for most of the day creates a functional design.
For a silver-leaved shrub that is suited to a sunny mixed border, look no further than Atriplex halimus. Typically growing 2-3m in height and spread, it can be lightly trimmed for neatness and tolerates windy, coastal sites. The leaves are a perfect foil for cottage garden shots of pinks like Gladiolus communis subsp. Byzantinus or Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’.
Melianthus major (or, more sweetly, ‘Honey Bush’) boasts spectacular, almost exotic, grey-green leaves late in spring. Benefitting from a dry mulch over winter, it can reach a height of 3m in a sheltered position. It exudes a scent reminiscent of peanut butter and flowers from May to July.