Thursday, January 24, 2013

I feel a change a comin…

I have a reputation for having strong opinions, and I suppose it’s somewhat warranted. However I also have been known to do a complete 180 and reverse my direction. Take Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella teniussma); I hated that plant for years. Never could understand what people liked about it. Then one day I had to have it…had to! My current flip flop plant…Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria or Centaurea cineraria)…
(photo source)

A little history…

My mom grew this plant in the late 70's/early 80’s; as I recall it always looked on the verge of death. Its bottom leaves crispy, overall too tall and gangly, a slightly better version of this…

Not the best of plant memories. Many years later the first thing I did when I moved into my house (mine all mine! I finally owned a house!) in Spokane was to pull out the sad little dots of Dusty Miller. They couldn't go away fast enough, I hated Dusty Miller!

Then on a rainy day back in November of 2009, I was stopped at a traffic light here in Portland and I spotted these sweet white clouds…

Dusty Miller!...and I liked it…oh the horror! But as luck would have it that was just a short burst of affection and I quickly went back to Dusty Miller hating.

Until now. Now I’m totally fixated on planting it this spring. Must have it! Can’t you just see it brightening up the garden, adding a little light and texture with lots of green leaves around it? I can, and I’m very excited about it. I think part of what I’ve always hated (besides the leggy woody stems) is the way it’s used as an island in the landscape, plants plopped down all by themselves (and often surrounded by bark mulch).

Since I garden by the cram-it method (you know, cram as many plants in the garden as possible) I hopefully won’t have that problem. Although I am afraid it can go south pretty fast and end up looking like “trailer park landscaping” (a favorite quote from a comment my “But I hate Dusty Miller” post in 2009). I’ll have to keep an eye on it and be ruthless if it gets leggy, oh and no ugly yellow flowers allowed (off with their heads)!

To be continued… (do you think I’m crazy?)

36 comments:

  1. Nah! Love this plant, often treated as an annual here. Just keep changing/replacing on regular basis so it always looks nice and you'll never get the chance or a reason to hate it again :)

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    1. Others have agreed with you on this. I wouldn't have thought to approach it this way (after all I'm the one who takes cuttings of cheap succulents to over winter so they won't die) but I like the idea!

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  2. I'm still on the fence with this one but I'm sure seeing it in your garden will make me love it.

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  3. I feel just as you do: so often Dusty Miller is neglected and gets depressingly unattractive. But when fresh and fairly young, that fabulous silvery gray foliage can look beautiful, and the fact that it's an annual means it quickly fills bare spots in spring/summer (if you actually HAVE any of those.) The trick seems to be not letting it get old and gangly.

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    1. Oh yes...I think I can find a few bare spots. You'd be surprised!

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  4. Haha I don't think you're crazy at all. Dusty miller is a perfect love hate plant. First off, the name, hate. Reminds me of dusty rose and theirby flashbacks of awfully prissy houses. The lanky nasty creepy factor of it is another hate. But the ghostly, interesting foliage is great. So I get your shifting feelings for this plant. I too have been tempted by the odd nice one and en equally repulsed by the landscape specimen usage it seems to get

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    1. Ah yes, "dusty rose" (or dusty mauve) an ugly reminder of my youth (I loved all things mauve). Let me know if you decide to take the plunge too!

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  5. Sounds like something I would do...

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    1. So you're a plant flip/flop'er too?

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  6. I'm with you. I don't usually pay much attention to it but every now and then you see a perfect specimen and you do a double take. I feel that way about Artemisia 'Powis Castle'. What Mulch Maid said is so true: don't let it get gangly.

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    1. Yes! Artemisia 'Powis Castle' is another great example. Every once and awhile it's gorgeous...but other times just plain hideous!

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  7. We prefer the term eccentric to crazy but since you asked, yes, you're a member of the crazy club. So many of the artemesias look faboo when they're not allowed to get woody. Powis Castle is sweet and silver mound makes me touch it every time I see one. I pass a garden on my new route to work that is full of Dusty Miller and I've been thinking that it looks pretty sweet.

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    1. Perhaps you'll take a photo of that garden full of Dusty Miller?

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  8. I love this one. It is great for contrast and it doesn't require very much in terms of water and food. I'm growing a ton of them from seed this year. Hit me up for some if you'd like...

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  9. An annual here and - gack - something about this plant just rubs me the wrong way. Not the gangliness, because even a "nice" specimen looks unappealing to me. Maybe it's the leaf shape. Maybe if I actually grew it for a summer I'd feel differently... okay, I'll give it a try. Perhaps.

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    1. I have a friend who hates all leaves that are fuzzy. She is just repulsed by them. Maybe you have the same instinct?

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    2. Nope. I love lots of fuzzy leaves. Just not this one.

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  10. No, This plant is great for its silver foliage, and with a prune every now and then should keep it compact. I plant it for contrast and then rip it out because I don't like it much any more. There's just something about this plant. Its attractive and repulsive at the same time. Maybe its got something to do with who you plant it next to.

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    1. "attractive and repulsive at the same time"...that certainly seems to sum up a lot of peoples feelings on it.

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  11. I've been tucking them in wherever in the garden and containers for years. Weather freezes and even snow just fine in my zone 8B garden. They are so cheap and easy to replace.

    Last year one died and I didn't even pull it out for a few weeks because it stayed silver.

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    1. This is a pretty good recommendation Shirley!

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  12. I love this plant but any time I've attempted it here has been futile. But I do love the grey/white color, so ghostly!

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    1. The ghostly aspect is definitely a major part of the appeal for me. It's not just silver but even spookier.

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  13. I agree with Karen: the foliage is attractive and repulsive at the same time. Maybe because I've seen it in too many strip malls and gas stations. May I suggest Dwarf Curry (helichrysum italicum) instead? I have been so happy with my one Dwarf Curry plant that I bought several more on sale last summer. The foliage contrasts well with everything, especially when it is in bright sun. The sulfer flowers are wonderful, and keep their good looks as they fade. Artemesias are fine, but only if they are cut way back in early spring. Leggy Artemesias are no fun.

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    1. Oh and the curry even smells good too! Maybe I'll have to try a couple of those as well. I remember the ones in your garden looked pretty wonderful.

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  14. Of course you're crazy...it's what we love about you! I'm pretty convinced that there is no such thing as a bad plant...just miserable usage. Well, maybe kudzu.

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    1. You're correct of course (on all accounts!).

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  15. Of course, with everything it's all in how it's used. I have a feeling one day you will even see "those ugly yellow flowers" used well in a garden and think "wow."

    For a really sad use of dusty miller (and at the White House!), see here: http://enclosuretakerefuge.com/2012/10/13/a-s-c-l-e-p-i-a/


    Enjoy your posts!

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    1. Oh my! (I loved the comment noting that these plantings wouldn't be coming up in the presidential debates). And you're probably right about the yellow flowers too...

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  16. I have been reading your blog for a while now and thought I would throw my two cents in on this topic. Like you I had a love/hate relationship with dusty miller. But one spring was a final draw for it. My planting of dusty miller was infested with the pretty black and orange banded cinnabar moth caterpillar. They were so thick on the plants it looked like a tent caterpillar infestation. They had completely skeletonized the poor dusty millers, a close cousin of the tansy ragwort which the caterpillars should have been eating instead. No more dusty miller for me! If you do grow dusty millers keep an eye out for this introduced pest.
    John from Aberdeen, WA

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    1. Thanks for commenting John, lord knows the last thing I want to do is bring a new pest into my (thankfully fairly pest free) garden. I Googled the cinnabar moth caterpillar and I swear in several of those photos they were munching down on Dusty Miller leaves!

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  17. If anyone can rock the Dusty Miller, it's you girl! Cheers, Jenni

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    1. Ha, thanks Jenni. I hope I'm up for the challenge!

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  18. I currently have the same issue with a Centaurea gymnocarpa (Velvet Centaurea). I just recently hacked it back to the ground because it was getting too big and hanging over the walkway. Hopefully it sprouts out in the spring.

    Over the years, I have had several Dusty Miller over winter nicely. However, to keep them looking healthy, they required constant pinching back of the stems and removal of all the flower buds. Eventually they just got too big and they had too go. Love the color and texture, but much too high maintenance for me, especially for a cheap annual that just happens to survive our Portland winters..

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