09 December, 2015

Dusty Miller for Advent

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

My favourite base for our Advent wreath is the Prince of Wales feathers in silver velvet, OTT leaves of Dusty Miller. (This year with a little extra substance from Lamb's ears). Centaurea cineraria is my December plant for False Bay Dozen for Diana. I look forward to your December choices. I began in October with Melianthus major. In November I added white pelargoniums. February 2016 the yellow stars of Hypoxis make up the first 4 in this Dozen for Diana.

Pam in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania shares my love of parsnips for her December plant.
Donna in NY State has a Christmas plant I don't expect - fern! 
Advent wreath
returning to my wintry favourite
silver leaves from Dusty Miller and lamb's ears
with white silk balls

What will I make space for in my garden, however small it is? What did I dig up, or take cuttings from, when we moved to our third garden? Plants must earn their place in my garden. I am imagining a courtyard garden with space for a small tree, shrubs, fillers, and a bit of groundcover. A few herbs. Somewhere to sit, with a tiny pond.

Leaf detail for Dusty Miller

Second, they must be happy with the long hot summer and wet winter of a mediterranean climate. Double points if they are South African fynbos, but some exotic aliens are invited. I would water worthy plants through the summer, but the plant has to earn my sweat and exhaustion.

Silver fountain of Dusty Miller

Third, got to have something special –
beautiful foliage,
colourful flowers to pick,
wildlife friendly,

Spring Promise with the four corners anchored with Dusty Miller

I love Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria for its silver feather leaves – beautiful as a halo around a posy, when giving flowers to your friends. In the garden, when it reaches just the right size, in a year or so, it is a silver fountain. If you blink, the Dusty Millers have a debauched evening, loll all over their neighbours, and take over the paths. Before they get that far, keep taking cuttings, so you always have plants of a satisfying size, and rip out the old, tired originals. (Already! I only planted Spring Promise in July) Perfect pioneer plants for a new garden providing the harmony of repeated focal points, a silver wave, or a gentle informal hedge.

Centaurea cineraria purple flower

Soft two tone lilac thistle flower. A true Mediterranean plant, an exotic alien, but it looks like one of ours!

Straw stars and memories of Aarau

Straw stars I made when we lived in Aarau about 20 years ago. Getting battered, especially the one with heavy ears of wheat (or is it barley?) That took at least two classes of carrying it home and back again. Filigree star loses loops each Christmas. Maybe next year, will be the year for fresh straw stars - which I will make in an easier to pack size.

Pecan branch was our southern Christmas tree in Porterville 2013

We've done the 'fresh' pine tree with LONG green needles. We've tried the permanent plastic tree, which sheds short bits of nasty plastic. In Porterville I used the pecan branch for a more African version.

New this year a township tree

This year we have a township tree. Made in our neighbourhood from stacked wooden branches (probably from invasive alien Port Jackson wattle). I chose painted white for my straw and wooden Christmas tree ornaments. Keeping the glass ones for next year, when Thomas is not a playful kitten.

Thomas the bookshelf cat

Dusty Miller take cuttings for Garden Lessons Learned and Advent wreath for Seasonal Celebrations. Each year my Advent wreath draws visitors via this Hungarian blog from 2010. Stars and tree are in this year's Austrian Christmas decorations at Tante Mali's Living and Green

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  1. So many different plants are referred to as 'Dusty Miller'. I love them all. Yours is the perfect foil for white candles. Your unusual choices for Christmas trees are very pleasing to me.

  2. I love your dusty miller, and I'm happy to see Thomas is developing a proper appreciation for books. -Jean

  3. I agree about the Christmas trees--very pleasant. A beautiful Advent wreath, as well. And good lessons about dividing and transplanting the Dusty Millers. They look wonderfully at home in your new garden. Thanks for joining in the memes!

  4. I love your township Christmas tree. Your straw stacks look quite hard to make...I think they would be beyond me! The Dusty Miller takes me back to my childhood. It is easy to forget plants when you move countries.

    1. I went to a few classes for the straw stars - then it is a knack, like learning to crochet.

    2. Gerrie's blog http://www.canberrasgreenspaces.com/

  5. It was you who first introduced me to the idea of using silver foliage for a Christmas wreath or table decoration, it has become 'my' classic choice. So thank you Diana.

  6. I enjoyed that. You're creative ...this is something I need to spark. The tree has to be one of a kind, very nice.

    1. The township trees I noticed in the last few years. Always new ideas from the street hawkers and informal craftspeople.

  7. Love all your Dusty Miller, they look so good in your garden. Unfortunately they die off here with all the rain and heavy soil.

    1. We've gone full circle from Porterville's clay like concrete in summer and slurping goo in winter, to this sand that the water would like to pearl off without sinking in.

  8. That "leaf detail" photo of the Dusty Miller is really an exquisite photograph. "....a debauched evening...", Oh Diana you are so funny and a terrific writer. That is enough to make any gardener chuckle!

    1. those four Dusty Millers are definitely in party mode this festive season!

  9. Did you also make straw angels? Or am I seeing things?

    1. you DO see straw angels
      but I bought those.
      And some tiny jute and red thread angels made in Bangladesh.

  10. Dusty Miller and Lambs Ears are both favorites of mine. And your straw stars: Wow!
    By the way, you asked if I ate the strange edible mushroom I found. No way. Though I later read about it, at the time I had no idea. I am no mycologist, and my motto is if it is not sold in the grocery store, I don't eat it.

    1. shop mushrooms here too.
      In Switzerland people forage for wild mushrooms. You can take your haul, very carefully sorted by separate varieties, to the pharmacist.
      Where they will tell you which you can eat.

  11. great recycling to use wood from alien invasives for christmas tree, very creative. happy christmas, diana.

  12. I absolutely love this wooden tree...perfect and the Advent wreath is always a favorite of mine.....beautiful seasonal decorations and Thomas is a stunning boy. Thanks for joining in Seasonal Celebrations and Merry Christmas!

  13. Dusty Miller is an annual here so I tend to go for Lamb's Ears which is somewhat similar. My December choice is a little late -- sorry. Love your seasonal decorations as always. P. x

    1. thank you for joining me.
      So far it's just us eating parsnips ;~)

  14. I like the hint of frost on the wreath from silvery plants which grow so well mild climates. Dusty Miller grows well for me but I do need your Lesson Learned and must remember to make cuttings.

    The township tree sets off your ornaments nicely. Thomas is a smart kitten to enjoy books.