A pettable plant, or two, to ease my dog envy.

I want a dog. I really, really do. But my husband is not quite at that point yet. Ever the pragmatist, he soberly thinks of it as yet another project. To some extent, I can see where he is coming from. It is true – dogs are a lot more work than cats. And we already have a cat –  a big, friendly, beautiful, male, orange tabby with a decidedly doggish demeanor. He greets me when I come home, follows me around, and tells me when he wants either food or to go out, so there is no need to pity me for being pet-less. I most definitely am not. But he is still a cat, and if you try to teach him tricks, he will look at you in a superiorly scornful way. Which is something a dog will not do, of course.

Oh well, until that love of mine comes around, I’ll have to think of something else to lavish love upon. I can’t say I consciously spent time looking for what exactly this might be, but one day it simply was just there – the softest, fuzziest dog substitute a girl could possibly want – Salvia argentea, or Silver Salvia. It was so irresistibly cute I giggled! When I brought one home, my boys buried their faces in its large, furry leaves, and I did the same. It reportedly sends up stalks of white flowers in the summers, but no matter – it is all about the leaves for me. I LOVE THEM!


Another photo of the same plant, but this time taken in the blue glow of dusk.

Another photo of the same plant, but this time taken in the blue glow of dusk, which shows off the furry wonders even better.

Another silky, soft sensation I can’t resist caressing is the new growth of Callistemon viridiflora – a bottle brush plant. This one is new to my garden as well. I’m hard pressed to find a good sunny spot for it, so shamefully it is still in its nursery pot. I’m at the point where the consequences of my gardening choices are starting to make themselves noticed. I have a lot of shade in my yard, which I have consciously built up over the years we’ve lived here. I don’t regret doing so –  with one skin cancer surgery behind me, a cool shady yard is definitely the most desirable option for me. And, as the world heats up, I know the rest of the family will appreciate it too. But yeah, it is frustrating when all those sun-loving plants have such cool textures and fabulous shapes… I want them all!

The fuzzies are glowing on my backlit Callistemon - it is irresistible!

The fuzzies are glowing on my backlit Callistemon – it is irresistible!

So why are plants hairy? It’s essentially the plant world’s version of dressing in layers. The hairs protects the inside humidity of the plant, which is at a 100%. When the surrounding air is at a lesser humidity, leaves evaporate water through microscopic openings in their leaves, which are called stomata. The greater the difference between the internal environment (the plant) and the external (the air), the more rapid the evaporation. The hairs create a protective boundary that traps some of that lost moisture, and slows the evaporation down – a crucial plant survival skill when things heat up! Pretty cool, huh? So, when you see a plant covered in hairs, it is fairly safe to assume that they are constructed to be able to withstand a lot of sun and heat.

Stachys byzantina - or Lamb's Ear.

Stachys byzantina – or Lamb’s Ear.

Another endearing bundle of softness are the Lamb’s Ears. For some reason, my kids always called them ‘Camel Ears’, so I guess that is the going name around here. I love their soft leaves, but am not so fond of the tall, lanky flowers. So, imagine my delight when I happened upon a new (to me, at least) version of them called Bella Grigio. It is a tidy, ghostly silver white Lamb’s Ear with tightly cropped fuzzies. I imagine it’s dog equivalent might be something akin to a dachshund, while its ordinary cousin might be more of a Yorkshire terrier. I haven’t been able to find any photos with it flowering, so I think it might be sterile. Naturally, I couldn’t resist!

Stachys 'Bella Grigio'.

Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’.

Lastly – to round out my selection of dog plants is another pettable wonder with lovely, gray scalloped leaves and tiered clumps of purple flowers. A quite stunning plant with great texture. I want to find a spot for it where its fabulous foliage will shine against a background that enhances it. I’m thinking some grasses might work. Such a cool plant… It’s common name? Well, wouldn’t you know it… Horehound! Which, of course places it firmly in the I-don’t-need-a-dog plant category. What’s your favorite dog substitute?

Marubium supinum - or just plain horehound to the rest of us. :)

Marubium supinum – or just plain Horehound to the rest of us. 🙂




About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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7 Responses to A pettable plant, or two, to ease my dog envy.

  1. Great post, great explanations…thank you! Love the sun loving plants too, indeed.

    • annamadeit says:

      Glad you liked it! I think my next garden will have to be a spot with enough land in the center to have LOTS of show-stopping xeric plants that I can admire from the protected, shady sidelines. Kind of like a medieval cloister…

  2. Heather says:

    I love petting the fuzzy spire of my Verbascum bombyciferum but it’s so phallic looking that Greg told me, “you really shouldn’t do that in view of other people.”

  3. ricki grady says:

    Have I told you how much I like your new blog title? A LOT!

    • annamadeit says:

      No, you haven’t! But thank you – that means a lot. I still write on The Creative Flux as well, but I figured I’d break out and start a garden exclusive. TCF is still all over the place, but this should make it a little more streamlined. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Condo gardens on the fly | Flutter & Hum

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