Garlands of pale yellow acacia flowers drape over the spiky century plant, the tiny powder-puff blooms perfuming the late winter garden. Adding a spicy edge to the floral sweetness is the aromatic myrtle foliage, whose soft colors repeat the tones found in its companions. Contrasting small leaves and miniature flowers with bold, waxy foliage keep to a simple color palette of soft gray and yellow and create a wholly feminine composition.
This evergreen trio promises foliage, flowers, and fragrance for many years. In summer the myrtle will add its sweetly perfumed flowers to the mix, the seeds maturing to blue-black berries that will show up well against the lighter colors. At some point the long-lived variegated century plant will bloom, heralding the end of its life and shifting the balance of this composition while the younger plantlets mature.
Site: full sun Soil: average to dry, well-drained Zone: 9-11
Variegated century plant (Agave americana ‘Variegata’, also sold as Agave americana var. marginata) Attractive blue-gray and creamy yellow variegated succulent foliage grows in rosettes. Tall flowering stalks on mature plants attract hummingbirds, but after blooming the parent plant dies. Beware of sharp spines and situate away from paths. Grows to 5–6 feet tall and wide in zones 8–11.
Variegated myrtle (Myrtus communis ‘Variegata’) Luminous creamy white-and-green variegated leaves make this myrtle a favorite for the garden. The evergreen foliage has a spicy fragrance when crushed, while the summer flowers add a sweet perfume. This dense shrub takes shearing well and makes a useful privacy screen. Prefers full sun and needs moderate water. Grows to 8–10 feet tall and wide in zones 9–11.
Knife acacia (Acacia cultriformis) This small multitrunked evergreen tree has unusual triangular gray-green leaves, while its clusters of fuzzy yellow flowers perfume the air in late winter and early spring. Drought tolerant, deer resistant, and not fussy about soil except that it must drain well. Grows to 15 feet tall and wide in zones 9–11.
Excerpted from Gardening with Foliage First © Copyright 2017 by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. Published by Timber Press, Portland, Oregon. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.