I have arrived at Q in this series of alphabetical columns, and garden words beginning with Q are somewhat limited. Two that come to mind are Quercus (the oak tree) and Queen Anne's lace, neither of which is compelling as a topic for a column.
So, I am going to cheat a little bit and write about quiet plants and quick fixes.
Color in the garden is so important, and many books and articles are devoted to the subject. But in order to be attractive, a lot of color needs to be balanced with neutral shades to give rest to the eyes and to provide contrast.
I find plants with gray foliage do the trick. There are quite a few of them - very attractive in their own quiet way because they provide balance and harmony in the midst of more showy plants.
There are a number of plants in the perennial artemesia family which are easy to grow and effective in the flower border. One of the best known is Silver Mound, reliable in a sunny place, and spreading just enough to cover a slope or a patch of poor soil without multiplying aggressively.
It is drought-tolerant, needs no fertilizer, and will remain through the winter if not cut back. Then, after a spring haircut, it will send out new stems and foliage.
Silver Mound blends beautifully with flowers of all colors and is nice in bouquets. These plants do flower, but I find the yellow blossoms rather jarring and always cut them off. But don't go by what I say. Remember, I am the one who dislikes hosta flowers, too.
An annual look-alike of artemesia is Dusty Miller, which comes in two forms, the lacy-leaved or the leaf that looks like a snowflake. Although it is classified as an annual, it sometimes survives through mild winters and starts to grow from the same roots in the spring.
Most herbs qualify as quiet plants for me.
Although some become very tall, such as lovage or angelica, or spread too fast, as does mint, most species perform well in a flower border where their foliage is more noticeable than their flowers. Such herbs as rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme are very useful to fill in after early blooming perennials have died back and left unsightly gaps.
And now to quick fixes.
It seems every summer an area of the garden fails to live up to its potential and needs to be hidden for a while. There are several steps one can take to help in these situations, and the most obvious are containers.
When planting annuals out in the garden in the spring, tuck a few into any container you already own.
Even the plastic pots perennials come in are good used in this way. And when you divide perennials, pot up some of the divisions for future use. Any bare spot can be instantly filled with one of these containers, either at ground level or raised up on another upturned pot or on a stack of old bricks or pieces of paving stone. They are easily moved around when they have served their purpose, and will look quite different in a new spot.
There are a number of other things that can be used as focal points in the summer garden to distract from unwanted gaps or necessary evils such as air conditioners or meters. Old tools are found easily at a flea market or garage sale - the older the better, along with crates, ornamental pots and pieces of garden art. They may not look very promising in that situation, but just look in one of those garden magazines and you are sure to find inspiration for an arrangement.
Well, that did it for Q. In a few weeks, R should be a lot easier.