Good looks, food production and pleasing fragrances all help attract gardeners to plants, but so do qualities that make them pleasing to touch. Gardens such as the Betty Ott Talking Garden for the Blind in Cleveland, which cultivates varieties with different textures, is well attuned to how plants feel. But anyone, whether they are sighted or or not, can enjoy such an experience. Grow some soft plants and caress them at will.
Lamb's ear (Stachys byzantia) is well-known for soft, velvety foliage from its stems to leaves. This mounding member of the mint family is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 7. Its light green color, dusted with downy white, is pleasing.
The leaves of standard varieties grow between 2 to 4 inches in length, while the leaves of larger cultivars can reach up to 10 inches across. The flower spikes of light purple blooms, reach up to 18 inches tall.
Grow lamb's ear in moist, well-drained soil and in full sun or partial shade in hot climates. Use it along landscaped edges and in the front of the garden so you have easier access to touch it.
Rabbit's Tail Grass
Rabbit's tail grass (Lagurus ovatus) is an annual ornamental grass. It thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. Rabbit’s tail grass, also called hare’s tail grass, grows up to 2 feet tall, making it suitable for planting along borders. It features 2-inch fuzzy white panicles at the tips of the stems that can also be used in dried flower arrangements.
Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) has silvery gray foliage that is similar in color to lamb's ear. This perennial is hardy in USDA Zones 8 to10. Dusty Miller is grown as an annual in cooler climates and places that experience wet summers. The lobes on many of it leaves can grow similar in shape to ferns, but their texture resembles felt.
This mounding plant can grow up to 2 feet tall and is drought tolerant. Grow Dusty Miller in full sun and well-drained, sandy soil. Water it regularly, particularly during prolonged dry periods. Plant it along edges or in window boxes and containers as a backdrop for brightly-colored flowers and foliage.
Pussy willow (Salyx caprea) is shrub that produces soft, velvety buds along bare stems in late winter. In February and March, the buds break dormancy and shed their dark red coats. Florists harvest stems at this stage to use in arrangements that need structural enhancement. Garden willows will form 18-inch long fuzzy catkins. Resembling caterpillars, male catkins will produce yellow anthers. Grow pussy willows in full sun and fertile soil. Use a pruning technique called stooling to keep their rapid growth under control.
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