Dusty Miller Tales

With the southern California sun shining upon them, the Dusty Miller plants graced the walkway near the narrow winding Silver Lake streets to the front door of a dear friend. These western beauties were in full bloom with silver fronds framing yellow button-sized blooms. While in Los Angeles many years ago, this iridescent plant appeared otherworldly to me as a visiting Northeasterner. Joan, the grande dame of this Silver Lake garden, upon opening the door, welcomed us into her home while the Dusty Millers heralded our arrival. Tucked into a corner amidst the luscious plants was a sign that told us all how she felt about why gardens matters.

Over the years, I had forgotten about this hauntingly beautiful plant, until I saw Joan again when she moved East to be near family. Though she left her southern California garden behind, she brought with her, to me, the memory of its welcoming arms. 

As she has moved beyond this life, I remember Joan and her garden, and how they both live on.

This spring when looking for border plants to frame our front yard stone wall, I spied a flat of Dusty Millers at our local nursery. I hesitated on selecting them since as a southwestern plant, I thought they would barely grow in our New York rock cliff garden. Ignoring logic, I proceeded to buy two flats.

As I spaced the fist-sized plants across the wall between orange and yellow marigolds, I hoped they would take. Though they appeared to limp along in the early spring, as the summer days approached, they thrived. Each morning while backing the car out of the driveway to begin the journey to the train station to my city job, I’d whisper “hello garden” to greet my flowering friends. Arriving home in the evening, as the car headlights bring the plants into view, the Dusty Millers appear to generate their own light.

As the day’s end draws near and I begin the nightly task of closing up the house, my “Joan plants” stand watch.

It’s comforting to have my friend back as she shimmers in the moonlight, and watches over all.