A sunny position in ordinary, even poor, well-drained soil is all these plants ask in order to thrive. And although they are all evergreen, they will look at their best during the summer.

These plants form a soft grouping of grey-white tones with contrasting leaf shapes and textures and have very different habits of growth. Two of them have grey leaves (rather, green leaves covered in white hairs) - a sure sign that they come from warm, arid regions. The fine hairs trap moisture and reduce the effects of drying winds.

The Mullein, Verbascum olympicum, comes from Greece (its Latin name means "of Mount Olympus"). The most arresting and the woolliest of the three, every inch of this statuesque plant is covered in soft down. It begins its cycle as a flat, felty rosette of foliage, each leaf being about the size of a hand, but sometimes three times as large. In summer, it sends up a sturdy flower spike seven foot into the air, which branches to form a huge candelabra of woolly flower stems. Along the length of each one, saucer-shaped, golden-yellow flowers open over a long period.

Like some operatic diva, the Verbascum often dies after this impressive performance, but not before scattering its seeds. Some will fall "on stony ground"- the ideal spot for their germination and growth of new rosettes, which will sit out the winter and flower the following year.

Stachys byzantina (from the Caucasus to Iran) echoes the Verbascum with velvety leaves of its own, although it grows in quite a different manner. It is commonly known as Lamb's ears, Lamb's lugs, Lamb's tongue or Lamb's tails, although, as anyone who has ever stroked a lamb will know, this plant is a good deal softer. It will smother the ground in a dense, grey- white, woolly mass of thick, wrinkled leaves a few inches long. In summer, equally woolly flower spikes rise a few feet high over the entire carpet and bear pink-purple flowers.

The final plant, Sisyrinchium striatum "Aunt May", is a short-lived perennial from South America. It makes a clump of smooth, sword-shaped leaves, like those of an Iris, that are grey-green striped with creamy yellow. Their colour sits well with the group and their shape and texture provides a fine contrast. In summer, this beautiful and subtle plant bears straw- yellow flowers on slender stems.

Three plants that look good together:

Verbascum olympicum

Stachys byzantina

Sisyrinchium striatum `Aunt May.'

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