Alice in Wonderland’s Overcoat

Alice in Wonderland’s Overcoat

Part of the joys of gardening is perpetual surprise. You just never know. You are after all dealing with feral life in many ways, which has some level of tolerance for obliging the outsider’s whim…..but only if it likes you. I know Bonzai whipped into line and I cry when I see them because they remind me of my childhood. I want to be encouraging living things to take off into unbridled whatever.

I got my wish.

In early Spring I went to the nursery and selected out a sweet, small, prettily configured Dusty Miller. I planted it in front of a very dark hedge, which is growing into something resembling a dragon (may take a while).  I estimated by mid-summer I’d have a lovely row of Dusty Millers all silver and gently splayed out leaves with its mustardy yellow flowers. Lovely plant. This is the standard Dusty Miller (above) looking small and cute as a garden edger.  (

Never grows higher than about a foot or two, guaranteed.

W H O O P S ! ! !

Alice in Wonderland OvercoastThe Sparhawk Dusty Miller Gone Mad, Which is in my Garden called

Alice In Wonderland’s  Overcoat

Copy (2) of Alice in Wonderland Overcoast In NO time at all it was not just shooting up but out, heading in unanticipated directions, up about seven feet tall, eight feet wide by July.  Shocking !  Fabulous !  Jack in the beanstalky………Not Dusty MillerIt has not only continued to branch out upwards and along the ground, but then, on it’s uppermost crown, produced a small bouquet of bright purple thistles.                        (courtesy “Elephant’s Eye” Garden Blog)

I discover I have the South African version of Dusty Miller, which makes a purple thistle instead of the yellow flower, and does indeed grow en extremus when given the chance. On the Central Coast, with our rare Mediterranean climate, we have a lot of happy South African and Australian plants. 

Well, me….I adore excess. Flora bunda bunda cowabunga, my cup of tea.  It may be an accident or it may be because I’m getting good at this!

As for Alice In Wonderland’s Overcoat Miller, it seems to be fond of Pavorotti performing Verdi. 

                         Thank you. Thank you very much. Thumbnail image for IMG_1812.JPG                                 Good thumb. I am very proud.Copy of Copy of DSCF2378Sparhawk The Proud Gardener Who Made a 2 ft. Plant Grow 7 Feet And Counting

16 thoughts on “Alice in Wonderland’s Overcoat

  1. I’ve had an epically difficult time trying to find what this plant is called so I can buy it! After an hour or two of research, I’m pretty confident you have Centaurea gymnocarpa
    “Velvet Centaurea”!


    • Hello Katherine, Thanks for your input. I’ll look it up, too, under the Latin name you provide. The velvet sure sounds right, the leaves are velvetty. There’s maybe the same family plant I’ve seen growing other places, and sweet, called something like Rabbit Ears or Rabbit Paws. It’s silvery, grows to about a foot, and suggested to plant for children to enjoy. That too produces a thistle, I think a yellow one. This guy produces a bright purple thistle, not often and on the tips. And they do grow like mad and like sun. The Dusty Miller, which I thought I had, is a smaller plant. The one I ended up with is pretty spectaular. I hope you can find it, you most likely can get it on line if there’s no nursery near you with it. Good luck!


  2. Pingback: Hoorah the Spotted Cat! | The Hawks Perch

  3. Lucky you to have run into this Aussi…from what you say it appears that a certain amount of trimming – if necessary to save the neighbor plants – cannot stop the vitality of this lovely Dusty Miller.
    I had several clumps of the regular yellow head D. miller in my times-past garden and it grew very vigorously too, much shorter and less lacy-like but beautiful. I love the feral uncontrolled ways of nature.


    • Thanks Vera, I feel lucky too, one of the delish mistakes of the universe got it into my hands. I’ve always admired them from afar, never once saw one this size before and am enjoying it no end. And there may be no end! Anyone knowing how or if to trim or help it please let me know. It’s in mostly full sun all day and very happy, and the hedge it’s leaning against is developing some kind of symbiotic friendship with the old girl. Young girl. Whatever it is.


  4. Feral? Absolutely. I think of it as a morning after the night before plant.
    BTW this is a commonorgarden plant from the Mediterranean and happy to terrorise both your and my gardens! Beware of common names, the Dusty Miller you were expecting is a different species. An annual, I think.


    • You have one too! Any recommendations for helping it get organized or is it okay to let it go off doing what it pleases. It’s very branchy along the ground but I’m reluctant to trim it, and can’t imagine how. There were small and troubled Dusty Miller growing in Big Sur along roadsides, but this yes, a different bird and feather. The Dusty Millers in Big Sur were pretty much year round but did spruce up in spring. Thanks for the information, much appreciated. ‘Morning After Night Before’ is good, too.


      • I planted mine for the knee to hip high silver fountain effect. When it flowers the plant explodes into sprawling chaos. You share our mediterranean climate, so in your spring harvest cuttings and spread them around. When your first plant reaches its sell by date, rip it out – and continue with the cuttings. Try to trim like roses, above a leaf bud?
        Branching along the ground, sounds as if it would like more sun?


        • Boy oh boy, thank you Diana! You not only know which end is up you grow more than one of these mystical thingys. Very grateful for your responding and I will try all the above. It gets full sun at least five hours a day, maybe more. I’ve got some big live oak branching over the other side of the garden that need trimming back, preventing sun part of the day. I’m most glad to hear that it sounds hardy, and will keep growing hither and yon, as I’d feared it was on the fragile side kind of like a dream. Thanks again. Very kind of you and good to hear from a gardener always.


          • PS Diana….I just now discovered (busy couple of days here) YOU are ”Elephant’s Eye” which I found accidentally looking for the faux Dusty Miller images. What a find, what a life you lead! What a spectacular place. I loved seeing your trip to False Bay and reading your blog and have subscribed. I am honored you wrote with advice and that I’ve been introduced to you and your South African dream places.


            • I check into StatCounter every day, to check where my readers came from (Hawksperch would be you, or one of your readers), also downloads (what, who). Always very curious, if someone uses one of my images on their blog (that it is friendly, not a scraper)


              • Yes, Hawksperch and I’m Holycowgirl on it. I really have enjoyed your blog enormously, what a place you’ve made for your life. I actually wrote a very long comment on the last one about False Bay, your miraculous plants, and that you could so casually describe plans to move something ‘near the waterfall’ as if everyone had one! Wow, how fabulous that must be. That pond is terrific the beautiful dock, all the place is. Something went off with my post, I think I verified the ‘how to post’ after I wrote and the text vanished and I hadn’t copied it. So now I’ll say it again, you have done a remarkably fine job in building a glorious place to live. It’s breathtaking! And I am figuring where to put my waterfall. I’ve always longed for a pond with swans but I don’t think I’ve got the room here. Best to you, Barbara


  5. “You are after all dealing with feral life in many ways, which has some level of tolerance for obliging the outsider’s whim… but only if it likes you… I want to be encouraging living things to take off into unbridled whatever.”

    Great insight into the joy of cultivating your garden! My pup has turned that around and is trying to coax me into “unbridled whatever.” What a lovely experience for us both.


    • It’s the similar experience of close contact with other living things, and what an education, you’re right. Some plants will never stand up straight or do what you tell them, others get all trembly and happy if you put up a string or branch for them to climb. I have absolutely loved seeing the directions they take and what they’re interested in doing. Mostly they choose their own advocates: the sun shining, the moon hovering, the rain falling.


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