Tuesday 17 September 2019

Colourful shrubs lift winter gloom

GOLDEN AGE: Compact large evergreen shrub pittosporum
GOLDEN AGE: Compact large evergreen shrub pittosporum

Gerry Daly

Golden-leaved shrubs and variegated shrubs come into their own in winter, providing colour to brighten dark days. While some of these plants have golden foliage, others have yellow or cream variegation. They show these colours in slightly different shades, golden yellow, yellow green, creamy yellow and variations. Nothing looks worse than a number of golden plants teamed together with clashing shades.

Good gold-coloured plants include the variegated euonymus, variegated laurustinus, variegated privet, variegated iris and yellow-striped phormium.

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The last two of these are not woody plants but there are very few evergreen non-woody plants which have their place. The variegated elaeagnus is an outstanding example with strong golden colour in various forms. Spotted laurel, or aucuba, also has some good forms that can be used in more shady places.

The variegated hollies are high on any list of choice coloured forms. Among climbers, the variegated ivies are supreme, notably 'Buttercup' or 'Goldheart'. Golden forms of escallonia, choisya and bay laurel are available, some more extreme in their golden colour than others. There are variegated forms of camellia and rhododendron, and, while these are quite effective in winter, they seem a bit freakish. Pieris variegated does not look as strange.

The golden conifers, mostly forms of cypress and thuya, have a role to play. They are very varied in tone, best used on their own, and can be very effective when used to lighten up the wider scene. Two of the best are the 'Stewartii' form of lawson's cypress and the form of thuya known as 'Rheingold'. The latter is smallish with a lovely old-gold colour that deepens as the frosts of winter arrive. The outstanding pittosporum 'Warnham Gold' is a sight to admire, blazing gold with a low winter sun.

Choose from any of these varieties, most of the garden outlets have these, or similar, available at this time of year. Next select the position for each of these, making sure that they have positions that will give them good impact but not so dominant that they will intrude during the main season when their role is to take a secondary role and blend into the background.

The role of golden evergreens is to add a light touch to an existing good balance of evergreenery and deciduous plants. But it must be emphasised that it is a touch. The cure can be worse than the disease if too many golden evergreens are used. Before using golden evergreens, it is important to have enough green evergreens, and enough bare-stemmed trees and shrubs.

Do not use very many golden plants - a little colour goes a long way in the bare winter garden. In most gardens, three or four well-placed specimens will have the desired effect. It might be possible to use two or three plants of the same kind, so that one picks up the colour of the other and carries it through the garden, even in a small garden, so that the two, or more, plants can be seen in the same view. Try to have some winter flower colour near golden-leaf plants, such as winter heathers, hellebores and snowdrops to freshen the look.

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