Euphorbia's acid tones makes new foliage fizz
VARIOUS kinds of spurge or euphorbia are in flower in gardens at the moment and they bring a brilliant touch of acid yellow-green to the spring scene. This is an intriguing colour as it plays off so many other flower colours to great effect, including orange, red, purple, white, pink and blue.
Not only does it look really well with flowers but it chimes nicely with the freshly minted new foliage of trees and shrubs, the various greens, ochres, bronzes and coppery tones. The acid yellow colour is provided by bracts on the flower stems – not true petals, but modified leaves. So it is not surprising that the flower colour works so well with both flowers and leaves. Euphorbia is related to the Christmas poinsettia, which has red leaf-like bracts.
There are several kinds. One of the earliest to flower is the orange-red Euphorbia griffithii, especially the variety 'Fireglow'. The orange-red flowers are brilliant with emerging foliage that has a purple or red cast, such as purple-leaved maples. Miss Robb's spurge, Euphorbia robbiae (shown), is a good plant for odd corners and semi-wild areas.
It does well in dry soil and tolerates some shade, but beware that it can become a rampaging spreader with its underground rhizomes. It is semi-evergreen and has brilliant acid-green colour on long-lasting stems. As the summer progresses, the flower stems turn green and eventually reddish-brown.
The low-growing, rather sprawling Euphorbia myrs-inites is great for the front of a bed or border; it has thick fleshy stems with layered sea-green leaves, evergreen, and acid-green flowers. It looks great with dwarf bright red tulips or yellow ones.
Also quite small and ideal for the front or the middle ground of beds and borders is Euphorbia polychroma, a non-spreader that makes a tight clump of bright acid-yellow. It looks wonderful with some red or blue-flowered anemones in the vicinity, or white anthemis daisies. It can suffer from mildew if the soil is too dry, and the plants, once affected, should be replaced and the new ones planted in a better spot.
The robust species Euphorbia palustris needs space, likes moist ground and spreads strongly. But it suits a large garden and it gives a fine show of acid-yellow, wonderful in the foreground of deciduous trees such as birch or beech, and with some blue camassias, which also like damp soil. Most of these are generally available in garden centres and can be picked out now in flower. They will add a new dimension of colour to the garden!