Well, I feel a bit of a fraud. A few weeks ago I read an article by
Aberdeen Gardening on variegated shrubs. As I was reading I found myself siding with the gardeners that are not keen on variegation in plants. After all I am that person that doesn’t really like too many colours in a bunch of flowers and I am that person that hunts high and low to find bedding plants , such as mesembryanthemum and wallflowers, of single colours rather than the mixed bunch that garden centres seem to stock. (I know I should grow my own from seed, but that is another story.) Anyway, having rather self righteously decided where my feelings lay I then took a look around my garden……….oh dear, oh dear, as you have probably guessed, it is full of variegated shrubs!!
I have to admit I don’t like them all, but in general I think they really brighten up the garden – especially at this time of the year when there is not much colour about.
One of my favourite shrubs, Elaeagnus, was planted in my first border in our Aberdeen garden when we moved in 1987. It has added wonderful colour to what is now a hedge at the bottom of the garden. It has been very easy to grow and just needs an annual pruning in the Autumn and taking out any stems that are reverting to plain green. It is now kept at about 8 feet.
I like it so much that I have just bought another one for our new border. I had a lot of trouble finding one as the garden centres are full of ‘Limelight’ instead. This may be just as nice, but to me it is just not the same!
Another smaller shrub I have used everywhere to break up the very stark white walls of our house is Euonymus Fortunii ‘Emerald n Gold’.
You can easily get new plants from this by hunting around the base for bits that have rooted and digging them up.
I also have the silver version of this, but don’t like it nearly as much.
This maybe just because it doesn’t stand out so much and looks a bit messy.
A new shrub I just put in recently is Lonicera Lemon Beauty (box honeysuckle) but the jury is out so far as to how much I like it and how it behaves. It is certainly bright. I have managed to lose the label so I am not sure how big it will grow. Information seems to range between 3 ft and 6 ft. Hmmm – might have to move it. I have another shrubby Lonicera called Baggessen’s Gold in the bottom hedge. It has been a very useful shrub for colour at the bottom of the garden. and it is not variegated at all! It has grown quite tall, but can easily be cut back.
My garden is also full of variegated ivy, hebes and hostas. Can I use the fact that I live so far North as an excuse for using so many variegated plants that I supposedly don’t like?
Other good shrubs for a winter garden
Of course if you really don’t like variegated shrubs there are plenty of other bright shrubs you can use instead.
One of my favourites is Ilex Crenata ‘Golden Gem’ or Japanese Holly. I like this plant because it is so well-behaved and doesn’t need any maintenance at all! It is a low, slow-growing shrub, great for filling in gaps in the border and providing all round colour. It is also totally hardy in Aberdeen.
Another small bright shrub is Choisya or Mexican Orange Blossom. It is not quite so hardy here though frost damaged branches can be cut out without damaging the whole plant. I have never found it to be very long-lived, but that is maybe just me.
Another shrub that looks good at this time of the year is Skimmia Japonica. I think mine is the male variety Rubella. The flower buds are very attractive . I have a large shrub which is getting a bit too large so will be attempting to prune after it flowers in the spring. (Any tips?)
One advantage or growing all these lovely shrubs, variegated and otherwise in your garden is that you then have the opportunity to make some great Christmas displays.
Next Garden Post: A little bit of Japan (and Widnes!)