Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
Good grief – more yellow-leaved shrubs? Enough already! Well, no, not quite enough, I think: I have a few more I’d really like to share with you, if you can bear with me.
Last time, I mentioned a bunch of golden beauties that can stand being cut back hard (right to the ground, or else back to a framework that’s 6 to 12 inches tall). Continuing along that line, I present a beautiful yellow-leaved white-stemmed bramble (Rubus cockburnianus) by the name of ‘Goldenvale’ (or ‘Golden Vale’). In habit, it’s much like a sprawly raspberry, but with bright white stems and bright yellow foliage through the growing season. The photos above and below show ‘Goldenvale’ mingling with ‘Black Pearl’ pepper and ‘Rhubarb’ chard.
Well, darn, I see that Google isn’t forthcoming for a current retail mail-order source in the U.S.; sorry about that. Do keep an eye out for it, though; it’s worth hunting for.
While white-stemmed brambles are hard to find, spireas (Spiraea) are anything but: You can buy them just about anywhere. I should mention here that Japanese spirea (S. japonica) has invaded natural areas, to the point of being a problem in some regions. To find out whether it’s a concern in your area, check out this fact sheet with more information on Japanese spirea.
The botanical names of yellow-leaved spirea selections are often muddled: Sometimes they’re listed under S. japonica and sometimes under S. x bumalda. Many of them also have very similar-sounding names and very similar growth habits, as well. Most form dense, twiggy, relatively low mounds. Below are two 18-inch-tall selections: Dakota Goldcharm (‘Mertyann’) in bloom…
…and Magic Carpet (‘Walbuma’), with orangey red new growth, behind ‘New Hampshire Purple’ bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum).
Below is ‘Gold Mound’, which stays about 2 feet tall.
And then there’s Mellow Yellow spirea (S. thunbergii ‘Ogon’), which can reach up to 6 feet tall, though you can keep it more compact with regular trimming.
Unlike the others, which mostly produce clusters of pink flowers in early summer, it’s blooming now (late March), with many tiny white flowers held along the stems. It also offers fantastic fall foliage color, as shown below with ‘Blackbird’ euphorbia.
I’m not a big fan of boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) in general, because of the pungent odor of the foliage, but I do like the look of a few colorful selections.
This one, ‘Latifolia Maculata’, does double-duty for foliage interest: The new growth is solid yellow, eventually turning deep green with yellow splashes. ‘Latifolia Maculata’ can eventually reach 8 feet or more, but at the rate of only a few inches a year. Mine is planted where taller companions shade it for much of the day, but it still provides an excellent color splash even without full sun. It’s currently listed for sale here.
Another golden beauty that can perform well in light shade is golden full moon maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’). It eventually forms a small tree, but it’s such a slow grower (roughly 6 to 8 inches a year, if you’re lucky) that it stays border-size for many years.
I bought the plant shown above as a single-stem cutting barely 6 inches tall about 8 years ago, and it’s now just about 18 inches tall.
The elegant foliage makes an excellent textural contrast to both broad leaves (such as those of hostas) and grassy leaves (like those of sedges [Carex]). You can find golden full moon maple via mail-order at Song Sparrow Nursery.
One more absolutely fantastic foliage gem: golden hop tree or wafer-ash (Ptelea trifoliata ‘Aurea’).
It eventually forms a large shrub or small tree to about 20 feet, with bright yellow foliage that holds its color through much of the growing season in full sun. Apparently it prefers partial shade, but it turns greenish yellow there in summer. ForestFarm sells plants of Ptelea trifoliata ‘Aurea’.
That’s it for some of my favorite golden shrubs and trees, finally (as continued from Part 1 and Part 2). But there’s one more post coming (A Bit More Gorgeous Golden Foliage), on some of my most prized golden perennials, plus one that I just can’t like, no matter how hard I try.