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Gorgeous Golden Shrubs – Part 3

Rubus cockburnianus 'Goldenvale' with Capsicum annuum 'Black Pearl' and Chard 'Rhubarb'

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.

Rubus cockburnianus 'Goldenvale' with Capsicum annuum 'Black Pearl' and Chard 'Rhubarb'

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…

Spiraea Dakota Goldcharm ('Mertyann') with Amsonia hubrichtii

…and Magic Carpet (‘Walbuma’), with orangey red new growth, behind ‘New Hampshire Purple’ bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum).

Spiraea Magic Carpet ('Walbuma') with Geranium sanguineum 'New Hampshire Purple' and Carex muskingumensis 'Oehme'

Below is ‘Gold Mound’, which stays about 2 feet tall.

Spiraea 'Gold Mound' with Echinacea 'Evan Saul', Carex 'Toffee Twist', Veronica 'Aztec Gold', and Physocarpus Diabolo ('Monlo')

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.

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' (Mellow Yellow)

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.

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' (Mellow Yellow) with Euphorbia 'Blackbird'

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.

Buxus sempervirens 'Latifolia Maculata'

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.

Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' with Carex muskingumensis 'Oehme'

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.

Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' with Euphorbia 'Excalibur'

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’).

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.

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11 thoughts on “Gorgeous Golden Shrubs – Part 3

  1. Great series of posts on golden shrubs I can’t wait to see what golden perennials you like and what plants you dont.

    Thanks, Priscilla. I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. There are just so many great plants to talk about.

  2. Your Mellow Yellow spirea looks just how I hope mine will be in a year or two–I’m so excited about its color and texture! Not really an interesting comment here…. Oh, I was trying to find some info on dark-leaved elderberries. Hard to come by, especially since Black Lace is newer, but it seems like it fairs better than Black Beauty in general.

    Mellow Yellow really earns its place, doesn’t it? And I think you’re right about Black Lace: The second one I planted seems to have survived the winter, thankfully. I tried Black Beauty three times and never did have luck with it.

  3. I love that celery green mixed with the darker foliage. Beautiful!

    Ooh…”celery green” – I like that. Thanks, Nancy.

  4. Just what my tired eyes needed–a good shot of sunny golden foliage, after three grey cold windy yucky days (you get the picture). These are great! A friend of mine had golden full moon maple at her nursery last year, and will be carrying them again. I’m unsure about how it would do here, though, but I’m coldtesting other Japanese maple seedlings started by another nursery friend, so if they come through, maybe I’ll try the A. ss. ‘Aureum’. What I really want is a golden locust (Robinia ‘Frisea’); it’s not screamingly hardy, but it’s so gorgeous, and I haven’t heard any reports of it suckering to green like some have reported.
    Thank you for the naming of my mystery Weigela; I just got time for the first time this week to check back and was delighted to have an ID. You KNOW I’m going to be looking for the all-gold one, too, for my ever-growing collection of interesting plants.

    Hey, Jodi. I do have the Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ and really like the look of it, but I thought I probably shouldn’t encourage others to plant it after reading Fran’s experience with it ( You’re welcome for the weigela ID; I should have left you a note at your own blog.

  5. For some reason I’ve never been keen on golden shrubs. I love the purple, white and green, and silver leaved ones very much but not the yellow. Very strange as I do like yellow flowers a lot. But this year I will try some in my brandspanking new yellow border. So thanks for this very informative series of posts about golden leaved shrubs, Nan. I appreciate it very much!

    I understand that they don’t appeal to everyone, Yolanda, but I think you’ll enjoy having some in your yellow border. Or maybe you’d be more comfortable with yellow-variegated leaves instead of solid yellows.

  6. Wonderful Nan. Magic Carpet is the must have shrub in our garden, so many colors and it roots wherever the stems touch, so easily spread around the garden. We find it will grow where nothing else will, including under the walnut tree and the colors are stupendous. Can you tell how we feel about it?

    I guess that makes “Magic Carpet” a perfect name, then. Lots of my plants like to layer themselves, but so far, the spireas haven’t. I wouldn’t mind if they did!

  7. More gorgeous plants!!! I love the ‘Goldenvale’ bramble, and love it in your combination, too. ‘Mellow Yellow’ looks like a must-find. And, as a boxwood lover, I’ll have to keep an eye out for ‘Latifolia Maculata’. You gave me a turn there talking about using golden fullmoon maple as a border plant, though! I fist encountered it as a sizeable tree and am using mine to bring light to a shaded garden, hopefully (eventually) recapturing something of the magic of that initial viewing. But you’re right, it is a very slow grower, and as usual, you’ve come up with an ingenious way to turn that disadvantage into a bonus!

    I seem to remember your full moon maple spending several years in a container on your balcony when you first acquired it. I imagine it’s looking pretty good by now and happy to be in the ground.

  8. As you mentioned previously, Nan, I think this series could easily be the seed of an idea for another book. There are so many great suggestions here, and the photos of the plants placed with such good companions in your beautiful gardens is the icing on the cake.
    Thanks for this very helpful series!

    I was sort of kidding, Kerri, and sort of not. I suspect most publishers would consider it too similar to the Foliage book Rob Cardillo and I collaborated on recently. But…maybe someday. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Hi again Nan, Oh… I do love this series of posts. I too love golden foliage plants. They just lift an area don’t they? I used to have golden hop growing over my arch and it looked great especially with early morning sun. I have moved it to my jungle border where it can just ramble as it wants to – almost :-D

    Have a great weekend :-D

    Oh my, Shirl – the ideal of letting golden hops “ramble as it wants to” (even almost) is pretty scary, considering its incredibly enthusiastic nature! I’m still trying to keep it on a rather small arbor, even though I really ought to know better.

  10. Loving the yellow and totally “getting” your part about blogging when you are too tired to move. There seem to be more of those hours in each day, with each passing year. At least the blogging quenches my contstant thirst for “more” about gardening when my back is failing me!
    Great to see and read your ideas.
    Terra Nova Design

    I hear you, Carol. As much as I’m enjoying being outdoors, I’m almost wishing for some rainy weather so I can catch up on some indoor work.

  11. Nancy, I just realized that I don’t have enough gold in my gardens. Out comes my wish list. Your photos are so inspiring.

    Thanks, Cathy. I too think I don’t have enough gold in the garden. I have my first-of-the-season Lancaster County plant-shopping trip planned for this coming week, and I hope to find lots of exciting new foliage additions!

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