Plant Guide

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Foliage colour

acacia-baileyana

Acacia baileyana

Cootamundra wattle, Bailey's wattle, golden wattle, golden mimosa

Evergreen tree, native to Australia, flowering from a young age during winter and early spring with yellow globose flower heads (0.5-1 cm wide) arranged in racemes to about 10 cm long. The flowers are followed by 4-10 cm long, purple-brown to black seed pods. Feathery, silver-grey, bi-pinnately compound leaves. Unfortunately, Acacia baileyana is considered a weed in parts of Australia.

Synonym: Racosperma baileyanum.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining soil. Tolerates extended drought periods and moderate frosts (to about -7 degC). Ok for coastal gardens.

Acacia baileyana looks magnificent when in flower; completely smothered by bright yellow flowers.

acer-palmatum-bloodgood

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'

Small, round-headed Japanese maple cultivar with grey bark, dark red young branches, and burgundy foliage. Toothed leaves, 8-12 cm long, with five lobes and possibly one or more small lobes at the base.  Leaves usually hold their colour well into summer, but may fade in hot sunny areas, before turning crimson to bright scarlet in autumn. Insignificant red-purple flowers in spring, followed by samaras (winged fruit) in autumn.

Synonym: Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum 'Bloodgood'.

Some variation in appearance is possible since there is more than a single clone available under this name in the trade, and sometimes seed-propagated (as opposed to grafted) trees are also offered for sale as Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'. Likewise, the name Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' has been used for more than a single clone. Hence the differences between Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' and Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum'  may not be as clear as between the original selections.

Prefers a sunny position or, in particular in areas with hot summers, a partially shaded site. Any well-draining soil. Protect from strong winds. Prune lightly for shape once a year during winter. Frost hardy.

One of the most popular red-purple maples with good colour retention during summer. May also be grown as a shrub. Use as a specimen tree or accent plant for foliage colour, and repeat a similar colour elsewhere in the garden (e.g. with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy') to create a link with the surrounding planting. Perfectly suited to Japanese style gardens.

acer-palmatum-shaina

Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

Compact, upright-growing (as opposed to spreading) Japanese maple with burgundy foliage and bright red young leaves. Branches are formed from ground-level. The foliage turns a little bit darker in colour during autumn before leaf fall.

Prefers a partially shaded, sheltered position in any fertile, well-draining soil. Generally pest and disease free. Young foliage may be damaged be late frosts.

An attractive small maple with brilliant foliage colours. Perfect for a sheltered garden that needs some height, but lacks the space required for trees with spreading canopies. The foliage colour combines beautifully with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy' which can be used as a link between the canopy of Acer palmatum 'Shaina' and lower-level layers in the garden. Also suitable for large containers.

acer-palmatum-var-dissectum-crimson-queen

Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'

Crimson Queen Japanese laceleaf maple

Deciduous shrub or dwarf tree with finely divided, palmately lobed leaves. The burgundy-red foliage turns bright scarlet in autumn. Small, reddish-purple flowers in spring. Branches are cascading, unless the plant is pruned quite hard each year. Gradually increases in height by mounding over itself. 

Prefers a sheltered position in any well-drained soil. Tolerates sun, but is happier when partially shaded, in particular in areas with hot summers. Trunk height can be influenced to a degree by selecting a strong leader when the plant is young, and staking it to the desired height.

A delightful small maple with delicate foliage that retains its gorgeous reddish-purple colour throughout the summer. An obvious choice for gardens with an oriental theme, but 'Crimson Queen' can be incorporated in many different garden styles, including tropical and cottage gardens. The weeping growth habit with branches reaching down to the ground, looks beautiful next to ponds. Suitable for containers.

acer-platanoides-drummondii

Acer platanoides 'Drummondii'

variegated Norway maple, harlequin Norway maple, harlequin maple

Deciduous tree with a rounded-oval, high canopy. Large, typical maple leaves, deeply lobed, green with broad, creamy white margins, turning golden in autumn. Inconspicuous yellow-green flowers in clusters during early spring before the leaves emerge.

Prefers a sunny or partially shady position in any fertile, well-draining soil. Foliage colour intensity is reduced in shade. Benefits from fertiliser application in spring. Tolerates air pollution. No pruning required other than the removal of dead, damaged, and crossing branches. Also cut out any branches with leaves that have reverted to green and lost the variegation. Stressed Acer platanoides 'Drummondii' may suffer from leaf scorch with the leaves, particularly the tips and margins turning brown and subsequently shriveling. Stress results from any growing conditions that cause the leaves to loose water faster than the roots can take it up, such as drying winds, water-logging, drought, and heat. The tree will generally recover in the next season with healthy foliage.

Striking specimen or shade tree with relatively coarse textured and highly ornamental foliage, combining well with other greens. For a very strong contrast, plant this in combination with burgundy-red leafed trees, but be careful not to overdo this combination as it may overpower the rest of your garden. Even a single tree can be quite a dominant feature. Acer platanoides 'Drummondii' produces vigorous surface roots, so plant away from hard surfaces, and underplant with e.g. Liriope muscari or other ground covers (not lawn) that can handle the dry and shady conditions beneath the tree.

acer-pseudoplatanus-esk-sunset

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Esk Sunset'

Deciduous tree with an oval to pyramidal canopy and variegated foliage. The palmately lobed, green and cream leaves with toothed margins, are heavily flecked with salmon pink or sometimes entirely orange-pink. The undersides become progressively darker during the season, turning burgundy during summer. The orange shades on the upper surface of the foliage gradually change to cream (see photo in the gallery of leaves in autumn). Inconspicuous flowers in spring.

Sycamore maple cultivar, developed from a chance seedling discovered in a garden in the Esk Valley, New Zealand. Also known (outside New Zealand) as Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset'.

Prefers a position in well-draining soil and partial shade. Leaf colourings vary with the amount of sun exposure, but to prevent leaf-burn, it is best to find a spot where the tree is protected from hot afternoon sun. Likes an even moisture level. Prune for shape if required in summer after leaves have fully developed. Tolerates urban pollution. Frost hardy.

Stunning maple with exquisite foliage colours, perfect as an accent tree. Particularly attractive when the leaves move in a light breeze and the darker coloured undersides are visible intermittently. The canopy is generally quite close to the ground (about 1.5 m clearance), so plant it away from circulation routes. 

astelia-chathamica-silver-spear

Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear'

Large clump-forming plant with silvery, flax-like foliage, native to New Zealand. The leaves are broad and stiff, but droop towards the ends. Flowers are produced in spring and are followed by orange fruits. They are generally obscured and dominated by the foliage.

Suitable for sun or shade. Requires well-draining soil. Drought tolerant. Although Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear' tolerates quite windy conditions, the leaves hold their shape better when conditions are not too exposed. Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear' is intolerant of high moisture. Hardy to about -7oC.

Striking feature plant. The silvery foliage looks particularly good in sheltered, shady or partially shaded conditions. Careful when combining Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear' with other grey-leafed plants; this tends to become quite overpowering. Instead, you could consider a combination with fine-leafed grasses or blue-flowering plants such as Dichroa and Geranium. An attractive, but strong contrast can be achieved with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy'. Suitable for containers.

aucuba-japonica

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'

variegated spotted laurel, variegated gold dust plant

Slow growing bushy shrub with shiny, leathery, toothed leaves, 6 to 12 cm long, heavily spotted and blotched with yellow. Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants. The flowers are tiny and insignificant, chocolate brown to purplish, .5 cm across. On female plants, the flowers are followed after pollination by bright red, 1 cm wide berries. Foliage and berries are harmful when ingested.

Thrives in shade or partial shade. Leaves may get scorched in full sun. Requires well-draining soil, and does not cope with waterlogged conditions. Tolerates air pollution. Usually has a compact growth habit, but can be pruned to shape. Withstands drought, although growth is more luxuriant with regular moisture supply.

Wonderful foliage plant to lighten up a dark area, or to give your garden a lush, tropical feel. Also looks good as a hedge for year-round interest. If you like to see berries on your shrub, make sure to select a male plant for pollination and a female plant for fruit production. One male plant is sufficient for about eight female plants. Looks lovely in combination with the purple flowers of Liriope muscari, which thrives in similar growing conditions.

brunnera-macrophylla-jack-frost

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Clump-forming, spring flowering, herbaceous perennial, mainly grown for its attractive basal foliage. Slowly spreading by creeping rhizomes. Large, heart-shaped, silvery white leaves with green veins and margins. Small, light blue, forget-me-not-like flowers, held above the foliage on 20-50 cm long stalks. Foliage is evergreen in mild climates, but in colder regions, the leaves die back from late autumn.

Ideal for a position where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade, but will also grow in full shade. Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' handles more sun than most other variegated brunneras, but in regions with hot summers, leaves may be scorched by afternoon sun. Prefers consistently moist, but well-draining, rich soils, and is not tolerant of dry conditions. Frost-hardy. For a tidy appearance, remove old or damaged leaves if present, just before the new foliage appears. Self-seeds, but seedlings may turn out different from the parent plant, and may even have lost the silvery leaf colour variegation. Can be divided in spring or autumn.

Excellent choice for the woodland garden. Lovely companion for other shade-loving plants such as hostas and ferns, for spring-flowering bulbs, or for dark-leafed plants such as black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'. Good ground-covering and edging plant.

buddleja-salviifolia

Buddleja salviifolia

(South African) sagewood, sage-leaved butterfly bush, winter buddleja

Large shrub, endemic to southern and eastern parts of Africa, flowering in late winter and early spring with fragrant, pale mauve flowers with orange throats, arranged in large panicles. Narrow, lance-shaped, grey-green leaves with puckered and finely wrinkled surfaces, grey-white beneath, resembling those of sage. Semi-deciduous in colder climates. Fast-growing. Attracts bees and butterflies.

Prefers a sunny spot in any well-draining soil. Drought-tolerant. Suitable for exposed and coastal gardens. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 9 and 10). Tends to have a somewhat untidy habit, and thus benefits from regular pruning. 

Very vigorous and floriferous plant. Great background plant with its silvery-grey foliage contrasting well with darker foliage. Make sure you have sufficient space as it will quickly grow into a large bush. To keep it compact,  prune the plant after flowering. Buddleja salviifolia can be pruned hard. Suitable as a large hedge or informal screen.

convolvulus-cneorum

Convolvulus cneorum

silverbush, shrubby bindweed, silvery bindweed

Bun-shaped evergreen shrub with silvery appearance, native to the Mediterranean. Silky, grey-green leaves, covered with tiny hairs. White flower buds, flushed with pink, open to short trumpet-shaped, 4 cm wide, white flowers with yellow centers, often completely covering the plant. Flowers close at night and may only partially open on dull days. 

Convolvulus cneorum prefers a position in full sun and light, poor to moderately fertile, well draining soil. Tolerates coastal conditions, drought, and light to medium frosts. Usually free from pests and diseases. Lightly trim after flowering to keep compact. Suitable for containers.

Excellent choice for hot and dry areas. Suitable as a low, informal hedge or path edging. Combines beautifully with purples and blues. The silvery foliage looks great when planted en masse and used as a colour and shape contrast for more architectural shrubs such as dark--leafed flax cultivars, or as a shape contrast for grey, architectural plants like Astelia chathamica 'Silver spear'. 

coprosma-kirkii-variegata

Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata'

Variegated cultivar of the natural hybrid Coprosma x kirkii, a New Zealand native, ground covering plant. The tiny leaves are green with a cream margin, resulting in a grey overall appearance. Tough, mat-forming, woody plant.

Prefers a sunny or lightly shaded position in any well-draining soil. Drought-tolerant once established. Suitable for coastal or exposed conditions. Good for erosion control on banks. Frost hardy to about -12 deg Celsius. Requires very little attention other than an occasional trim to keep the plant low and dense.

In my city Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata' is a popular ground covering plant in public spaces, such as gardens of car parks, where it is successfully used to form a dense, tidy looking, light grey mat that helps to keep the weeds down, thus reducing maintenance requirements.

cotinus-grace

Cotinus 'Grace'

smoke tree

Small deciduous, round-headed tree or large shrub with burgundy-coloured foliage and large pink 'clouds' of tiny flowers in summer. The leaves emerge wine red in spring, gradually darken during summer and finally turn scarlet red in autumn. The sap may cause skin/eye irritations.

Raised in the UK during the late 1970s, 'Grace' is a hybrid between the cultivar 'Velvet Cloak' of Cotinus coggygria (European smoke bush) and Cotinus obovatus (American smoke tree). 

Prefers a sunny position for best foliage colour. Grows in any soil-type as long as it is well-drained. Tolerates poor soil. Can withstand periods of drought once established. Vigorous when young. Responds to pruning. Frost-hardy (zones 5-10).

Beautiful plant with striking foliage colours throughout the growing season, and tiny flowers in large panicles that resemble smoke-like plumes. Use as a focal point, and repeat the foliage colour in lower-growing shrubs elsewhere in the garden.

dodonaea-viscosa-purpurea

Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea'

purple akeake

Purple-bronze cultivar of Dodonaea viscosa, originally discovered in the early 1890s on a riverbank in Marlborough in New Zealand. Grows into a small bushy tree or shrub up to 4 m tall and 2 m wide. Narrow-obovate to narrow-elliptic leaves, 4-10 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. The purple leaf colour intensifies during the colder months. Flowers are arranged in terminal panicles to 4 cm long, purplish red, and mostly bisexual. (The species itself produces dull yellow unisexual flowers, usually on separate plants.) Flowers are followed by much larger, winged, purplish red seed capsules in summer. Red-brown, stringy bark. 

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in free-draining soil. Suitable for dry, exposed, and coastal sites. Tolerates light to moderate frosts (zone 9). Intolerant of very wet soils. Soft growth responds well to trimming, but avoid pruning old wood. Lower branches can be removed to create a clear-trunk. Leaf colour is better when planted in poor soil.

Makes an interesting specimen tree with attractive bark, beautiful purple foliage, reddish purple seed capsules and, in particular in very windy areas, an irregularly shaped canopy. Excellent choice for hedging purposes in coastal gardens. Cut stems with foliage and seed capsules add an unusual dimension to floral arrangements.

Elaeagnus pungens 'Maculata'

Elaeagnus pungens 'Maculata'

variegated silverberry

Evergreen variegated shrub, native to Japan. Main branches spiny and more or less horizontal and arching. Copper coloured twigs. Oval leaves shiny green and yellow above, dull grey beneath with small brown glandular dots. Insignificant, but very fragrant flowers in autumn. Fast growing and tough: prefers full sun, but tolerates a wide range of conditions.