In the Garden:
New England
February, 2006
Regional Report

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2011

Golden foliage and blue flowers make a winning combination.

Go For the Gold

Gold and yellow flowers add a burst of sunshine to flower beds, but why limit the golden aura to when flowers are in bloom. There are many wonderful plants with golden foliage that add a glow to the garden, especially in shade, and even in winter. Another aspect I like is that the shape and texture of the leaves is often more visible in gold foliage than in green.

Perennials
Golden hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') is one of my favorites for its color and graceful form. The yellow-striped blades form a low mound that sweeps the ground. Mine grows in beautiful contrast against a tall cobalt blue urn.

There are several hosta varieties with gold-toned foliage, such as 'Golden Prayers' and 'Sunpower'. Use one to show off against darker blue-leaved hostas at the edge of a shady spot, placing the golden plant in the sun and the blue plant behind it in the shade. Whereas golden foliage turns brighter in sun, the blue color of hostas becomes washed out because the waxy coating on the leaves that gives them the bluish cast melts in the sun.

Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'), at 2 inches tall, forms a golden carpet that you can use beneath other plants to create contrast, as does golden creeping thyme (Thymus vulgaris 'Aureus'). I especially like these ground covers near plants with blue-purple foliage or flowers, such as violas or salvias.

Trees and Shrubs
I had my eye on the golden falsecypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Aurea') for a couple of years before I bought one, because it was borderline hardy and sensitive to wind damage. I placed it in a partly sunny spot with wind protection, and I do wrap it in winter. But with minor tending it's beautiful and thriving, and there are some other gold-toned relatives that I'd like to invite home.

Many golden conifers are showy all winter. 'Gold Coin' pine (Pinus sylvestris 'Gold Coin') doesn't even show its gorgeous burnished gold color until the temperatures drop (it's hardy to zone 2). Golden hemlock (Tsuga canadensis 'Golden Splendor') glows even in full shade. There are many choices of golden conifers, some dwarfs included, worthy of a special place in your landscape.

There are numerous spiraeas with gold foliage, such as 'Golden Carpet', 'Golden Princess', and 'Gold Mound'. The elderberry Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold' has finely dissected foliage that is striking all summer, especially when the scarlet berries appear.

I could go on and go, but there are so many choices. Whether you like colored foliage for the potential color combinations, or just want to light up a dull area, a touch of gold can make a big impact.


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