Bring your borders to life by weaving shrubs with gold, copper, bronze and silver foliage through them
CITHAREXYLUM QUADRANGULARE (FIDDLEWOOD)
This tall shrub or small tree is a delight in late spring and early summer with its unexpected rich salmon-orange-coloured foliage. It produces fresh, light-green leaves in midsummer when the leaves of many other shrubs have taken on a darker green colour. Its sprays of tiny fragrant flowers are an added bonus. Sun-loving and semi-deciduous, it’s tender to frost. It reaches from 3m upwards in height and needs regular watering.
BERBERIS THUNBERGII ‘ATROPURPUREA’ (BARBERRY)
For a deep-plum colour, nothing beats the frost-hardy, deciduous, B. thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’ and cultivars like ‘Red Chief’, ‘Park Jewel’ and ‘Rose Glow’ with their disc-shaped leaves and arching, thorny branches. Reaching between 1–2m in height, depending on the cultivar, they colour up best in areas that receive full sun. Prune only to maintain the shape by removing branches from the base. Cut old plants back hard. Pair them with the golden-foliaged confetti bush.
ABELIA GRANDIFLORA ‘FRANCIS MASON’
Every garden should have at least one abelia as they give plenty of added value. Not only do they have attractive, shiny foliage held on graceful, arching stems, they produce clusters of dainty flowers and are useful fillers in the vase. ‘Francis Mason’ is the most intensely coloured variety, its lime-green, spring leaves turning a deep yellow gold in summer before bronzing up in winter. The colours are more vivid in the sun but these shrubs take semi-shade and are semi-deciduous in cold regions; frost hardy, they reach 1,5m. Look out for the new varieties with green and white variegated leaves.
COLEONEMA PULCHELLUM ‘SUNSET GOLD’ (GOLDEN CONFETTI BUSH)
This is a delightful indigenous shrub from winter-rainfall areas; the fine needle-like leaves of the golden-yellow variety colour up best in full sun. A perfect foil for plum-coloured berberis, it forms a neat rounded bush about 1m in height and has highly aromatic foliage and pink flowers in late winter to spring. It prefers a light, well-drained sandy soil, is remarkably drought tolerant and withstands moderate frost. It can be trimmed after flowering to keep it tidy or trained into neat balls.
BUDDLEJA GLOMERATA (KAROO SAGEWOOD)
Of our seven indigenous buddlejas, this frost-, heat- and drought-tolerant shrub from the Karoo is the best one for foliage colour. When young, its wavy-edged leaves are a silvery green then take on a blue-green colour as they age. Reaching 3–4m, or less with pruning, it needs an open, sunny aspect and, in winter-rainfall areas, free-draining soil. It differs from other buddleja in that its somewhat insignificant, creamy-yellow flowers don’t have an appealing scent but they do attract insects. It makes a good contrast to plum- and wine-coloured plants like the Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’, acalypha and berberis.