Plants with gilded leaves will make your garden glow. Adrienne Wild shows you how to create the best effects
Plants that have yellow-gold leaves add a splash of instant sunshine to a shady corner, an effect that lasts longer than any flowers. They look fabulous beside perennials with red, orange, lavender or purple flowers and especially when planted against a backdrop of dark evergreen foliage.
However, while you may be tempted to create an all-gold scheme, be aware that it’s a look that can become overpowering or distracting if you take it too far, and may even give you cause for concern – the foliage on sickly plants is often yellow! To diffuse this problem, add some variegated plants.
Shining shrubs that can be relied on to lift your garden out of the gloom include spotty-leaved Aucuba japonica, the bright blotches of Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ’n’ Gold’ and Buddleja ‘Santana’, and the superb yellow-striped ornamental grass Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’.
Gardening editor Adrienne Wild’s top 10
Trailing Vinca minor ‘Illumination’ is a vigorous, weed-suppressing ground-cover plant useful for preventing soil erosion on sloping ground.
The gold-splashed evergreen foliage and cobalt-blue flowers, which appear from April through to September, make it an excellent choice for pots and hanging baskets where it can trail over the rim. The bright gold leaves that are edged with a border of green will put a shady, dead zone in the spotlight.
Poor man’s box
Lonicera nitida ‘Baggasen’s Gold’ will add an outstanding glow of sunshine to a border. Unlike its climbing cousins, which are grown for their highly perfumed blooms, this plant makes a bushy evergreen shrub around 1m tall. As it tolerates regular pruning, it makes a great hedge and can be grown in pots on the patio. In bright sun, the dainty box-like leaves fade to almost blond, while in shade they deepen to a chartreuse tone.
The flaxen-leaved grass Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ thrives in partial shade and even in dry soil, once it’s settled in. Forming a cascading hummock of vivid yellow and green striped narrow leaves, it is perfect for patio pots and pond edges, as well as useful for giving borders a soft edge.
Planted in full sun, the leaves will take on a reddish tinge and in late summer, slender spikes on pale green flowers will add to the effects.
Mad on moisture
One of the best ways to add a golden splash to borders is with super-hardy hostas. Look out for ‘Stained Glass’ – it has shiny gold leaves with irregular green margins up to 27cm long.
These gold-leaved varieties generally tend to be modest clumpers – up to 45cm wide and, unlike their spreading, non-golden counterparts, need moist soil and a good dose of morning sun if they are to colour up well.
Jasmine ‘Fiona Sunrise’ is a twist on this favourite summer climber, having striking yellow leaves along with the usual heavenly scented, crisp white star-shaped flowers, which cover the entire plant from June to September.
Its twining stems make it perfect for training over walls, pergolas and arches, if they are substantial enough to carry its mature weight. It prefers a sheltered spot in sun, although it can tolerate partial shade as well.
In summer, the foliage turns lime green, then brilliant gold in autumn.
Plant jasmine at least 15cm from any wall or fence, and give the roots a good soaking before covering with soil
Shines in shade
Heucheras have been a big hit with gardeners over the past few years.
The variety ‘Electra’ of this evergreen perennial has large bright golden leaves with bright red veins and, along with yellow-green ‘Lime Rickey’ from the Rainbow Series, is perfect for masking dark soil or tucking in between sober green ground cover.
And as they truly glow in light and partial shade, they are a perfect choice if you just want to lighten a shady corner.
Designers will often tell you that yellow and pink will clash, but in this case Mother Nature knows best as Spiraea japonica gold-tinted leaves are joined by bright, long-lasting pink blooms in early summer. When the leaves of the variety ‘Goldflame’ emerge in spring, they are flushed with burnished bronze-red, but as the leaves mature they turn bright yellow then luminous green.
The vibrant foliage of ‘Magic Carpet’ retains its colour all season and in all types of weather.
Calms the mind
A neat, lush mound of decorative, textured and variegated leaves make Melissa officinalis ‘Aurea’ the best lemon balm to grow – they release a delicious lemon scent when crushed. This is believed to help restore memory and encourage restful sleep. Grow it in a container by the kitchen door, ready to flavour cold drinks and herbal teas, as well as stuffing and salads. Clusters of small cream flowers appear in summer.
The sweet-scented white blossoms of mock orange, or Philadelphus coronarius, make it a star of the early summer garden – especially the variety ‘Aureus’, which has butter yellow spring foliage. It thrives in sun or partial shade and will tolerate heavy clay soil. As it is a tall shrub, it can be planted towards the back of a border and used as a backdrop for shorter plants with dark green leaves.
Its strong branches also make a good support for lightweight clematis such as ‘Niobe’.
The cheerful gold Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ is often marketed for sunny spots, and it will grow in them, but in partial shade it’s just as happy and its foliage tends not to bleach or burn like it might in full sun. It makes an evergreen mound that glows like a beacon and goes with just about anything.
Starry white fragrant blooms, which resemble orange blossoms, cover the bush in early summer and the leaves release a rich, spicy fragrance when crushed.