Thursday, April 19, 2012

Damn good plants - Abelia Kaleidoscope

Late March 2012
If you were to ask me what shrub to plant in your garden that has year round appeal, flowers for a long time and is tolerant of a wide range of conditions then you’ll hear one answer, Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’.  Trialed and tested in my own garden for its fourth year now, it still shines as bright as the first day it went in. 

Now I’m not particularly partial to variegated plants due to there over use at drive thru’s or theme parks but this little guy made me reconsider my snobby ways.  Its bright demeanor during the winter causes a pause while walking the dog around and has remained a reliable evergreen even in our harshness winters of ‘09 and ‘10 (remember snow-mega ding!).   The foliage colors change with varying degrees of saturation at different times of year with the most dazzling performance being saved for late fall into winter with highlights of fiery reds and oranges overlaid the normal greens and yellows.  A common problem with most variegated plants is the habit of reversion, where plain green stems appear and begin to dominate unless pruned off.  So far this hasn’t been a concern for mine. 

Glossy Abelia’s are well known for their long bloom time, starting in Northern Virginia from mid-July through to first frost.  On ‘Kaleidoscope’ there is no exception, adorned with soft white trumpet like flowers although the foliage still steals the show from a distance.  Its low profile of up to 2 ½ ft in height makes it a useful foreground shrub to capture the eye and design out from.  A word of warning, more doesn’t mean better as it will distracted the eye and prevent it from moving around the landscape, a common problem with any variegated plant in mass.  If this is the desired look, then make sure you place other variegated plants in difference locations around the landscape so that the eye can hop from one bright spot to another.

Pests, diseases, drought, sun and shade, unfazed to anything you can throw at it.  The only con’ I’ve found is that its rooting is slow resulting in nurseries pushing stock that aren’t ‘can full’ rooted, but this doesn’t even seem to ruffle its feathers.  Some nurseries will hold onto stock a little longer to provide a stronger rooted plant but this does raise the cost of production but all benefits the consumer in the long run.

Now it sounds a lot like I’m being paid to praise this shrub but it’s just a damn good plant that deserves a nod.  However, if you are a breeder looking to promote a plant then a can be bought with a suitcase of cash (used bills please). Gardening is quite an addiction!

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