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December plant of the month

Fortune's spindle - a colourful evergreen shrub to brighten a dull winter’s day

Fortune's spindleIf you’re searching for a hardy evergreen shrub that is low maintenance, tolerant of a wide variety of conditions and will earn its keep in the garden, and looks especially good during the winter, Fortune's spindle Euonymus fortunei  ‘Emerald ’n’ Gold’ AGM may be the answer.

This euonymus forms a low-growing, dense bush which makes it very popular as ground cover in large planting schemes. However, its most significant feature is its vibrant, broadly gold-margined leaves, which often become tinted pink in the winter.

When all of the herbaceous plants have died down and deciduous shrubs have lost their leaves, Euonymus fortunei  ‘Emerald ’n’ Gold’ really stands out, providing an uplifting splash of colour in the garden. This effect can be enhanced by planting it in front of a dark background, such as a non-variegated evergreen shrub or hedge.

Euonymus fortunei is native to Japan, Korea and China. It was introduced to western gardens in 1907 and is named after the 19th-century plant hunter Robert Fortune. The cultivar ‘Emerald ’n’ Gold’ originates from the USA.

It copes with full sun or partial shade and tolerates most soil types and conditions, with the exception of waterlogged ground. If you don’t have the space to allow it to grow unchecked, it can be pruned in the spring. 

Variegated plants often originate from green-leaved plants on which a stem has mutated, producing leaves with white, cream, yellow or gold markings, which contain less chlorophyll than a pure green leaf. For various reasons, stems of pure green leaves will sometimes appear on a variegated plant (referred to as ‘reversion’), or without any chlorophyll at all.  Because these stems are usually more vigorous, they should be removed completely or cut back to wood containing variegated foliage in spring.

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