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On Gardening: Kaleidoscope abelia's flaming foliage glows in the landscape

March 24, 2014

The boldly colored foliage of the Kaleidoscope abelia gives its landscape interest in all seasons.

If you think the abelia is the ho hum, Millard Fillmore of shrubs, then you have not seen Kaleidoscope. This morning at 10 a.m., it looked as though the security lights would have to come on: It was dark, misty and dreary, but the Kaleidoscope abelias stood out like a beacons in the landscape with almost flaming or glowing foliage.

Most people have never heard of an abelia, or for sure the variety Kaleidoscope. But the glossy foliage that seems to be ever-changing in shades of green, golden-yellow, red and orange makes Kaleidoscope a winner even if it never blooms. It is reaches 36 inches tall with a 4-foot spread and is environmentally friendly due to its pest-free nature.

They do bloom almost non-stop. In fact many consider these to be among the longest blooming in the market. The lightly fragrant, funnel-shaped flowers will prove to be a popular stop in the garden for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

The colorful foliage and arching habit makes the abelia a nice contrasting combination plant among evergreens. At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, ours are in close proximity to Soft Caress mahonia and spreading yew, while others are planted ever so picturesque in front of historic bamboo.

When you get your Kaleidoscope abelia plant, consider planting an odd-numbered cluster in full to part sun. Prepare the bed by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and 2 pounds of a 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area, tilling deeply.

Dig the planting hole two to three times as wide as the rootball but no deeper. Place the abelia in the hole and backfill with soil to two-thirds the depth. Tamp the soil and water to settle, add the remaining backfill, repeat the process and apply mulch.

Even though some may consider abelias among the top plants in durability, they will still need managing while they establish. We want those roots to go from the rootball to the adjacent soil and become at home in your landscape. This takes water, and all shrubs will need this during the first year. This is also one of the reasons we horticultural types promote spring and fall planting so much. These less stressful seasons allow the roots to really take off.

After your plants are established, there is not much required. Feed in late winter with a light application of a slow released 12-6-6 fertilizer equaling about 1 pound per 100 square feet of planted area. Even though it is considered to have a dry to average moisture requirement, maintaining an even supply of water during prolonged dry spells makes for an incredible showy plant.

In addition to Kaleidoscope you may also want to consider Mardi Gras, which has rose pink, with green and white variegation. Another recent introduction called Sunrise is also gaining recognition. It has white flowers and green foliage with margins that are gold to creamy yellow. The Sunrise name comes into play by the change in fall leaf color. The leaves turn shades of yellow, orange and red.

If you plant some, you will probably start to ask yourself the question, why did I wait so long?

 

 


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