PLANT OF THE WEEK
Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'
WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT IT
E. 'Ascot Rainbow' is one of the most dramatic introductions of the last few years. In bloom, it looks as though it has a million eyes, giving it an animation quite unlike anything around it. Those "eyes" are acid-yellow bracts, which appear in early summer. In winter, it's a striking mound of pale green– and yellow-striped leaves infused with a pale pink glow. In my garden, it wintered over in a raised bed in superb condition last year and has bloomed for months now in spite of drought and heat.
WHERE TO PLANT IT
Although it contains a lactic acid that can cause dermatitis in humans, this same toxic quality makes E. 'Ascot Rainbow' repellent to animals (and therefore deer-and-rabbit-proof). Put it in a place that's in the path of these critters and maybe they'll leave other plants alone. It will take sandy or clay soil and is drought-tolerant in full sun to part shade. This is a boon to anyone who has soil problems,but remember that every euphorbia needs good drainage.
It's a Zone 5 plant in the ground,but can be used in containers if you live in colder areas. It makes a lovely mound about 45 to 60 centimetres tall.
WHAT IT OFFERS
I fell in love with this plant at first sight: The striped green/gold leaves are handsome enough,but the stalks that sprong over them with yellow/green bracts or blooms are thrilling. I have it in containers, in the ground and as a central focus in combination with black or bright blue grasses. You can't too have many of them. In autumn, the leaves take on a tinge of pink that lasts all winter. It is an amazing four-season perennial and, if you can winter it over, will be a tough cookie for many years. Otherwise, think of it as one of the best annuals you could buy.
SOURCE AND COST
You can find E. 'Ascot Rainbow' at specialty nurseries, including Acton, Ont.'s Lost Horizons (www.losthorizons.ca), where it sells for$12.
Visit www.marjorieharris.com for more gardening and plant information.