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GOING FOR GOLD; gardening.

Byline: Diarmuid Gavin

As a child, the plants that most intrigued me were buttercups. You remember, holding them under your chin and seeing that lovely yellow light reflected.

They seemed to capture the sun, indeed they appeared golden. And gold is the colour of the month - Olympic gold. Every day for two weeks on the television we have seen discs of bling.

Even the Post Office got in on the act, painting postboxes in winners' home towns a golden hue as a tribute. It brought me to think of golden gardens. How could we achieve gold with planting schemes?

Well, by using the colour yellow. It's superb, especially at this time of the year. Whether you use foliage or flower, yellow is a winner.

My little girl Eppie has just burst through the door with a handful of the pretty flowers of Hypericum, St John's Wort, often dismissed as a slightly unruly ground cover. It's so useful growing in the dry and dappled shade, not very high and covering the ground like a blanket of sunny flowers.

And what about early in the year when there was the brilliant and sweet smelling flowers from Mahonia, 'Charity' being the most common variety. They are distinctive, upright and help to herald the new gardening year.

There's lots of Olympic golds going to California this year and from me, none more so than Fremontodendron 'California Glory', a wall shrub that produces huge trumpet-like flowers, which trail along sturdy branches.

And of course, for children, sunflowers. Is there anything brighter or more giddily infectious for them than to grow the largest flowers they possibly can?

Collect seeds shortly and store for next year or roast them in the oven. Birds will appreciate them during a harsh winter. In terms of foliage, plants with yellow variegation are very handy as they can brighten up duller areas.

We are familiar with common ones like variegated hollies that have splotches of yellows on otherwise green leaves, as if they have been attacked by Damien Hirst.

Variegated foliage can do extremely well in lightly shaded areas so they are useful in terms of added interest in a spot that otherwise might be dark.

Other ones you might include in your Ch i golden border would be Choisya ternata 'Sundance' or yellow variegated cordylines and New Zealand Flax can make a splash. Unusual effects with yellow can also be achieved through stems such as the vibrant stem of golden Swiss chard in a vegetable border or even grown in Long Tom terracotta pots.

In the herbaceous border, achilleas, with their flat plates of yellow flowers, are dancing at this time of year.

Other herbaceous golden treasures are daylilies, rudbeckias, heleniums, coreopsis and anthemis tinctoria, the golden marguerite. Solidago, otherwise known as goldenrod, can grow a little rampant but really sprinkles and reflects sunlight through the border. Alchemilla mollis will perform all summer long and self seeds prolifically through the borders.

Of course, it's not just yellow - you can include orange tones using marigolds, Californian poppies, and Turk's cap lilies. The colour that goes extremely well with both of these is purple, so a haze of something like verbena, lavender or nepeta will help integrate your golden border with the rest of your floriferous efforts.

But here's a another exciting challenge - in four years' time we'll just be celebrating the end of the Rio Olympics. Four good years of gardening. It might be an idea for you to aim for gold by beginning to develop a garden, because it takes about four years for most shrubs to achieve a nice height, for small garden trees to reach some maturity and for herbaceous borders to produce bountiful blooms. So in four years could your garden be worthy of gold?

For now, though, how about commemorating the great achievement of our athletes by planting a golden border in their honour?

ask Diarmuid

I have this little tree in my garden, which flowers from early morning in summer but sheds its flowers at night. I was wondering if you knew what it is called? Many thanks.

PAULINE JORDAN DERRY, N IRELAND

HI PAULINE, Yes, that's the purple flowered rock rose, Cistus x purpureus. Originally hailing from the Mediterranean region, these rock roses are highly evocative of sunnier climes. You are quite right, each flower only lasts a day, but the bush will produce masses of flowers throughout the summer. And what beautiful flowers - like gently crumpled fine pink tissue paper with a splotch of maroon at the base.

BEST WISHES DIARMUID

CAPTION(S):

GLORIOUS: Californian poppies VIBRANT: Swiss chard TREASURE: Anthemis tinctoria
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2012
Words:769
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