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GREEN, GOLD AND GLORIOUS; Either in a damp and shady spot or in the full glare of the sun, here's a special plant you can put to a hundred uses in the garden right now - the delightful euphorbia, which is the fourth largest genus of flowering plants.

Byline: CAROL KLEIN

Watching the first heads of euphorbia palustris changing to luminescent lime green always fires my imagination with some of the endless possibilities for combining it with other plants.

When I'm staking enormous clumps in the 'hot garden', there's an opportunity to daydream about new associations and colour schemes.

Euphorbias are unique. Their startling heads of glowing green and gold light up the garden for months on end. They are versatile, too.

Some clamber over walls, others make bright tussocks in the spring garden while some make substantial evergreen structures.

As early as the beginning of March, some of the deciduous species had woken and were already making a determined job of lifting the curtain to announce the beginning of spring.

Some of the euphorbias we cultivate in our gardens are versions of native wild plants.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, the wood spurge, creates splashes of vivid colour along our hedgerows. It often crops up with bluebells or earlier on with self-seeded honesty, escaped from a nearby garden. The combination of magenta-purple with sharp lime-green is worth copying and if the honesty heads are left intact, they will stay all through the winter, accompanying the hummocks of euphorbia, which often put on a fairly respectable show through till spring.

There are also variations in foliage colour and sharp-eyed nursery people have selected numerous cultivars. The best of them are essentially purple-leaved, cultivars such as euphorbia amygdaloides purpurea whose foliage, especially after a cold snap is the colour of beetroot.

Euphorbia amygdaloides is an accommodating species, thriving even in dark ng tree ts and shady places, under hedges or amonroots. The straightforward species and it coloured variants stay in tight clumps, whereas the sub-species euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae has a different harunning around freely and is an excellenground-cover plant for a difficult site.

Euphorbia myrsinites likes the opposi conditions, thriving best in dry, sunny locations and is especially at home whercan flop and scramble over a dry stone wthe like. From Turkey and the Middle Eawhere it grows on arid mountain sides, tspurge has close-packed glaucous leaveslightly pointed, which spiral thickly arodangling stems. It loves the same conditsea-hollies, auriculas and dry-loving grasuch as stipa tenuissima. In flower as ealate March, the bracts persist for monthoften changing colour to orange and tan.

One truly orange spurge is euphorbia griffithii fireglow. Metre-high stems are lwith large heads of flower with vivid orabracts, which draw attention to themselthe early garden. A brilliant plant for a loaded ange lves in bog-garden or a damp border, beware though if you're short of space - this is a rampant plant sending out thick underground shoots in all directions and rapidly colonising even large areas.

The selection euphorbia griffithii dixter has redder stems but the rumour that it is not so invasive as fireglow is completely erroneous.

Euphorbia griffithii is at its fieriest in late spring and many other spurges reach their peak simultaneously.

Euphorbia palustris, another spurge that revels in damp conditions, is clearly visible from yards away.

Its chunky flowerheads gather themselves together during over the last month, a tight-packed bouquet of vivid lime-green bracts nestling in soft-green leaves with a touch of pink. The stems explode into a firework display of brilliant acid yellow.

Spurges are fairly promiscuous, seeding themselves and often hybridising naturally. In the case of euphorbia x martinii, the cross is between two different species, euphorbia characias and euphorbia amygdaloides, a sunbather and a shade lover. As you might expect, this spurge will tolerate a wide range of conditions. It is a striking evergreen of middling height (about 30 inches).

Its deep red stems are well-clothed with soft green leaves tinged with crimson and the large and handsome flowerheads are clustered around the top six inches of the stems, vivid green with crimson eyes.

Try it with the large red leaves of an ornamental rhubarb such as rheum ace of hearts with dark red primulas and the lime-yellow blades of Bowles' golden Grass, milium effusum aureum.

Euphorbia polychroma will be at its best at the same time. This is an outstanding spurge which can be put to a hundred uses in the garden right now.

One cultivar euphorbia polychroma major even flowers again in the summer. Beautiful with orange tulips such as prinses Irene and a backdrop of purple elder.

Even in a small space, the possibilities that euphorbias offer are endless.

Ask Carol

HEATHER UNDER THE WEATHER

I would love some advice on my heathers, which are long, stringy and don't actually produce that many flowers. - Marie Hughes, by email

CAROL: Heathers make their new growth after they've flowered - that is the best time to prune them. Because yours have become so stringy, trimming their tops will not help much. Heathers don't respond to cutting back into old wood. Your best bet may be to take short, stubby cuttings from the new growth.

TREES A LITTLE NUTS THIS YEAR

A clump of beech trees overhang my front garden. Having lived here for almost 40 years, I am amazed to see this year that, for the first time, my garden is smothered with sprouting beech nuts - Pam Crouzieres by email CAROL: Last year was a "mast year", when trees made prolific amounts of nuts or berries.

Consequently, this year there seem to be lots of young trees. Pot some up and give them to someone who'd like a beech hedge.

Have you got a gardening question for Carol? Email your query to m.mcmonagle@sundaymail.co.uk

EUPHORBIAS ARE JUST SO UNIQUE. THEIR STARTLING HEADS OF GLOWING GREEN AND GOLD LIGHT UP THE GARDEN FOR MONTHS

CAPTION(S):

STRINGY Heather bother

FRINGE BENEFITS A border of tulips in pots contrast with euphorbia palustris

BEET FEAT Beetroot-like purpurea variety

SPURGE SPLURGE Euphorbia robbiae provides a lush backdrop for anemone nemorosa
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 4, 2014
Words:1005
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