If you think the abelia is ho-hum, then you haven’t seen kaleidoscope.
Abelia “kaleidoscope” is a selection of the plant abelia grandiflora that has been popularly grown in Australia since the 1960s, and it stands out like a beacon in the landscape with its almost flaming or glowing foliage.
Many people have never heard of an abelia, let alone the kaleidoscope variety.
But the glossy foliage that seems to be ever-changing in shades of green, golden-yellow, red and orange makes kaleidoscope a winner.
This exceptionally tough garden variety emerges bright yellow with a light green centre in spring, turns to a golden yellow with a deep green centre in summer and by autumn it’s bright orange to fiery red.
It reaches about 90 centimetres with a 1.2-metre spread and is environmentally friendly thanks to its pest-free nature.
Kaleidoscopes 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 also prove to be a popular stop in the garden for birds, bees and butterflies.
Abelia can tolerate long periods of drought and is happy in a wide range of climactic conditions.
It looks striking as a small hedge and is also great planted in large tubs and containers.
When you get your abelia kaleidoscope plant, consider planting an odd-numbered cluster in full to part sun.
Prepare the bed by incorporating about 10 centimetres of organic matter and fertiliser, 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 as one of the most durable plants, they will still need managing while they establish.
You want those roots to go from the rootball to the adjacent soil and feel at home in your landscape. This takes water, and all shrubs need this during the first year.
After your plants are established, there’s not much required, just feed in late winter with a light application of a slow release fertiliser.
Even though the plant 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 the kaleidoscope, you may also want to consider “mardi gras”, which is rose pink with green and white variegation, or “sunrise”, which has white flowers and green foliage with margins that are gold to creamy yellow.