Berberis may not be the most glamorous of shrubs - what is, I wonder: the camellia, perhaps? - but for many years, Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar' has been popular for its purple foliage and striking, unusually upright habit. It makes an attractive small specimen, and can even be clipped into a low ledge. Now a new, more stylish upright berberis has arrived from Eastern Europe, the purple foliage accented with the same white speckling seen on popular bushy varieties like ‘Rosy Glow'.
‘Rosy Rocket' features the same upright habit as ‘Helmond Pillar' and the same deep red foliage but its leaves are lightened by attractive white mottling, especially on the young foliage. From a distance the effect is indeed rather rosy. It would be especially lovely, in a group of three perhaps, interplanted with the daintily variegated Geranium phaeum ‘Margaret Wilson'. It also makes a striking container specimen, could be clipped into a path-edging hedge or used unclipped as a slightly taller hedge or as a divider in a small formal garden.
After ten years ‘Rosy Rocket' reaches about 1.2m in height with a width of just 40cm, slightly smaller than ‘Helmond Pillar', and grows at about 15cm a year. Young plants can be pinched out to create a denser plant without disrupting the upright growth. The plant in the picture (click the image to see a larger version) has been planted for just two years.
‘Rosy Rocket' arose in the Czech Republic and is the rather surprising result of a deliberate cross between B. thunbergii ‘Aurea' and ‘Helmond Pillar'. It was selected in 1994 and has undergone many years of assessment before being finally released. It looks like it was worth the wait.
Berberis thunbergii ‘Rosy Rocket' is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.