Olearia arborescens is a shrub not seen much in Britain but this New Zealand native is often grown in its home country, as a hedge and for its large heads of white flowers. Now there’s a new variegated form.
The wild species is a vigorous evergreen shrub reaching 13ft/4m, perhaps more, in height, with slightly glossy dark green leaves which are prettily silvered on the undersides. In May and June small, white, daisy-like flowers are carried in rounded heads up to 6in/15cm across.
In ‘Moondance’ (left, click to enlarge), the leaves are slightly greyer and feature a broad irregular creamy margin. There is also a slight pink tint the shoot tips. As the plants mature the pale margin becomes a little less broad and the result is a very effective foliage shrub.
Olearia arborescens ‘Moondance’ was found in New Zealand by Denis Hughes of Blue Mountain Nurseries. He told me: “This cultivar was developed from a bud sport I found in a hedge of the plain species that grew cream and variegated leaves. With careful selection of propagation material, ‘Moondance’ was born.
“Over the past decade or so we have found it to be a very stable and colourful cultivar. As variegated shrubs are not particularly popular in New Zealand, at the moment we have not offered the cultivar to the New Zealand public but I’m pleased that it’s now available in Britain.”
One important point. Since before the mid-1970s another variegated form of O. arborescens has occasionally been seen, ‘Variegata’. This is a much less attractive plant than ‘Moondance’ with irregular cream or greyish green splashes and streaks.
It’s interesting to note that amongst all the shrubby plants in the daisy family, there are just a few variegated forms – all are olearias.
You can order Olearia arborescens ‘Moondance’ from The Walled Garden Nursery.