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Colorful shrub attracts attention

Every garden needs some interesting-looking plant specimens, the kind of plants your eyes just wander toward. Colorful and unusually shaped flowers often do the trick, but sometimes a shrub is just what the doctor ordered.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki', commonly known as Goshiki false holly, is a great "attention-getter" shrub.

Goshiki is a Japanese word that means "five colors," which applies to the colorful foliage. Now my partial colorblindness kind of inhibits me from detecting all five colors, but I'm sure they are probably there.

In all seriousness, we are talking about a plant with fabulous foliage.

As the common name false holly might imply, the leaves do look reminiscent of holly, rigid with spiny teeth. New leaves emerge a reddish-pink color, but quickly turn a golden yellow with shades of green and cream flecks all over the surface. (I think this is where the five colors comes into play.)

Even if you are not a big fan of variegated foliage, you might like this one.

Because 'Goshiki' is evergreen, you are rewarded with colorful foliage year-round, which can be useful when designing a garden with winter interest in mind. In addition to great foliage, 'Goshiki' offers fragrant flowers. The small white flowers are more or less hidden by the foliage, but they still get the job done with their scent.

Literature is sort of vague in regard to the ultimate height of Osmanthus 'Goshiki.' Most of the references I found put it in the 3- to 4-foot-tall range. However, our 14-year-old specimen at Riverbanks Botanical Garden is now pushing 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. (Note to self: Don't believe everything you read.) Regardless, we're not looking at something that will reach enormous proportions.

Because 'Goshiki' is not going to break any records for growth rate, you may want to use it in a container for a few seasons while it puts on some size. We've used it in containers off and on throughout the years, and it is great for winter containers. In fact, we've planted 20 containers with 'Goshiki' along our canal for this winter.

Osmanthus 'Goshiki' will tolerate full sun, but the foliage may look a bit washed out in summer. A slightly shaded spot would be best. Best growth will be achieved in a moist, well-drained soil. Occasional pruning may be necessary for shaping.

Cuttings are the way to propagate Osmanthus 'Goshiki,' but you may have to wait several months to see root production. For the impatient gardener, I recommend getting one from a local nursery.

Now is the perfect time to plant shrubs. Grab a few 'Goshiki' to liven up your winter.