Phormium Hall of Fame: Tom’s Top 5

by | Oct 6, 2020

Deciding to use phormiums in your landscape is the easy part – the challenge is choosing the perfect plants for your project. 

Which phormiums are right for my landscape?

With phormiums, minimum input delivers maximum architectural effect. But should you opt for an arching variety or an upright grow? How big should your phormiums be? Which phormium is best for borders, and which for patios? What colour plants would give your landscape a lift? Which phormiums deliver year-round? Making the best choice for your development is crucial but, with so many options, you may feel in over your head.

Luckily, at Greenwood, we always have Tom Wozniak to hand with the encyclopaedic knowledge borne of true passion for plants. Whatever your landscape, one of these phormiums is bound to provide the aesthetic you’re looking for.

5. Phormium ‘Gold Ray’

Named for the colour of its long, narrow leaves, ‘Gold Ray’ is a fantastic plant which allows you to maintain a burst of golden colour in your landscape even in winter. A narrow ribbon of green is surrounded by broad stripes of yellow, particularly on the outer leaves. In autumn, this becomes a pale golden orange.

With small leaves, the growth is bushy rather than spreading, creating a sturdy feature plant for patios and borders.

The typical upright grow and striking yellow-edged leaves of Phormium ‘Golden Ray’.

The beautifully arching leaves of Phormium ‘Jester’, displaying their faintly green-striped middles of vivid rosy red.

4. Phormium ‘Jester’ 

Phormium ‘Jester’ is a relatively new variety of New Zealand flax (horticulturalists are continually working on breeding new species of phormium), and it’s a stunner.

The arching leaves boast strong red middles, surrounded by well demarcated bands of lime green. ‘Jester’ will achieve impact in any garden.

Strong growing and easy to maintain, Jester is usually a dense plant with narrow leaves, although some clones have wider leaves. It typically grows to 1m and can spread to 1m.

‘Jester’ will draw the eye whether it’s finishing the mise en scène on a patio or frontage, or stealing the show in a border.

3. Phormium tenax ‘Variegatum’

One of the strongest and toughest varieties of phormium, ‘Variegatum’ is an ideal choice to build protection into windy areas.

More subtly coloured than some varieties’ foliage, the leaves are nevertheless attractive, growing erect with a dark green centre and cream edging.

2. Phormium ‘Evening Glow’

Phormium ‘Evening Glow’ is well named, for its phenomenal depth of red is unknown elsewhere in the plant world. A small variety with a compact habit, this phormium’s foliage of reds and pinks really does evoke the striated sky of a glorious sunset.

Like most phormiums, ‘Evening Glow’ enjoys full sun, which will lend its leaves a paler, pinker hue. To achieve the greatest depth of red, plant it with partial protection from the sun. ‘Evening Glow’ will also thrive in more shaded aspects, but its leaves will develop a browner appearance.

The lush green and cream-edged foliage of the hardy Phormium tenax ‘Variegatum’, ideal for windswept landscapes.

Phormium ‘Evening Glow’ always stands out with its glorious depth of colour. In partial shade its deepest red hue will develop.

1. Phormium ‘Cream Delight’

Tom can’t sing this plant’s praises enough. A particularly strong variety of phormium, which can withstand temperatures as low as -12°C, ‘Cream Delight’ is one of the few plants with which gardeners can achieve white or yellowish-white leaves as a year-round constant. This not only creates a stunning vista in its own right, but also makes this variety a great choice for colour theming your project.

Phormium ‘Cream Delight’ is not a particularly tall variety, with a mature height of around 1m, and an eventual spread of 1m, so it’s perfect for borders and gravel frontages.

Phormium ‘Cream Delight’, a strong phormium with an arching habit and stunning leaves. The striated green edging and dazzling creamy-white centres remain year-round.

By the second season, its sword-shaped leaves will begin extending. This phormium’s long leaves and wide, arching habit lend it an elegant silhouette. The leaves also widen with age, so its beautiful colouring becomes more distinctive, the white middles dominating and narrowly edged in green.

Whatever the requirements of your landscape, the hardy perennial New Zealand flax is certain to add colour and style all year round. Tom oversees the growing of all these varieties of phormium – and more! – at Greenwood nurseries across the country.