I was invited to go on a tour of seven gardens in the Portland, Ore., metro area in early June. The tour is sponsored by the Association for Northwest Landscape Designers, and this day was a “pre-tour” for local media folks and garden designers. All the gardens are at private homes, and each offered a unique vision and collaboration between designer and homeowner. One key element of garden design that I appreciated seeing in these landscapes was the use of chartreuse and yellow foliage colors to create visual anchor points for our eyes to move between. Two of the gardens designed by Perennial Partners, founded by award-winning designer Lucy Hardiman, made wonderful use of Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’, which is a plant I’ve been enamored by for many years.

The genus Lonicera, named after German botanist Adam Lonizer, (1528-1586) is quite varied, having some species that are vines with wonderfully sweet-scented flowers, and others, the boxleaf honeysuckles or simply box-honeysuckles like L. nitida are evergreen shrubs. They are reliably evergreen in USDA Zone 7b-9 and will survive with protection in zone 6b-9. They should be grown in well-drained soil, whether in horticultural production or in the landscape.

The color of the leaves of ‘Twiggy’ varies from a lavish yellow-gold in mostly sun to lime-green in dappled to deep shade. If they are grown in full sun, they will, of course require more water. The shrub has a mounding habit and grows to about 3 feet tall. It was selected as a sport from the much larger L. nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’, which has the same yellow color as ‘Twiggy’.

‘Twiggy’ also makes a beautiful container specimen, used in combination with black mondo grass, heucheras, Euphorbia or other plants with contrasting foliage. In the sunny landscape, consider planting ‘Twiggy’ with red Acer palmatum,Loropetalum or Sambucus nigra. In a shadier location where ‘Twiggy’ will be lime-green, consider pairing it with Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’. The versatility of this plant can’t be understated when you see it in the landscape. It can even be sheared into a hedge, similar to boxwood.

Why grow Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’?

  • It’s a compact shrub.
  • It can be used in containers.
  • It’s evergreen in Zones 7b-9, semi-evergreen in Zones 6 with protection.
  • Grows in full sun to mostly shade.
  • It can be used as a hedge.
  • Relatively fast-growing in the landscape and in production.
  • The yellow-gold foliage is very eye-catching in the landscape.