Martyn Falconer, the AELTC Head Gardener, knows all about seeds, blossoming talent and rampant climbers. In this series, he nominates his Plant of the Day.
When does a plant rise beyond its station and attain revered status as a flower? When it is Euonymous Fortunei ‘Harlequin’ and so admired by the All England Club Head Gardener that 2,080 examples of the low-growing dwarf evergreen shrub are on display as the mainstay of the Wimbledon planting scheme.
In a tennis context, ‘Harlequin’ means only one thing: Stan Wawrinka’s legendary diamond-patterned ‘pyjama’ shorts. The Swiss player, No 5 seed here, wore them with pride throughout the French Open in 2015 en route to winning his first Grand Slam, despite them being dubbed as “pyjamas” that he might have found tucked away in his father’s wardrobe. For him, the harlequin label only has winning associations.
As it does for Martyn Falconer. “Euonymous Harlequin is a great plant with its ever-changing variegated foliage,” he raves. “The leaves are green but the new growth gives out these pure white tips which develop light and dark green speckles with age and create a spectacular effect. It very nearly makes it as ‘a flower’ in my book.”
It very nearly makes it as ‘a flower’ in my book
Variegated plants, such as ivy, are often used in troughs or planters to add a solid base of meandering foliage and a mottled green palette. Euonymous – which, literally translated from Greek, means auspiciously named – does this with vaudeville flair, but it also has an attractive wispy softness which is perfect for Wimbledon’s ‘tennis in an English Country Garden’ setting.
The theme relies on a romantic approach to gardening, whereby the gardener seeks to cooperate with nature to create a tranquil landscape rather than seeks to control nature to create a highly structured, formal garden. To fall into a poetic reverie about these things, we can look to William Wordsworth and his invitation to: “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”
But enough of horticultural whimsy. Back to practical matters. Euonymous injects a striking play of green into the All England Club plant palette – with a very subtle nod to the importance of white. And now is perhaps the time to share the secret specifics of just how the famously verdant stage for the tournament is created.
For a Championship-standard garden lawn, you need 100 per cent rye grass, cut to 8mm. For creeper-clad walls, you will want to train Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus Tricuspidaca Veitchii) and be patient: it may take several years to establish impressive cover. The iconic green paint on the masonry is Permaglaze Spruce Green, code 14C39. Should you wish to highlight the colours of the club logo, the Pantone reference for the green is PMS 349 and for the purple PMS 268.