Design, In the Garden, The Parterre Bench

Euonymus, an Overlooked Garden Design Asset

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orangerie with cherry standards

It’s always insightful to hear someone else’s “take” on one’s garden, especially if it’s Martha Stewart. Her interest in our use of euonymus (pronounced u-on-a-mus) as a design element caught me a bit off guard; no one had ever mentioned it. But then again, that’s why Martha is Martha.


When she asked to visit my garden (while she was staying with mutual Newport friends) of course I said “yes” – and tried not to double think the litany of things that needed work, clean-up, re-planting, etc. One could drive themselves crazy! Maybe I could keep the hyper-ventilating down by taking my own advice – a garden is always a work-in-progress, that is part of its charm and draw for gardeners…never perfected. But that doesn’t detract from the pleasure of overall views (i.e. here from our library with an evergreen euonymus hedge as a backdrop).


Frankly, having had our gardens all settled in now for, lo going on 17 years, I’d taken it a bit for granted. But Martha’s comments prompted another look and think on my part and I realized that in all my days of touring gardens, I’d never seen euonymus used in other than a single planting.

Here at Parterre, they are to be found in every garden… euonymous japonicus  Grandifolius serves as a very important 8′ green wall to the southern side of our winter garden (also as seen above), to include a bower for my initialed bench…


tightly clipped hedges to the four parterres in front of the Orangerie…


euonymus japonicus ‘Silver King’ forms obelisk-shaped centerpieces to the two beds in the Black and White garden…


…and soon a variegated euonymus will be adding climbing interest to the trunk of a tree in the woodland, as in this example in a friend’s garden.

Photo Credit: Mick Hales

The overriding take-way is that this serviceable and reliable plant can be used, and indeed works wonderfully, in establishing the “bones” of a garden. From ground covers to low hedges to foundation plants to climbers,  the many cultivars of euonymus are an overlooked garden asset. A major plus also is that it’s an evergreen and hardy in our coolish climes (horticultural zone 6B); it actually has a large growing range-zones 5-8 and up to 11. That’s not a small consideration. And the leaves come in many shapes and sizes, as well as shades of green, gold, white  as well as variegated; shown above and below is euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety.’


I love the statement that variegation makes in a setting of all shades of green, with fall colors as a backdrop.


Euonymus is not fussy about sun  vs. shade but will show its best color in full sun.

The euonymus in my garden happily join and augment other garden features, like a large white-flowered American beautyberry…


or a clipped boxwood in the shape of a French brioche.


And euonymus also adds to the whimsical notes scattered throughout the garden… “Benjamin Bunny”, sitting atop a limestone pillar, clothed in little leaf euonymus that will soon be covering him for spring.


The “caterpillars” (tightly pruned euonymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’) whose diagonal features create separate growing beds for blue pelargonium ‘Roxanne’.

orangerie parterres

Or as a garden mate to a giant Angelica, in full bloom.


Intrigued? Euonymus definitely deserves another think, especially if you are looking for those hard-to-find winter interest plants, as here, to give a spot of interest to the cap of a pedastal.


Happy Spring…

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

8 thoughts on “Euonymus, an Overlooked Garden Design Asset

  1. Hi Betty,

    Your garden looks lovely! The Goddards have euonymus on the chain link between our two properies. It inspired me to grow it on the chain link that runs along Leroy Avenue. It’s still in its early phase but is filling in nicely. Your garden is unspiring me to get on with my own and encorporate eunymous more widely.



    1. Hi Ho neighbor,so glad the blog was inspirational. Euonymus really is a wok horse of a plant, with so many shades of green and size leaves. If you need any cuttings, let me know. Happy Easter, Bettie

  2. Here in “the country” in Portsmouth, I have found that deer are really fond of our euonymus. I would love to use more as a hedge but I am a little concerned. I wondered if you have you heard anything about that? We are in search of a good evergreen hedge and I love the variation in euonymus.

    🙂 Allison W.

  3. For what it is worth, I just found this on line from a nursery in Connecticut. It may be a cautionary note for country dwellers– “Euonymus – Deer love euonymus, and it is probably the first plant they will go to – even before Japanese Yews.” What a shame. Any good ideas for warding off deer other than a big loud dog?

    1. Aaah, those little devils. And too bad especially because euonymus is evergreen; my 2 suggestions are not, but I still love them…hornbeam (which is very popular for hedging in Europe) and viburnum. I saw this at Carolyne Roehm’s garden in Connecticut and it was a knockout, especially when in bloom. Check those 2 out, my dear. xo Bettie

  4. Hi Bettie, I had not even heard of Euonymus before now, Thank you for the introduction.
    Love the variegated variety.
    Have a wondrous Easter!

    Featuring Artist Scott McBee

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