|A woodland inspired design for Fine Gardening magazine|
featuring Japanese forest grass, hardy impatiens and
a variegated hosta. Photo credit; Danielle Sherry.
Love them or hate them – you can’t ignore variegated plants. They vary from brazen stripes to subtle freckles, Pollock style splatters to spidery veins. Depending upon their particular form and color, patterned foliage can blend, enhance or brighten the garden, helping to tie other plants together or create a new focal point.
|The creamy yellow variegated hosta brightens this group while the delicate|
blue star creeper repeats the blue tones of the hostas.
|Although both the Japanese forest grass and toad lily 'Gilt|
Edge' are variegated they complement each other.
|Bugloss 'Jack Frost' is stunning|
in the shade
|Mayapple 'Kaleidoscope' (right) keeping company with|
Bishops hat (left) and spurge (center)
The common name for the spring flowering Pulmonaria is lungwort, reflecting both its likeness to the shape and spots of a diseased lung as well as its reputed medicinal properties in curing such ailments. I can’t speak as to the efficacy of such a remedy but I do like the spotted leaves of the many varieties available. ‘Roy Davidson’ is probably my favorite with its sprays of bluebell shaped flowers in shades of pink and blue. After they have finished blooming I cut the whole plant down to just an inch or so. The fresh leaves emerge nice and healthy, whereas not doing so seems to allow powdery mildew to take hold.
Bear in mind that how conspicuous a variegated leaf may appear and therefore where best to place it will depend upon several factors. A large, boldly variegated leaf may seem overpowering when seen close up yet from a distance it adds just enough interest to enliven a border. Conversely delicate variegation will be missed when viewed from afar or just appear as a muddy grey. Light plays a role in how variegation is seen; white shines in the shade but yellow variegation can often go more ‘green’ in such conditions. Aucuba is one of the few yellow variegated shrubs which does not lose its ‘oomph’ in this way. Finally the season itself may play a role in determining the intensity of the colors. The yellow and green variegated wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald and Gold’) for example is brightest in winter when it takes on additional red tints while the perennial variegated masterwort ‘Sunningdale variegated’ (Astrantia major) shines in spring with broad gold margins to its green leaves but then softens to an overall subdued green for the remainder of the year.