Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Wonderful World of Variegation

Boy, it’s been a while since I contributed anything to Green Thumb Sunday and it’s about time to rectify that oversight. I’ve been doing so much writing for a couple of magazines and a web site that the time just gets eaten up. So I was rummaging around through my iPhotos and noticed I’ve been accumulating a lot of shots of variegated foliage. I tend to photograph those things that I emphasize in my designs and in my classes, so I’ll have plenty of examples for clients and students.

Since I’m a fanatical believer in the design philosophy of building a garden design around a strong framework of plant forms, contrasting densities, and foliage color (and only then laying on the floral color) variegation becomes a very important component in the overall recipe.

Consider how this variegated Pittosporum plays against the Photinia. Although there is a solid green version of the Pitt, look how much more contrast can be achieved by pairing the lighter colored leaf with the darkness of the other.

I even like the Pitt all by itself, especially in front of this fence – as cheery as white pickets are on their own, the milky edges of the foliage just amp it up one more notch.

When I designed this little spot in front of a client’s house, I started with their request for a couple of hydrangeas and a sasanqua camellia (outside the frame) as the anchors for the bed. When it came time to pick a few more plants to trim out the edge, the variegated Liriope seemed like just the right touch – the white striped amplified the hydrangea leaf, but the grass texture gave me the strong contrast I needed to change up the visual texture.

Silver Dragon Liriope creates a completely different effect with the gentle pink of these little roses. I’m always a sucker for pink and variegation, which further softens the tint of the flower.

Here’s another stand-alone – plain old Pelargonium, but with a sweet edge to pick things up.

Here’s a step toward the bizarre – Euphorbia ‘Helena’s Blush’ sports a yellowish-greenish pattern around the bracts of the flowers. Paired with Salvia x jamensis ‘Sierra de San Antonio’ the creamy combo is almost other-worldly.

And the long shot shows the entire composition, adding Ballota (Grecian Horehound) as the big contrast to finish it off.

So be the first on YOUR block to explore the wonderful world of variegation!


Rosemary said...

Love your pics in particular the horehound

ilex said...

That Silver Dragon Liriope combo has me gob-smacked. Damn fine work, man.

My writing workshop has been set up. If you're interested in playing, please send your e-mail address to yours truly:

and I'll add you to the contributor list. Would be mighty nice to have a sensei like yourself on board.

Anonymous said...

Your last picture shows a winning combination. Very pretty!

Weeping Sore said...

I particularly like that you cultivate shrubs for their color and contrasts. The effect is much more subtle, and at the same time, more dramatic than contrasts in flower colors.

Rock rose said...

I am fond of pink and variegated plants too. However, my variegated oregano which forms a beautiful mat has reverted for the most part. I have had that happen a few times with thymes. Your combinations are a winner but we can only dream of many of those plants in Austin.