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Variegated Plants Brighten Up the Landscape

Too often, too much focus is placed on flowers when it comes to choosing plants for a landscape design. But what happens once the bulk of plants are no longer in bloom? You’re left with foliage as the foundation of the garden. If not enough thought has gone into choosing the right foliage and offering up contrast, the landscape can end up bland or barren certain parts of the year. Adding plants with variegated foliage is a great way to brighten things up and add contrast. Variegated plants can act as focal points in the landscape as well. Paired with dark-foliaged plants they can help to create some serious drama.

So, what exactly is variegation? The white, cream or other colors in a leaf signal the absence or lace of chlorophyll in those parts of the leaf. Variegation can happen because of genetic mutations and sometimes variegated plants will revert to putting out fully green leaves. Because chlorophyll is required for photosynthesis, variegated leaves produce less energy that green leaves. They can sometimes be a bit less cold hardy as well. However, despite these challenges variegated plants, when planted in the right place, perform very well.

One of our favorite variegated plants is variegated society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Silver Lace’. Unlike its green-foliaged cousin, this variegated society garlic sports striped creamy-white from top to bottom. The variegation gives the foliage a silver tone, providing nice foliage contrast in the landscape. When crushed, leaves have a strong garlic fragrance. Plants have a long blooming period, with flowers emerging continuously from spring through fall. This is an easy to grow perennial that works as part of a mixed border, mass planting or even as a container specimen.

Mix ‘Silver Lace’ with other heat loving perennials and annuals, such as verbena, salvia and zinna to break up foliage color.