When we lived in California, friends gave us an opulent orchid plant from a specialty nursery. It arrived with registration papers evidencing a royal pedigree as long as your arm. In short order Her Orchidness checked us out, concluded rightly that she was adopted by peasants, and promptly committed suicide. We were devastated.
From that time, with few exceptions, we have tried to avoid iffy plants that require a lot of pampering. Don’t like it when they die. And careful selection is even more important now that Mother Nature has turned into a Loony Bird.
I’m nuts about variegated-foliage plants but they are particularly problematic; too often, while the standard form may be hardy and vigorous, its variegated version is not.
Therefore, it is entirely appropriate on Labor Day to celebrate three wonderful variegated plants that will work for you, not the other way around. All have survived and thrived in my garden despite Mother Nature at her most demented:
Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’
Wow. A hardy, variegated Japanese Maple. For me, it doesn’t get better than that. And Japanese Maple guru J.D. Vertrees has deemed Ukigumo one of the “most outstanding” variegated cultivars.
Ukigumo means “floating clouds”, an apt description. The photos above chart its lovely, blended, green-white-pink coloration changes through the seasons. For optimum performance, this stunning shrub requires shade.
A slow grower, after many years Ukigumo may reach ten feet.
Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’
With its dramatic green and white foliage, unique horizontal branching and vigorous growth, this is truly a beautiful, awe-inspiring Dogwood.
In my garden, it has been moved twice — once when it was molested by deer and again when it outgrew its space — without trauma or setback. And it has come through horrific winters unscathed. One tough cookie!
Grown in shade, after about twenty years the tree is approximately 18 feet tall and nine feet wide and, apart from the deer, has been problem free.
Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’
I was never a fan of Boxwood and came into possession of this plant quite by chance. (See December 2011 Post: “Pest Alert: Box Tree Caterpillar.”)
As you can see from the photos, it’s become quite a handsome plant. And, to my surprise, it hasn’t been beset by pest or disease. And, to my further surprise, I rather like it.
UPDATE 2015: Box died from disease. I don’t recommend it.