From the Sperry Garden – August, 2009

We don’t have much sun in our landscape. Massive pecan trees shroud most of it, to the point that flowering plants present some pretty serious challenges in our beds.

Many years ago I decided that I’d concentrate, instead, on textures and foliar color instead, and I’ve made some really good plant friends in the process.

‘Domino’ peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is brightly variegated with white and green leaves. I have several of them, and I bring them into my greenhouse over the winters. They’re also well-adapted to brighter spots indoors as well. And, the neat thing about all peace lilies is that they produce their showy, white jack-in-the-pulpit flowers in late spring and early summer each year. This particular plant has been in this same spot along our driveway for six or eight summers.

These three variegated plants have been sitting together in this bark-covered shrub bed since springtime.

In the background, a plant of variegated Jerusalem cherry. This one’s a real enigma, because two years ago, when I was putting plants back into my greenhouse before winter, I observed mealy bugs on it. I left it outdoors to freeze rather than trying to control them. To my surprise, the plant survived the winter, but the insects did not. I’ve had it ever since.

In the lower left of the photo is ‘Silver Dragon’ liriope, one of the showiest of the variegated groundcover and edging plants for shade. However, I have it simply as a container plant.

In the lower right is one of my all-time go-to variegated tropicals, variegated peperomia. I have several different strains of this that I propagate myself, and I use them in little nooks and crannies all over our landscape. It’s a succulent, so it handles abuse very well. I’m a peperomia fanatic.

Crotons get the call in sun and part sun. Even though I could easily grow flowering plants in this bed, I’ve had these same three crotons here for probably 10 summers. They’re getting some size to them now, so I won’t be able to use them too many more years, but they’re handsome right now, as the pampasgrass plumes rise behind them. These are along our driveway, so they welcome us home every evening.

You have to use variegated plants with great care. Woody shrubs with bright variegation can look anemic and iron-deficient. But, these variegated annuals and tropicals really step up and perform.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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