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Variegated Trees and Shrubs: The Illustrated Encyclopediaby Ronald Houtman
When designing a garden the first question should be, "What do we expect from our garden?" After drawing the plan and laying the hardscaping, the following stage is the planting of trees, shrubs, and perennials.
Too often the use of variegated plants is overlooked. As a devotee and collector of variegated plants, I think this is a pity. Golden and silver variegated plants offer so much to enjoy, for the devoted amateur in particular. There are many beautiful variegated trees, some not too vigorous in growth. Many colorful shrubs, conifers, and dwarf subjects give a wealth of color, which can cheer up a garden when added to the various green tints.
Until now the use of variegated plants in private and public gardens has often been restricted to Aucuba, Elaeagnus, and Cornus. This book illustrates the vast possibilities of diversifying a garden design by using variegated plants. They can be used easily to create distinct color schemes in shrub borders or flower beds. The bright leaves of variegated plants contrast well with darker green foliage and deeper colored flowers.
In the moderate regions of the Northern Hemisphere there is a rather long season when gardens have few or no flowers, roughly from October until May. People long for something cheerful and colorful in their garden during that period. For example, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Aureovariegata' and 'Variegata', golden and silver variegated Nootka cypress, are both very winter hardy. Numerous shrubs also retain their color well in winter; Elaeagnus pungens 'Goldrim' is a personal favorite. However, another member of this genus, Elaeagnus × ebbingei 'Gilt Edge', only shows its radiant colors from summer until late autumn.
Variegated plants are often chimeras, that is, they contain genetically different cell layers. Therefore, the plants are somewhat weaker than green plants of the same genera. In particular, in severe winters chimeras can suffer more than their green counterparts. Moreover, there are also variegated plants that will barely survive in the Northern Hemisphere due to harsh climatic conditions. It is often sufficient to give these a protective layer of straw or reed, although sometimes it is advisable to place these tender plants indoors. In many cases it is useful to propagate some of the weaker plants well before winter sets in, so that they will be available as young plants the following spring after having overwintered under protection in frames or greenhouses.
Certain variegated plants may scorch when exposed to direct sunlight and these should be planted in a semi-shaded location. This can be done by planting them partly underneath evergreen shrubs or giving temporary shading by means of lattices or rush-mats. Such a method can be useful in climates in which hot sunny days occur only now and then.
Long lists of variegated plants that are suitable for private gardens, public parks, and urban green areas can be made easily, but there is always a danger that such lists become compulsory. It is better to be attracted by the beauty of a plant noticed in a garden here or there, which will prompt you to start further investigations into the origin, name, and source of supply of that particular plant. Enquiries made with plant centers or specialist retail nurseries may result in a gem for your garden that will be admired by friends and neighbors.
I wish the readers of this comprehensive work much pleasure, and I hope and expect that they will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed collecting and working with variegated plants for the past forty years.
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