In The Garden Now…..”Variety’s the spice of life…..”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Vinca minor ‘Illumination’

Variegated Plants in the Winter Garden

“Variety’s the spice of life,

That gives it all its flavor.”

From ‘The Task
A poem by 
William Cowpers, 1785

Text and photos by Victoria Gilleland

Aralia japonica ‘Camouflage
And so it is in the garden. We gardeners strive to have variety in our gardens and to make them interesting and inviting year round.

The addition of ‘ever colorful’ variegated plants is a sure fire way to spice up the interest level throughout the gardening year but especially in the winter months when ‘50 Shades of Grey’ pretty much describes our weather.

Variegated plants display color in veining, splashes, marbling and mottling.

Foliage may be combined shades of green, yellow, white or red and be subtle or bright.

Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’
Variegated plants can brighten dark corners, echo and pull together the colors of adjoining plants and provide light and texture where otherwise there would have been a mass of dull green.

Some of my favorite variegated plants currently growing in the garden are pictured and described here.

All could be grown in containers when young and in garden beds later. These plants are reliably evergreen through typical northwest winters.

Chamaecyparis obtusa
Aralia japonica ‘Camouflage: Variegated Japanese Aralia has stunning foliage with overlapping colors of yellow, lime and green and may reach 5’ to 8’. White blossoms appear in fall and often persist into winter.

Carex morrowii ‘Variegata’: Variegated Japanese Sedge. Adds movement and linear texture to the container.

Daphne odora ‘Maejima’: ‘Maejima’ Variegated Daphne. Fragrant white flowers adorn the plant in later winter to early spring. 

Plant it and leave it in place. Daphne often die when transplanted.

Many Daphne that I have moved to new locations in my garden have made an early exit to the compost bin.

Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Saffron Spray’: This dwarf Hinoki Cypress sports Green foliage splashed with yellow. Mine has grown very slowly in a pot for the last four years and is currently about 2 ‘tall and wide.

Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’: ‘Rainbow’ Leucothoe or Fetterbush provides colorful marbled foliage year round and drooping clusters of white flowers in spring. Plants may reach 5’ tall and wide over time.

Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’: ‘Little Heath’ is a Dwarf Variegated Lily of the Valley shrub. Pink buds open to fragrant white flowers in late winter or early spring.

Daphne odora ‘Maejima’
Vinca minor ‘Illumination’: This variegated green and gold spiller cascades over the edge of pots or may be used as a ground cover in shade to part shade gardens. Blue flowers provide stunning contrast to the foliage in spring.

Brighten the gloomiest of winter days with the simple addition of a few colorful evergreen variegated plants.

Victoria Gilleland is the owner of Cottage Garden Designs, a Garden Design company specializing in Redesign of Residential Gardens, Garden Consultation and Coaching. 

She has been designing gardens in the northwest for over 20 years.

She can be reached at


Anonymous,  January 15, 2019 at 5:41 PM  

Ahh Daphne - mine wasn't moved but was stepped on, branches broken, abused but still if flowered on - until lastsummer when it didn't get enough (any!) water. But I had it for years and the little blooms smelled wonderful.

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