MORE SPOTS AND STRIPES
BY GLADYS JEURINK
ago I wrote about the variegated plants in my yard. There are quite a
few more as I keep looking. Out
on the parkway, in the blasting sun and dry soil is a SPURGE
(Euphorbia sp.). This is the
same genus to which the poinsettiaís belong but you canít tell by its rather
strange behavior. Instead of standing up, it prefers to lie down and
extend its blue green stems rather rapidly. The stem as in all Euphorbiaís
bleeds white sticky sap when cut. You look down on a stem with thick
leaves clustered around to make a circle 4 to 6 inches across.
When it blooms there is a white tip of small white and green
round flowers that look like they should be leaves.
It spreads somewhat fast but when it reaches the curb or the
sidewalk the ends snap off easily. This fall I removed about half the
stems to keep it under control. This
genus contains about 2000 members, all with the milky sap but very
different in many ways. The
of thorns (houseplant), the wood
spurges, cactus-like Ecanariensis
and the SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN
are all this genus. This particular Snow
is considered a weed by farmers but has beautiful green and white leaves
and is sold by seed companies.
Last summer I
was given several pepper plants with lavender and green leaves. When the
peppers matured they were a dark purple (Capsicum
annum). They grew about 18 inches high and as wide and are listed as
edible and hot!!! I donít eat hot peppers so I canít guarantee their
flavor or the hotness but they looked very good mixed in with the green
and white foliages. The peppers were short, fat, and tapered and held almost
above the leaves. They grew
in full sun and I generally wear gloves when handling as any juice from
a hot pepper plant can burn your eyes and blister your skin.
There is a
green and white striped IRIS (Iris pallida) whose
blooms are not especially impressive.
The plants donít start as fast or grow as big as most of the
iris but I do like that contrast among the other iris.
The flowers are pale blue; the roots are often ground into powder
to provide a base for some perfumes or as a fixative for potpourri. In
general IRIS roots are high
in calcium so a number of growers use gypsum mixed with fertilizer for
that reason. When buying IRIS one
needs to know what kind, as some like dry summers, other damp soil, and
some even like it in standing water.
PALLIDA likes a wet
spring and a fairly dry summer.
As I write this
the latter part of December the ornamental cabbages (Brassica
oleracea) are still keeping their color.
The heads are about 15 inches across with the oldest outside
leaves turning dull and some are dropping but those huge centers of
white, red, and purple, with green down in deep are still doing well.
They are in tall, large pots because in their younger days the
rabbits considered them personal property. I did start the seeds in pots
under lights. Some years I have lost them entirely. They need good
fertile potting soil with plenty of water since they are so huge.
The color develops in full sun after fall cooling begins at about
50 degree F. nights and increases as the temperature drops.
The cultivars have interesting names like CHERRY
SUNDAE, WHITE or RED
PEACOCK. They are biennials but I will probably pull them up after
Christmas as I like to move the soil before spring.
I have a spare non-breakable pot to put along side each one and
turn the soil upside down in it as I add about 1/3rd compost,
mixing as I go. This way it will have time to settle before next spring
and be ready to plant. The
first crop was ornamental millet which matured and I pulled it up in
late September and then put 4 or 5 cabbages in each 20 inch pot.
For a number of
years I have had several clumps of painted
nipponicum) growing under a big Linden
tree. I have noticed it
getting smaller and this spring it did not bother to come up.
On investigating, the Linden
roots had enlarged under the fern and it must have starved. The fern is
very pretty so I will try again but putting it further from the tree
trunk and the root flare. The
leaves were green and silver with a reddish central vein, needing damp,
humus soil. Leaves (fronds) are about 18 inches long and tend to be flat.
bells (Heuchera sp.) are usually listed as shade plants but I have several
very dark ones living in full sun, both of which are a very dark purple.
In the last few years many different ones have appeared, some of which
are variegated. They must
enjoy sharing pollen, so if you plant seed you may be surprised at what
comes up. There is a white
and green speckled one called Snowstorm,
a cinnabar silver, a red leafed one that changes color in the fall, and
a yellow leafed one. None of them get very tall so do well edging a
path. The blooms are dainty bells well above the plant so I generally
cut them off as the leaves are the real show!
If you want
something tall for your variegated selection, try Arundo
donax which is a grass looking plant like a bamboo. Flat leaves that have white edges on each side may
grow up to 15 feet in long season area.
Sometimes called the GIANT
REED, it loves wet areas and the mature leaves have a sharp, cutting
edge. Now labeled as a weed
in some states it was originally brought here from Spain and the
pioneers used it in all kinds of construction. The clumps will spread in
Nebraska but very slowly so it can be kept under control.
Since the root runners send up new stalks close together it can
be used as a windbreak. My
clump is still very small. The
first spring it came up the rabbits ate it to the ground level, so I
protected it this year until it developed those cutting edges.
Books list it as hardy in zones 6 to 10 so a layer of mulch after
the ground freezes might be a good idea.