The allure of variegated foliage

Beckie Fox

rex begonia

I’m a sucker for variegated foliage, so much so that I need to stop myself from adding more fancy patterned leaves to the garden to avoid creating a muddled mess. As a result, many of my houseplants are striped, spotted or variegated.

My three-year-old rex begonia soaks up the sun in the winter.

One of my current favourites is a rex begonia (Begonia rex) that spends summers on the screened porch and winters in the sunniest window I have. It’s at least three years old and nearly three feet (90 cm) wide. Rex begonias come in all sorts of whirly patterns and shapes, and I would have many more if there were room for them.

Rex begonias, as well as cannas and coleus, were especially popular during Victorian times, but eventually fell out of favour. As is the case with most trends and fashions, what’s in favour and what’s not is often cyclical, and these rhizomatous plants are getting more attention these days (as are coleus and cannas for that matter).

Also called fancy-leaf begonias, they send out the occasional small pink flower, unlike their more floriferous cousins, the tuberous and wax begonias. These are grown for their swirly, curvy, spotted or textured leaves that may be silver, burgundy, pink, green or everything in between. I’ve never divided my plant, but given its lusty growth, it may be time.

For a more detailed look at various kinds of rex begonias and how to care for them, check out this article from Issue 16 of Garden Making magazine.

Growing food in the front yard

Interest in growing food continues to…um…grow. If you’re held back in your food-growing goals because of a shady backyard, what about the gardening space in the front of your house? Integrating a few food plants into your sunny perennial border or turning over a section of your lawn to raised beds of vegetables can be productive as well as pretty. Tara Nolan, author of Gardening Your Front Yard, has several ideas for front yard vegetable gardens, including how to give them curb appeal, on Savvy Gardening.

Hankering to grow huge vegetables?

Last week’s newsletter included an item about a record-breaking turnip grown by a gardener in Quebec. If growing large vegetables piques your interest, here’s an overview of the centre of giant vegetable growing, Great Britain, where it’s a popular, gently competitive, sport. Interestingly, these humungous beets, tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t necessarily inedible. Some have been turned into thousands of jars of chutney or sauce by the gardeners who grew them and then distributed to the community. 

Caring for bird feeders

Our birdfeeder, which is stocked with black oil sunflower seed, has been a busy place this winter. Birds Canada suggests how to keep your bird feeder clean and safe, so your local avian population remains healthy.

Yellow is the colour of hope

“Hope Is Growing” is the theme for this year’s Communities in Bloom (CIB) campaign. The organization is encouraging home gardeners, schools, municipalities and other community groups to plant Hope Gardens filled with yellow flowers, foliage and vegetables.

Started in 1995, CIB aims to “enhance the qualify of life and the environment through people and plants in order to create community pride.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment