Vareigated Leaves, Flowers, and Fruits

variegated anemone

Like gardeners everywhere, I recognized the potential of foliage as an element of garden design with my first glimpse of a plant with variegated leaves. Initially, I thought I was looking at a plant that was sick with a disease that distorted its foliar color.  Weren’t leaves supposed to be green?

What causes variegation in plants?
In the botanical world, variegation refers to the presence of two or more colors in the pigmentation of leaf, flower, fruit, or bark. If the variegation is the result of a genetic mutation, it will be passed on through propagation, both through vegetative cloning by stem or leaf cuttings and by seed.  If the variegation is a chimera, which means it is caused by a the presence of cells with different genetic makeups growing side by side, then it will be possible to replicate the variegation through cloning but not from seeds.  Then there is pathological variegation, such as that observed on certain flowering maple cultivars,  that is caused by a virus and may also passed on through clonal propagation, but not by seed.
Examples of Leaf Variegation
In leaves, variegation is typically expressed as green and white or green and gold, although you may also see overtones of pink as well.  Variegated leaves are seen in too many genera to mention all of them here, but notable examples include species of Euonymous, privet (Ligustrum), juniper, Hebe, hibiscus, Chinese lantern (Abutilon), snow bush (Breynia), sky flower (Duranta), California lilac (Ceanothus), mirror plant (Coprosma), gold dust plant (Aucuba), and a legion of indoor plants and succulent species.
Variegated Flowers and Fruits
In flowers, splashes of red or pink and white may be seen jostling for position on certain varieties of ornamental peach, anemone, rose, dahlia and camellia.  There are three gold and green fruits that come to mind — variegated kumquat, variegated lemon, and ‘Panache’ fig.  And when it comes to bark, you really haven’t lived until encountering a Mindanao gum (Eucalyptus deglupta), where an exfoliating riot of pink, green, violet, and orange greets the eye.  The most famous local Mindanao gum is to be found on the western edge of the Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA.  It is best viewed by entering the campus from Le Conte Avenue.  Walk or drive up the entrance road until you see its massive trunk to your right.
Please advise on ways to capture rain water so that it can be used for watering the garden.  
–Rose Haig, Altadena
The best way to capture rain water is with a rain barrrel and, at present, you can receive a rebate of up to $100 for each 50 gallon barrel, with a limit of 4 barrels per household. Since rain barrels are generally less than $100, you are acquiring them, in truth, for free.  In order to collect the rain, you position your rain barrel next to your rain gutter and refashion the down spout so that the rain is directed into the barrel.  To apply for your rain barrel rebate, visit  When you get there, click on “Residential Rebates” and then scroll down until you see a picture of a barrel.  Click on the barrel and follow instructions.  For a step by step guide to barrel installation, go to  When you get there, click the magnifying glass in the top right hand corner, and type in “rain barrel” in the search box.  Not only will you learn how to install your barrel(s), but you will also find a schedule of barrel distribution events, which are taking place weekly until the end of April.. By pre-ordering your barrels, you can pick them up at one of the distribution points and participate in a rain barrel workshop at the same time. Although we are nearly at the end of the rainy season, rain can come to Los Angeles as late as May so you may still manage to catch some rain this year and, if not, you will at least have your barrels in place by the time next winter’s rain (hopefully!) arrives. For more ambitious water-saving souls,  install a cistern — see above websites — and enjoy a $300 rebate for your efforts..

dry creek bed of Allan and Gail Frank

A while back, you wrote about dry creeks. This last spring, summer and fall, we put in our dry creek with help from funding from the DWP’s rebate program and re-landscaped our front yard. Right now is a very pretty time because we planted 250 daffodil bulbs(my favorite flower) in the front along with irises, paperwhites (Narcissus) and other California friendly plants.

Allan and Gail Frank, Valley Village
The Franks’ selection of spring flowering bulbs is testimony to the fact that color in the garden is not dependent on supplemental irrigation.  You can select bulbs which, by definition, are storage organs designed to survive a drought, and which put forth flowers, from one species or another, and in every conceivable color, just about all year around. There are bulbs for every season.  Those native to the Mediterranean and southwest Asia — such as daffodil, paperwhite, and iris — are blooming now, while South African bulbs will be coming along as weather warms, all the way into fall.
Tip of the Week:  For brilliant color in spring and beyond, consider planting Lampranthus. This word means shining (lampr-) flower (-anthus) in Latin and is an apt descrpition of the most brilliant of all the flowers that bloom in the spring, if not throughout the year.  Bill Wilber, who gardens in Granada Hills, sent photos of Lampranthus ‘Sierra Sunrise,’ named for the fact that the mother plant of this cultivar was traced to Sierra Madre, where it blooms in response to the rising sun.  Lampranthus, in the manner of other South African ground covers, from iceplants to gazanias, only open their flowers when the sun shines but remain closed on overcast days.

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