Variegation is the spice of gardening

Interspersing shrubs with variegated foliage among the green ones in your garden will help to give you colour all the year round.

Beautiful variegated hostas love shade and give a wonderful depth to foliage.

Beautiful variegated hostas love shade and give a wonderful depth to foliage.

The gold dust tree, or Japanese laurel, is an outstanding example.

It has beautiful green and gold leaves all the year and likes a shady spot.

Most variegated shrubs, however, do better in sun and this is especially true of the golden colours.

The variegated weigela, weigela florida variegata, needs a lot of light to give of its best.

It is a delight well into autumn and, in addition, has soft pink flowers in early summer.

The foliage lasts well in water and is very useful in flower arranging.

The buddleia, or butterfly bush, is a fast grower. It will grow to a good size in a few years.

It has long clusters of flowers, generally in mauves, purples or white, in late summer and butterflies love them.

Give it plenty of room or you will have to prune it hard in late winter.

There are several variegated forms of hebe. A problem is that frost can kill these.

Hostas, or plantain lilies, like the shade. They have a beautiful range of colours in their foliage, and lily-like flowers in summer.

Cotoneaster horizontalis has a variegated form with white flowers and berries, and white-edged leaves which turn a soft reddish colour in autumn.

The variegated forms of hollies and ivies also don’t mind a fairly shady spot.

Variegated pittosporums have a rippling edge to their oval leaves.

ALL AFLUTTER: The stunning buddleia, or butterfly bush, grows quickly and needs room. Its flowers in mauves, purples or white, are popular with butterflies.

ALL AFLUTTER: The stunning buddleia, or butterfly bush, grows quickly and needs room. Its flowers in mauves, purples or white, are popular with butterflies.

They come in soft green and copper colours with many kinds of variegation from grey-green with cream or white or yellow margins.

Cornus alba is deciduous, but in winter its red bark is very attractive.

Of course, you don’t want to give the whole of your garden over to plants with striped leaves, but a few, here and there, will really cheer it up.

And don’t forget the year-round colour that is provided by conifers, of all shapes, sizes and colours.

Sow good

Although it might seem early, seeds of broad beans can be sown now.

Dig in some dolomite first.

The bean plants will mark time through the depth of winter, and might even be knocked down by frost. 

If they are, they will stand up again and be all the stronger for it.

In the spring they will forge ahead. Don’t worry if the flowers don’t set beans. Later ones will.

Trim back geraniums and pelargoniums. You can strike cuttings from the prunings and so multiply your plants.

The seedlings of Iceland poppies along with lupins and violas can be planted now.

The seedlings of Iceland poppies along with lupins and violas can be planted now.

Spring bulbs can be planted, so can seeds of sweet pea and seedlings of many flowers.

Consider beauties like Iceland poppies, pansies, carnations, sweet william, cinerarias, lupins and violas.

Friend or foe?

Strange but true: Companion planting is never better illustrated than when strawberries are planted close to cabbages or their close relatives, broccoli and cauliflowers, which all sulk miserably.

Beans are inhibited by onions and garlic, but get along famously with celery, beetroot, cucumbers and carrots.

A few plants of basil planted among tomatoes will repel whitefly.

Basil seems to help the growth of tomatoes, and gives a pleasant flavour when it is added to them in cooking or salads.

Did you know that tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries should not be grown near stone fruit? 

Or that stone fruit trees should not be planted in soil that has previously grown these plants?

This is because a bacterial disease called black heart is caused by the same fungus as verticilium wilt.

Apricots and almonds are the most commonly affected, but plums and peaches can also suffer from it.

There is no cure for the disease.

Strawberries may be delicious but they can have a negative affect on cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers.

Strawberries may be delicious but they can have a negative affect on cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers.