Every morning while waiting for my coffee to brew, I spend a few minutes looking out a kitchen window.
No matter what the weather, my eye wanders across the garden and never fails to rest on the pale outlines of one or another variegated plant.
In any season, white, cream, and yellow highlights on trees, shrubs, or perennials create an impressive contrast against deep greens, burgundy, or bluish tones.
This interplay of hues stands out strongest on the north side of buildings, under broad tree canopies, or wherever shaded spots call for a brighter touch.
But in winter's low light, the contrast becomes one of any garden's best assets.
Inevitably, I wonder why there isn't more variegated foliage in my garden to contrast with the preponderance of green. It's a gardener's conundrum.
Most of us purchase plants in fair weather, adding what seems a good idea at the time, forgetting about bleak, long-past winter scenes and what could enhance them months in the future.
We could fix that now, with spring just around the corner. It will take determination — or at least notes in a garden journal — to remind us about near empty gardens November throughFebruary. It will take resolve not to let a spurt of warm sunny weather and a riot of blooms in the neighborhood nursery deter us from a memory of dimmer days.
There are still several weeks in front of us before our last-frost date in April, time to survey barren gardens and jot down where a variegated plant could light up a winter scene.
When plant shopping, go armed with a list and ask for a special order if you can't find what you want. It's crucial to check labels when purchasing accent plants during the warm season so that you take home an evergreen species.
For example, a wonderful variegated grass small enough for most gardens, Miscanthus sinensis Morning Light, shows its white margins only during the warm season, then turns tan and goes dormant during winter.