June 17, 2011

Pink Foliage

Pink is a delightful color in the spring garden.  For flowers, that is.  I love all that a pink or rosy bloom can offer.

But I am not sure we need pink foliage.

This lovely tree, spotted on our tour of Missouri Botanical Garden in mid May, is a Tricolor beech, Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-marginata'.  It looks for all the world like a pink flowering dogwood, but it is way bigger.  It's a lovely shape, it glows from afar and it really does look like an elegant flowering tree, although a huge one.
from afar, ethereal and serene

But it isn't flowering.  The entire pink effect is from the oddly unnatural mutated leaf color.  Up close this tree looks diseased to me, although I know many people find this unique foliage arresting.   I'm not convinced --- I think it's the breeders who should be arrested for crimes against photosynthesis.
up close, odd.  Weird.

I have a tidy little dwarf weigela in my garden that has pink variegated foliage. It is Weigela 'My Monet'.  Like the pink beech, it has a nice shape with strongly colored pink margins on its leaves.

Interesting and arresting --- or an odd mutation?

I thought I would like it better when I planted it, and I put it where I could see it close up, near the walk at the front of the border.  Seeing the injured looking leaves makes me cringe every time I pass it.  It looks like it might be bleeding.

And this poor weigela gave up on actual flowers.  They are deep pink when they show up, but as if embarrassed by how gaudy magenta flowers look with pink and green leaves, it only blooms sparsely and randomly.  Again, I thought I'd like it better, but I don't.

(I do have a variegated kiwi vine that will eventually develop pink tipped leaves, but those are minor and random accents, not full on pink leaves, and I like it.  Besides, what are gardeners if not inconsistent.)

I did stop in my tracks when I saw that Tricolor beech at MoBot, but I wish I had not gone up close to investigate.  I liked it so much better from afar.


  1. Laurrie, I have a My Monet in my garden too and must admit I am a bit disappointed in it also. I love the foliage and the way the pink shades always seem slightly different but I don't like the tight compact shape. I wish it was a bit more loose and wild like some of my other weigelas. Everytime I walk by it, I am glad I tried it in my own garden before I used in a clients.

  2. I have seen that very tree at MOBOT. I fell in love. We now have one smack dab in the middle of our garden and I am still in love with it. It brings color into this area that hasn't wilted or go away after a few weeks. Isn't it interesting how everyone sees plants differently? The next oddity I want for my garden is the coral bark maple. I am ever hopeful my birthday will produce this beauty for my garden.

  3. Hi Laurrie,
    I don't mind a bit of a pink blush on a leaf if it is subtle. Your tree example does seem a bit much.
    I think one of the prettiest weigela's is the old fashioned kind. I remember it from my childhood home as having the prettiest pink flowers. I am less fussy on the variegated kinds, because like you, I have found the flowers are less than spectacular.

  4. Laurrie, I tend to avoid overly variegated plants like your weigela and beech. On one hand I find them pretty but they also seem a bit contrived to me. I guess my tastes run to the more subtle.

  5. Wow, I had no idea there was a plant with pink leaf variegation that was so large. It is beautiful from afar. I'm one to avoid variegated folage except accents in shady places. I agree that gardeners are anything if inconsistent. lol

  6. Debbie, I'm the opposite... I like the tight shape, not the leaves!

    Lisa, it is funny how plants appeal to one set of gardeners and not others. I do think the beech is stunning from afar, and would love to see yours.

    Jennifer, the old fashioned weigelas are beautiful but too big for my space, so I thought the little dwarf one would be the answer.

    Marguerite, I agree. Variegated trees or shrubs can be subtle, if used tucked in with other plants, but I'm not a fan of them as specimens.

    Sweetbay, I had read about the variegated beech, and I had seen small container plants at the store, but had never seen one so large and mature and so pink.

  7. I think I would definitely like that tree better from afar. I looked at the My Monet at the nursery and found it just too busy close up. Like you, I felt sorry for it.
    I really think varigation is best in small doses. The only plant I seem to enjoy with it lately is the hosta, and even then, it's the more subtle striations that I like.

  8. Garden Ms. S, I keep trying to warm up to variegated plants, but I just don't like them so much. 'My Monet' really does have a busy, fussy look to it.

  9. I first saw a tricolor beech in Chicago a few years ago and have since seen one at a home in our area. I love these trees! I'm determined to find a place in my yard for one one of these days.

  10. Rose, I hope you find one... it really is a striking effect from a distance, and like most beeches it is beautifully shaped.


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