Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Variegated Mexican Bamboo


For gardeners whose taste is as intrepid as their confidence, variegated knotweed—I mean Mexican bamboo—shows the world that they're fearless. Infamous for its persistence and lust for real estate, the all-green species of Polygonum cuspidatum (also known as Fallopia japonica) is a curse. This variegated form may be, also, but at least it's a curse with style.






Most of the foliage is variegated with this anything-goes stippling. To my eye, it conjures patterns of Fiftiess linoleum. Happily, two other patterns have emerged in my colony. Both have stunning visuals, and one might make this tirelessly-expansive perennial worth the effort at control in a garden setting.



This variegation is caused by lack of chlorophyll not, as with plants whose foliage is burgundy, by additional pigments that hide the green. Leaves that lack chlorophyll entirely, such as the one below, are solid creamy white. They've become completely variegated—or, rather, they're no longer variegated at all.






Lacking any chlorophyll, these leaves are justly termed "albino." Because they can't photosynthesize, and depend on energy from the rest of the plant, they could be fairly described as parasitic. My colony has produced stems with nothing but albino foliage, making the entire stem a parasite on the remaining leaves of the colony that do have chlorophyll. Although a pure albino colony would be a stunning oddity, there is no way to establish it: Without the chlorophyllic portions of the colony to mooch off of, it would soon die.



Some stems have foliage whose pattern of variegation is quite different. As in the picture below, the leaves have well-defined central segments with distinct amounts of chlorophyll. There's often an occasional perimeter segment that is chlorophylled, too.






What a contrast with the randomness of the stippled variegation. This pattern has a complex but clean "cartographic" integrity, as if the segments of various shades of green were different elevations of land emerging from a creamy sea. Nearly all the stems in my colony have foliage whose variegation is strictly cartographic.



This Fall, I'll dig out a division of this colony of Polygonum cuspidatum 'Variegata' that contains just these cartographically foliaged stems. I'll plant it where its spread can be controlled. Any stem whose leaves are variegated with the stippled "linoleum" pattern (or are all green) can be easily removed, and the plant's display can be kept effective. A partly-shaded location is probably best: The straight species of Polygonum cuspidatum may be a terror, but this variegated form needs some shelter from strong sun to keep its leaves from scorching.



Here's how to grow the other variegated knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum 'Freckles'. It is less than half the size of 'Variegata', and is much less aggressive. That said, it is not a clumper, despite being marketed as such. Its needs are the same as for 'Variegata', although its white variegated foliage and raspberry stems call for pink-friendly neighbors.


Here's how to grow the one form of Polyonum cuspidatum that truly is clumping. Despite its name, 'Crimson Beauty' bears flowers that are deep raspberry.

FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!


Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:


* indicates required