The lovely perennial Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) has been named the 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.Years ago, I remember coveting this graceful shade-lover with its handsome variegated foliage. It wasn’t as readily available as it is now and for some reason the plants I ordered by mail didn’t survive in my garden. I think I killed it three times – maybe it was the dry shade under a front-yard Norway maple; maybe I got bad plants; maybe I didn’t water enough to get the plants to establish properly.
Sometime later I was interviewing a gardener for a magazine article and she had a lovely patch of variegated Solomon’s seal. When I told her my sob story about the plant’s refusal to thrive for me, she gave me some vigorous divisions from her garden. I planted them on a slope underneath the walnut tree at our country garden, where the plants finally prospered as advertised.
Like its plain green cousin, variegated Solomon’s Seal spreads by rhizomes to form colonies which make an effective ground-cover. The clumps grow 18 to 24 inches tall in an attractive, upright arching form. The small, fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers appear in late spring and dangle sweetly from arching stems. The leaves turn a warm yellow in the fall.
Variegated Solomon’s Seal will do well in a flower border in full or part-shade, or in a woodland garden. While it thrives in moist well-drained soil, it tolerates dry shade — just be sure to water it regularly to help it along, as it can be slow to establish. A low maintenance plant, it doesn’t need deadheading and is rarely bothered by insects or disease. It’s usually considered to be deer-resistant.
An excellent companion for other shade-lovers, variegated Solomon’s seal looks at home with companions such as ferns, tiarella, astilbe, hosta, epimedium, pulmonaria or wild ginger. It rarely needs to be divided but if you want more plants, established clumps may dug up and divided in early spring or early autumn.
I’m looking forward to adding this graceful shade lover to the beds under the oak trees at my current garden this spring. More about our backyard makeover soon.