When Leaves Come First

There are few pleasures that gardeners look forward to more than the first flowers of spring. After the bloom fades, all that's left is the foliage. However, the foliage can come in an endless array of colors.

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Breeders do their best to make sure new cultivars will perform well for gardeners. They also look for ways to improve existing varieties. In the mid 1990s, variegated Jacob's ladder (Polemonium caeruleum 'Brise D' Anjou') was introduced with great fanfare. The lacy creme-and-green striped foliage topped with pale blue flowers was an instant hit. However, 'Brise D' Anjou' didn't do as well in regions with hot, humid summers. Variegated Jacob's ladder (Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven') is more vigorous and heat-tolerant.