Variegated Jacob's ladders have a chequered reputation among gardeners - but 'Kaleidoscope' - a form of the Japanese species Polemonium yezoense - looks to be a winner. This tricoloured variety, with foliage in purple-pink, green and cream – not to mention the towers of blue flowers – was discovered almost twenty years ago on a nursery in Scotland and is finally available to gardeners. It was also shortlisted for the 2018 RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year award.
Reaching about 70cm (28in) in height, in spring and in cooler conditions, the leaves feature colourful purple-pink edges, which fade to cream as temperatures rise, providing a completely different foliar look.
And, in summer, upright stems carry fragrant, slate blue flowers with a ring of purple around the throat.
'Kaleidoscope' was discovered on the Falkirk nursery Dunmore Perennials in 2000 by Graeme Bryson, he explained how it came about.
“The plant was discovered here at the nursery in 2000,” he said. “A seedling showing distinct variegation was identified growing in a tray of Polemonium ‘Purple Rain’ seedlings and I was drawn to how stable the seedling was and how it kept the strong pink colour all season. The plant was propagated in 2001 and advice sought from the Plant Heritage National Collection holders, The Polemonium Nursery, who confirmed its distinction from any similar variegated forms.”
Polemonium 'Kaleidoscope' is available in Squires garden centres and from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.
*Please note, the views expressed in this blog are those of its author, which are not necessarily those of the RHS