Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shade plantings with Tom Spencer

Tom Spencer talked to a crowded room. The garden guild monthly meeting brought in over 60 people interested in learning about growing plants in the shade that we all seem to share here in the neighborhood.

He made a point of how established neighborhoods have to grapple with this issue.  I want to recap some of his points and suggested plants here for those who did not make the meeting. For more examples of shade gardens click on link:  bhg.com/

  • ·       Use foliage to create interest. Use different sizes, shapes, textures, colored and variegated varieties, different leaf shapes—fine, fat, long, use mosses, grasses fern.
  • ·       Include shade plants that bloom like turks cap,
  • ·       Include statuary, pots in colors and shapes
  • ·       Encourage growth that displays seasonal change like holly fern
  • ·       Find things you love and use lots of them in groupings. Repeat shapes and forms in groupings.
  • ·       Decide what kind of space and shape YOU like and use that. If you like flowing areas or regimented straight lines, your garden should include the shapes you enjoy.
  • ·       Make spaces utilitarian spaces that draw YOU into them—that you want to spend time in.
  • ·       Be practical about what you can maintain.
  • ·       Establish water and heat zones for the plantings.
Shade grasses that do well:  inland sea oats (big area), Aztec Grass-Liriope muscari, for ½ shade: Gulf muhly—2 ½’ tall, miscanthus giagantus-gets tall,

Shade groundcovers: straggler daisy—horse herb—4-6” tall, gingers—variegated to 3-3 ½’ tall, hidden ginger- curcuma, scilla peruviana—dormant in heat but comes out in purple flowers in spring
Perenials:  columbines grow in high shade or partial shade, salvias—broad leaf tolerates more shade, tropical sage—white, red, peach, Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' is unique. 

Shrubs- natives are found along the shade line or under the trees. Recommended Mexican Buckeye and red bud, Mountain Laurel; woody plants: flowering quince and jasmine.Oxalis sorrel grows in deep shade as does Asiatic jasmine. For shade vines: star jasmine, cross vine.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring gardening in the perennial beds

This has been a really interesting experiment combining the flower and vegetable beds but I am sold on it! Not only is it a better use of the space but it has all the walkers that come down my street keeping tabs on the progress. Although I do intensive planting in the back yard, in the front I am allowing more space as I am trying to establish perennials. I am also trying not to purchase too many plants but grow them from seed or cuttings and so far, so good on most things. The cabbage is way too close as the plants got much bigger than I expected-1 ft spacing with plants around them is WAY too close but they are self mulching this way and will soon be harvested. The variegated chard is a color punch next to the greens in the beds. The calediums and coleus are both giving nice color to the shady areas and are good next to the hostas.  Some of the begonias have red leaves too which is a pretty punch of color in the shade. I added the red leafed lettuce there too for show and for our table.

We planted some of the wildflowers in the bed under the tree but they get a bit too much shade so when they are done blooming they are moving to the sunny bed. I already moved a plumbago clumping to the sunny bed and added a few marigolds that self-seeded alternating with parsley along the border.  The geraniums wintered pretty well and are showing off nicely in the middle of the sunny bed. George is able to see the zinnias and sunflowers from his office window now that they are tall enough. The blue salvia is doing so much better than the white one that we are a little over on the blue plants. 

We are using natural colored mulch and have put in 20 bags so far. I think 5 or 6 more bags will do the trick. I am sure the garden guys at the big box just smile each time I leave with another 6 bags of the stuff. The mulch we used before was soil colored and too hard to identify when I needed to cultivate. We did add massive amounts of compost and organic garden soil to the beds this year and I am delighted we did that. Plants really are growing well in the mix. The organic soil is reputed to have too much nitrogen and the compost too little so the mix must be just right.