Shady Oasis

    • Pepper plants should be fertilized when the first blossoms open.
    • Shear hedges now to promote lush, dense growth.
    • Feed camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with an acid plant food now. Remove dead flowers and mulch to keep the soil cool.
    • Plant fresh herbs from young plants. Basil, rosemary, thymes, mints and sages are just a few ideas.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately with Neem oil to prevent defoliation.

Create a Shady Oasis

There are many beautiful shrubs, perennials and ferns which you can use to create a shady oasis.

First it’s important to determine how much sun or shade you have. Areas that receive three or four hours of morning sun in the summer and shade the rest of the day will be able to support more flowering plants than fully shaded areas.

Areas that receive morning sun are perfect for rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. They will thrive there and put on a beautiful display of flowers each spring. Japanese maples will also do well and they will add some height and grace to the landscape.

There are many perennials which will bloom beautifully here and come back year after year. Columbines, with their delicate and graceful flowers, are familiar harbingers of spring. Astilbes are truly splendid shade plants with showy, graceful flower plumes and fern-like foliage. Foxgloves are tall, colorful plants for the semi-shady garden.

For deep shade we turn to leaves for most of the color. The Gold-dust plant, Aucuba, is a fine shrub for full shade areas. It fills out to be a round, 5-foot tall shrub and its yellow-spotted leaves will lighten up a dark corner.

The beautiful leaves of hostas, which come in silvery-blue, yellow-green, and all manner of variegation, are treasures of the shade garden. Their colorful leaves are attractive all summer and later in the season they send up spikes of lily-like flowers in white or lavender, which can be quite showy. Some are even fragrant. In general, the blue-leafed hostas require full shade, while the gold, yellow, and white-leafed hostas like morning sun.

Bleeding hearts have a charming beauty with their arching stems of delicate, heart-shaped flowers in spring. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Fringed Bleeding Heart, Dicentra eximia, has deeply cut, grey green, fern-like foliage and dainty, light pink, heart-shaped flowers. Its foliage stays green through the summer and the flowers bloom over a long season. A third variety, Western Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa, is native to the redwood region. It is very similar to Dicentra eximia, and is surprisingly drought tolerant during the summer months. Use it in woodland gardens.

The large, Jacob’s ladder is an attractive upright plant with small, nodding lavender-blue flowers atop tall stems. A variegated variety, ‘Touch of Class,’ has bright green leaves that are richly edged with cream. It bears lavender-blue blossoms in spring, and grows 18 inches tall.

Pulmonaria, or Lungwort, is a low-growing perennial with attractive spotted leaves and bell-shaped flowers that turn from pink to blue. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Ferns are the mainstays of the total shade garden. There are many hardy ferns which are long-lived in our area. Their leaves add texture and variety to the area. Look for sword ferns, giant chain ferns, five-finger ferns, Autumn ferns and Japanese painted ferns.

Look upon a shade area as a chance to create a lush, restful oasis where life can slow down a little while you escape from the heat.

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