Gardening in the Shade

Friday, July 24th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Marigolds are prolific bloomers that will add bright orange, yellow, mahogony and crimson to your sunny flower beds.
    • Prune rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas to shape them now. If you wait much longer, you will be cutting off next year’s flowers.
    • Remove suckers on rose bushes. These vigorous canes emerge from below the bud union and should be cut off as far down as possible.
    • Feed annual blooming plants and hanging baskets every two weeks for prolific bloom. Keep dead flowers pinched off.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool-season crops now. Transplant them to the garden next month and they will be producing for you this fall.

Gardening in the Shade

When the weather is too hot for working in the sun, gardening in the shade is much more pleasant. While some plants do not grow well in low light, many others thrive in these conditions. Just as moisture, temperature, and soil conditions may limit plant growth, the amount of shade present may determine which plants will grow successfully. The key is to discover which ones are adapted to the conditions in your yard or garden.

Landscapes change their degree of shade over time. As trees and shrubs mature, the landscape receives greater shade. What was once a sunny garden may evolve into a shady one.

Keep in mind that light patterns also change with the seasons. An area that is in full sun in summer when the sun is high in the sky may have medium shade in spring and fall, when the sun is at a lower angle. Also a shady summer area may receive more sun in the winter when the leaves fall. Study your garden through the seasons to accurately determine what type of shade is present.

Available sunlight may be increased by selective pruning. Removal of lower limbs on large trees can increase light levels significantly. Large shade trees are a valuable resource that in most cases should be preserved. However, removal of diseased, unattractive, or poorly placed trees improves the beauty of your property and increases the light available for plant growth.

Plants growing in the shade often must also compete with roots of shading trees for nutrients and moisture. Shallow rooted trees such as large maples, birch trees, redwoods, poplars, pines and willows are particularly troublesome. Roots competing for limited surface water may cause shade gardens to dry out more quickly than expected.

Adding organic matter to shade garden soils will help. Most woodland species are accustomed to growing in soils rich in leaf litter compost. Raking and removal of leaves each fall in the typical landscape disrupts this natural nutrient recycling process. If you are patient, earthworms will eventually incorporate organic matter into the soil.

Bright, bold colors are less common in shade tolerant plants than in sun-loving ones. Flowers are usually produced less abundantly in the shade as well. For these reasons, shade gardens are often more subtle and restful than sunny ones.

Plant textures become more important elements of the design. Large-leaved plants such as hostas have a coarse texture, while finely divided fern fronds create a fine texture. Strong contrasts in texture will help individual plants stand out.

Glossy leaves have more impact than dull or velvety ones. Variegated or yellow-green foliage is evident in the shade more than dark green or blue-green foliage. Light colors – white, cream, yellow and pastel pink – stand out in the shade, while deep reds, blues and purples may fade into the shade unless set off by a contrasting lighter color. To emphasize plantings in the shade, concentrate on plants with light-colored flowers or foliage.

Impatiens, begonias and coleus are by far the most successful flowering annuals for a wide range of shade conditions. Bedding or wax begonias come in pink, red or white with green or dark purple leaves. A spectacular sight is a bed or border of impatiens edged with wax begonias in a contrasting color. The color range for impatiens includes red, pink, white, orange, orchid and bi-colors. Plant a large-leafed Kong Coleus to the background and you’ll have a stunning display.

Add a fountain or birdbath and you will enjoy your shade garden all through the hot days of summer.

Begonias for Summer

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • Dig gently to harvest potatoes, a few plants at a time, after foliage yellows and dries up.
    • Garlic should be harvested when the leafy tops turn yellow and fall over; air-dry bulbs, remove tops and store bulbs in a cool place.
    • Meyer lemons with their sweet-scented blossoms, are attractive and easy to grow. Plant one in a container so you can move it to a protected spot in the winter.
    • Fragrant star jasmine is in full bloom right now. Plant one in a semi-shaded spot where you can enjoy its lovely perfume.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool-season crops now. Transplant them to the garden next month and they will be producing for you this fall.

Begonias for Summer

As the warm days of summer begin to arrive, begonias really come into their own. There are many different kinds of begonias, but the bedding begonias like the long, warm days of summer and show off their beautiful, waxy foliage and colorful flowers now. Used in containers, hanging baskets and bedding schemes, begonias provide continuous color throughout the summer. They are easy to care for and all grow well in partial shade.

Sometimes called wax begonias, they feature thick, waxy leaves with 1-inch-diameter round flowers. Foliage comes in either green or bronzy-red and the flowers can be white, pink, rose or red. The rounded plants grow to a height of 6-8 inches and are covered with flower blooms from May to September. The taller Encore begonias grow to 12 inches and have larger, 2-inch flowers. There are also varieties with double flowers that resemble fat little rosebuds and others with variegated foliage. The bronze-leaved begonias are better suited to full sun locations.

Wax begonias are nice in large, formal plantings because of their uniform size and compact form. They also make a good border and combine well with other cool-colored flowers in mixed plantings and containers.

Dragon wing begonias are large and bold. Their flowers grow in loose clusters of pink and red bell-like blooms, and bloom throughout summer. Glossy, dark green, wing-shaped leaves frame the flowers. These begonias are popular container plants, and they are often grown in hanging baskets in partial to full shade or filtered sun. They grow to 15 inches tall and somewhat wider.

Water begonias when the soil is dry to the touch. If grown in full sun, keep the soil moist. Fertilize them monthly with a balanced general fertilizer. They are easy to grow and generally pest-free.

The large-flowered tuberous begonias also come into their glory in the summer. Tuberous begonias can have upright or trailing growth forms and are suited to hanging baskets and other containers that provide excellent drainage so that their tubers do not rot. Hanging basket begonias are perfect for shady decks, patios, and balconies. They do best with plenty of filtered light but little or no direct hot sun.

Wax begonias are lovely in shady window boxes. They make a colorful statement and can be combined with coleus for more height and ivy or vinca for a trailing element.

Light up your shade garden with beautiful begonias!

Begonias for Shady Sites

Monday, March 29th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Last chance for asparagus roots this year. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.
    • Tree peonies are long-lived shrubs that are available now as root divisions. Their large, fragrant flowers bloom for two months each spring.
    • Wildflower seeds can be broadcasted now on hillsides for colorful blooms and erosion control.
    • Lettuce, cabbages, broccoli, onions and other cool-season vegetables can be set out with no frost protection. They will give you a delicious early harvest.

The Beauty of Begonias

If you have shady garden areas or are looking for a brilliant accent for your patio or balcony this summer, you can start some tuberous begonias indoors in March or April. Tuberous begonias provide a spectacular display from July through October and come in white, pink, red, yellow, orange, and apricot.

There are upright begonias and hanging begonias and they grow from tubers which look like small brown lumps with a depression on one side. Choose only firm tubers and look for those with tiny sprouts showing on their upper, concave surfaces.

Start with small, clean pots 2 to 3 inches deep. Fill them with a mixture of equal parts of potting soil, peat moss and sand or perlite. Place each tuber hollow side up with the top just even with the soil level. They rot easily if planted too deep. Water the tubers once really well, to wake them up, and place them in a warm, bright spot.

Cover the freshly-planted tubers with plastic wrap to promote growth, but remove the covering as soon as growth appears. Don’t water again until you see some growth or the soil is quite dry. Some begonias will sprout right away others will take weeks, but you should see growth shoots within a month.

Once the shoots are showing, water them regularly, never allowing the soil to dry out. Give the new plants bright light, but shade them from direct sun. Feed them with half strength fertilizer when their leaves and stems are about 3 inches tall, and every two weeks after that. When the shoots are 6 inches tall, the begonias are ready to be transplanted to the garden or outdoor containers. Don’t put them outdoors, though, until all danger of frost has passed, and remember to harden them off properly first.

Tuberous begonias thrive in partial to full shade and need well-drained soil. They need to be kept away from hot sun and drying winds. Water them generously, especially during hot weather. Keep their soil moist but not soggy; the tubers will rot if they get too much water. Keep an eye out for mildew and first sign of a white patch on any of your begonias’ leaves, apply a fungicide right away.

If you’re growing hanging types, pinch out the primary growing tip when the plant is about 2 inches tall to make sure they have lots of branches to cascade down from their pots. Plant 3 tubers in a hanging basket.

Deadhead begonias regularly, removing wilted leaves and flowers to encourage them to produce more blooms. The large-flowered, upright types of begonias should be staked.

Once the show is over in the fall, you’ll be able to dig and store your tubers until spring rolls round again. Properly stored, tuberous begonias will give you years of vibrant, eye-popping blooms to brighten up your shady garden areas. So get your tubers started now for a show-stopping summer!