Create a Shady Oasis

Thursday, June 8th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White or white latex paint. This will keep the soft bark from sunburning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.

Create a Shady Oasis

There are many beautiful shrubs, perennials and ferns that you can use to create a shady retreat on your property.

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.

Such areas are perfect for rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. These lovely shrubs 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 that will bloom beautifully here and come back year after year. Columbines, with their delicate and graceful flowers, are familiar harbingers of spring. Astilbes, known as false spirea, 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 japonica, is a fine, evergreen 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. The tall showy flower spikes of Dicentra spectabilis die down after they bloom.

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.

Jacob’s ladder is an attractive upright plant with clusters of 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.

Ferns are the mainstays of the total shade garden. There are many hardy ferns that are long-lived in our region. 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.

Add a bench and a water feature and create a lush, restful oasis where life can slow down a little while you escape from the heat.

Bulbs and Perennials

Monday, October 6th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting! Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will grow twice as much next year as those planted next spring.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • Ornamental cabbage makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Divide artichoke plants which have been in the ground for three or four years. Mulch established plants with steer manure.

Combining Bulbs and Perennials for Spring Beauty

A spring garden should be full of surprises all season long. From the early crocuses of late winter, through the power and glory of tulips, until the abundant blooms of summer arrive to take their turn, the spring garden should be a showplace. And it can be. All it takes is some planning this fall.

Fall is, of course, the time to plant flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. Fall is also a great time to plant perennials that come up in the spring such as hostas, bleeding hearts, peonies, coral bells, daylilies, and others. Skillful combination of bulbs and perennials can make your garden a showcase next spring.

After flowering, bulbs need to be left alone for about six weeks, until their foliage is brown and withered. The foliage dieback period is necessary for the bulbs to “re-charge” for the next season’s bloom, but it can be unsightly. This is where perennial partners can help out.

As the bulb foliage dies back, the perennial foliage is filling out to cover the waning foliage of the bulbs. This “camouflage” strategy can help keep your garden looking fresh, while your bulb flowers make their exit and the ensuing perennial flower show begins.

But camouflage is only part of the strategy. Emerging perennials also complement tulips and other spring-bloomers in the spring garden, providing contrasting foliage that is quite pleasing. Some will even bloom together.

Dicentra spectabilis (bleeding heart), with its fern-like leaves and arching sprays of heart-shaped flowers, adds a graceful romantic tone to the early spring garden. After it blooms, the foliage dies back for the summer. Dicentra eximia ‘Luxuriant’ is a lovely old-fashioned plant with ferny, gray-green foliage and sprays of pink, heart-shaped flowers from May to September. They prefer shady conditions, but can handle full winter sun under deciduous trees.

Hemerocallis (daylilies) are another good bulb foliage concealer with dense strappy foliage that comes up in spring. Depending on the variety, it can provide weeks – or even months – of summer bloom. Daylilies and daffodils are a classic combination. Planted together, daffodils and ever-blooming daylilies can provide bloom from April till October in the same spot.

Hostas with large, colorful leaves of green, chartreuse, blue-tones, golden-green, and green edged in white, are perfect partners for daffodils. As the daffodils mature, the hostas expand to their full glory and camouflage the fading bulb foliage. Use in areas that get morning sun.

Penstemons and yarrows are usually cut back in the winter, which gives spring bulbs room to display their glory. When they start growing, they will cover the browning foliage as the bulbs fade.

Of course pansies and violas also make an excellent bulb companions as they will bloom from now through next spring.

Make your spring garden a masterpiece with some planning this fall.

Hostas for Shade

Saturday, August 18th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Dig and divide crowded spring-flowering bulbs and tubers including daffodils, scillas, muscari, and bearded iris.
    • Take care of your roses: feed, water, weed, mulch and remove faded blooms regularly. Spray if necessary at first sign of insect or disease problems.
    • After the June crop of raspberries is finished, remove canes that produced fruit leaving new green canes, which can then be trained on trellises.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than in nitrogen.
    • Dig gently to harvest potatoes, a few plants at a time, after foliage yellows and dries up.

Hostas for Shade

Hostas are carefree plants that provide beauty and colorful leaves for the shade garden. Their lush foliage creates a restful and inviting scene when planted under a canopy of trees. Add a bench for sitting and you will have a tranquil place to relax at the end of the day.

Hostas have dramatic leaves and attractive flowers. Their broad blue, green, gold or variegated leaves are typically heart shaped, shiny and distinctly veined. Variegation can be white, cream, or yellow and can occur on the edges of the leaves, in the centers, or streaked throughout the leaf. They will grow in bright or dappled shade, but must be protected from hot summer sun.

The yellow or gold-leaved hostas need some sun to develop their brightest coloring, because in full shade they become chartreuse. This includes varieties like ‘Guacamole,’ which has huge, apple green leaves with darker green margins. Blue varieties develop their best color in full shade. ‘Bressingham Blue’ is one of the best blue-green hostas.

‘Patriot’ has deep green leaves with white variegation on the edge. It grows very quickly and easily in partial shade and has good sun tolerance. ‘Sum and Substance’ has very large, deeply veined, rounded leaves, varying in color from light green, chartreuse, to gold. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Clusters of lily-like flowers, which are often fragrant, are borne on flower stalks that rise above the foliage from July to October. These give them the common name, plantain lily. Most flowers are white or light lavender, but some varieties have deeper lilac flowers. Though the flowers last for several weeks and add an delicate highlight, the leaves of hostas are their true appeal.

Hostas are very hardy and prefer a rich, moist soil that is not soggy. They need regular watering throughout the summer and, if growing in the shade of large trees, may need additional waterings to help them compete with the tree roots. When hostas get too much sun or not enough water, the leaf edges become papery and brown.

Slugs and snails love hostas, so you should bait around them once a month. They go dormant in the winter, dying back almost to nothing. Fresh new leaves grow from the roots in early spring. Hostas need little maintenance except to cut out the old flower stalks and perform routine winter clean up.

Hostas can be planted with coral bells, bleeding hearts, astilbe, hardy geraniums and Japanese anemones for a variety of contrasting foliage and flowers. They also do well among ferns and Japanese maples in woodland settings.

Hostas are hardy, long-lived perennials. With their amazing leaf patterns and showy flowers, they add color, interest and a lush, tropical effect to the shade garden.