Color in the Shade

Friday, May 15th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Thin fruit trees now while fruits are still small. Thin apples to 6 inches apart and peaches to 4 inches apart. On Asian pears leave 1 fruit per spur.
    • Wisterias are large, vigorous vines that are blooming right now with their long clusters of purple, pink or white fragrant flowers. Give them a strong arbor to climb on.
    • When you plant your tomatoes, put a handful of bone meal in the bottom of the hole to help prevent blossom end rot on the fruit later on.
    • Spray roses every two weeks to keep them healthy and prevent leaf diseases. Neem oil is a safe alternative to chemicals.
    • Ivy geraniums make wonderful hanging baskets for partially shaded spots where they will bloom all summer.

A Beauty in the Shade Garden

It is sometimes difficult to design a shade garden with lots of color. Most plants do not flower well in too much shade. But Impatiens are easy-to-grow and flower in shady areas all summer long.

Impatiens came originally from Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. In the 1950’s, hybridizers began working with Impatiens to improve plant qualities. New varieties were introduced in the 1960’s as this new bedding plant began to catch on. Now Impatiens are the most popular bedding plant in the country.

Common names for Impatiens, like ‘Busy Lizzy’ and ‘Touch-me-not’, hint that this plant is indeed “impatient.” When the seed pods are ripe and full, the slightest touch will cause them to burst open and scatter their seeds in the wind.

Hybrid Impatiens come in a full range of colors. Flowers are up to two inches across completely covering the 12 to 18 inch plants. Colors include red, white, orange, coral, pink, rose, lilac, lavender-blue and burgundy as well as picotee bicolors, which are striped or splashed with white. There are also double-flowered varieties known as “rosebud” Impatiens.

New Guinea Impatiens are quite extraordinary with 2-3 inch flowers and very large leaves that are often variegated with cream or red. Plants grow 1 to 2 feet tall by summer’s end in rich, moist soil. They grow well as container plants and will take more sun than other Impatiens.

Impatiens are easy to grow in partial shade, in rich, moist soil. In too much sunlight, they will have small leaves and few blooms. They also do not perform well in deep shade, where there is no hint of sunlight for any part of the day, but thrive in filtered shade along with begonias, ferns, foxglove, hydrangeas and fuchsias. The plants will tolerate morning sun, but by noon they need to be in the shade or the summer sun will cook them.

Impatiens do best when given a well-prepared, relatively fertile soil that can be kept on the moist side during the summer. Consistent moisture is the trick to premium impatiens flowers. Never let the soil dry out completely. Those grown in the soil under trees will need extra water and fertilizer due to competing with the tree roots.

Moss baskets look wonderful planted with Impatiens. As they grow, they completely surround the container with flowers. They are excellent in window boxes and make wonderful drifts of color bordering lawns and pathways.

Covering themselves with flowers all summer, Impatiens are perhaps the most useful summer annual for shady gardens.