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.

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.

A Beauty in the Shade Garden

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 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.
    • Hang up Codling moth traps now to reduce the number of wormy apples in your harvest this year.
    • Spray roses every two weeks to keep them healthy and prevent leaf diseases. Neem oil is a safe alternative to chemicals.
    • Peony cages are like tomato cages except they are shorter and wider. Set them around your peony plants now to hold up the beautiful, large flowers when they bloom.

Impatiens: 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.

For flashy flowers and bold foliage, it’s tough to beat New Guinea Impatiens. They are more vigorous than the regular Impatiens with 2-3 inch flowers and very large leaves that are often variegated with cream or red. The extra large flowers with overlapping petals give a lush tropical appearance to the plants. Flowers come in brilliant colors, from hot pink and bright orange to 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 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. They prefer moisture, but can take some drought. Never let the soil dry out completely. They will wilt and drop their blooms if they get too dry, but they won’t die without a fight. Mulch around the plants to preserve moisture in the soil. In partial shade, with minimal water, your Impatiens will shine.

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.