Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shade Plants Part Two

When I began gardening at Shady Hollow I suffered failure after failure trying to grow the annual plants I grew up with in my mother's garden. I had grown them in various locations over the years with mixed results, but never the failure I had here. It seemed that when something did grow it was immediately eaten by slugs.

I have mentioned in another post the trusty balsam that was here when I came. It is my number one best annual plant for growing in shade or just about anywhere else. I have seen them sprout and grow in a few grains of sand in the driveway. Balsam will re-seed themselves profusely. They come in many colors; white, shades of pink, red, lavender, purple. I have not seen a yellow or orange one…yet. Balsam flowers are next to the stem and sometimes become hidden by the foliage.

Impatiens are my next favorite annual for shade. A relative of balsam, they also come in many different colors and varieties. All garden centers have flats of impatiens each spring and summer. Once started impatiens will re-seed but not as prolifically as balsam. I have impatiens in containers on my front patio and on the deck. I love their flowers better than balsam flowers as they are easier to see and enjoy.

It is easy to save seed from both these annuals. The seed pods look like little footballs, and when ripe will explode when touched, scattering seeds everywhere. I love to watch small children when they help gather seeds and have a seed pod burst open. I think it's as much fun for me as it is for the child.

Coleus is another of my shade favorites. I have bought them (I bought the cultivar Black Dragon before it became available as seed), but usually grow from seed I've saved from my own plants. Over the years I have grown so many that I now have volunteer plants come up all over the planting areas. The flowers are not spectacular; the foliage is the star with these tough beauties. I keep the flower spikes clipped off until late in the season to encourage the plant to be bushy. In late summer I allow them to flower and set seed for my next year's plants.

Wax begonia is yet another favorite for flower beds and containers. I grow them from seed, occasionally buying a flat if I want a particular color. The seeds of begonia have to be started 6 months before you want blooms. My plant room (subject for another post) is busy with baby begonias starting around Christmas each year. There are several different types of begonia, I happen to be very fond of the wax begonia and limit myself to them, at least for now. They perform great in sun or shade as long as you give them some plant food and plenty of water. In their native habitat, in zones 9 and 10 they are perennial, and can be a tender perennial at Shady Hollow. I heavily mulched a bed of begonias last fall and almost every one came back out this spring.

Moonflowers are a tradition at Shady Hollow. These white night blooming plants are in the morning glory family. The blooms open at sunset and open fast enough to watch. They love full sun, so are grown on the deck. A vine, they twist and curl around the lattice and are pretty during the day. When night comes the blossoms, mostly 4 inches or more across, unfurl and are beautiful.

Four O'clocks are a sun loving plant that do well in part shade. Their trumpet shaped blossoms open in the evening and stay open until mid-morning the next day. They come in shades of red, pink, and yellow and have become a favorite. They are proving to me that they need less sun than the seed packets lead you to believe. Seeds are easy to come by each spring and they will reseed readily.

Another sun loving plant that does well for me in part shade is Cleome, or spider flower. They are upright, tall plants that look best planted in groups. The blossoms are light and airy and here at Shady Hollow are usually pink or lavender. They also reseed readily or you can harvest the seed for next year's planting very easily.

For anyone gardening in the shade, these are the plants that have worked best for me so far. There are many other plants that are recommended for use in shady areas that I have not experimented with. When I do I will let you know how they work out for me here. I'm neither a plant expert nor a Master Gardener. I am just a crazy older woman who loves her plants and her gardens. I grow almost all my plants from seed that I've saved, collected, or bought. I find there is great hope and optimism in the act of planting a seed. You never really know what will happen or how the garden will turn out. That's true of all life when you think about it.

Our lives and our gardens are always and forever a work in progress. May your gardens and your lives grow with beauty and abundance.

1 comment:

  1. WOW...another awesome and informative post. I have got to get Doug on here to read all the wonderful things you are posting. Maybe we can implement some of the things that have worked for you.