Everyday Gardeners

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fern

Side Yard Ferns in Shawna Coronado perennial garden

Fall is the best time to plant perennials in many locations across the country. Why not rebuild that barren side yard garden bed that has been plaguing you this fall? Several years ago I had a rather desolate area on the side of my home (see photo right)  that I converted into a flagstone walking path surrounded by shade perennials.

Side yards often come with adverse conditions. In my case, I have an oak tree planted on the side of my house that gives shade to cool our home, but is located in such a way as to prevent most light from making an appearance in the side garden. This isShady Side Yard Demolition common in side yards and I have a solution: a quiet path combined with shade plants.

Flagstone can be a large investment, however, it is also possible to make a path from old bark or mulch. I placed lots of organic matter in the soil then planted it up with a mixture of ferns, hostas, and other part-shade to shade loving perennials.

2 Awesome Perennials For Shade

Ferns

Dependent upon the variety of fern, you can plant a native to your region, which can be a beneficial home for small mammals like lizards and songbirds. I have often seen frogs and turtles hide in ferns as well. In the photo at top you see Lady Ferns which can grow up to 3 feet tall in my garden. They were given to me as pass-along plants by my mother-in-law and I love them. Squirrels often romp at the base of the oak tree in the ferns. In a dry year the plants will fall to the ground in drought, but will recover in the spring and sprout new fronds reliably. Ferns typically like a rich soil and shady conditions, so they do very well here. Lady Fern, Cinnamon Fern, and New York Fern are some of the easiest to grow.

Hostas

While not native plants, I find hostas to be great hummingbird and pollinator attractors. Hosta leaves can be amazingly colorful as well and do a lot to brighten up a dull space. Hostas prefer rich, well drained, and moist soil. This area of my garden can be rather dry. Therefore, I plant the hostas, then mulch well in anticipation of drier conditions. I planted several varieties along the walk way including Hosta ‘Honeybells’, ‘Guacamole’, and ‘Halcyon’ – all favorite’s within my garden.

Try one of these plants out in your side yard for an easy solution to shady conditions. Plant before the first frost and water well until established.

Side Yard Perennial Plant Garden of Shawna Coronado


One of my all time favorite plants is my perennial begonia. We transplanted it here from my Mom’s garden, who transplanted it from my Great-Aunt Ruby’s garden. It has lovely heart-shaped leaves with tiny pink flowers, spreads very easily, gives great ground cover, thrives in my shady garden (zone 7b), and provides a structured, yet loose look. It’s one of my most prized plants and I’ve never seen it available for purchase!

perennial begonia

The most striking feature though? The undersides of the perennial begonia leaves! The bright red veins really pop against the bright green of the stalks and leaves.

 perennial begonia leaves

perennial begonia flowers

I have perennial begonias lining my pebble stairs and around the garden path. I love the way they bend over into the stairs, reaching out to greet your feet as you walk down into the garden.

perennial begonias

They look beautiful paired with ferns!

perennial begonia and fern

I hope you can get your hands on some perennial begonias in your area – they are definitely a staple in my shady garden!

perennial begonia

Photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa

 


Lady Fern and Halcyon Hosta

When I was young I loved visiting my grandmother’s shady perennial beds in central Indiana. They were filled with every leafy shape the mind could imagine, yet rarely a flower could be found. My grandmother taught me that there are other beautiful options that can bring just as much joy to your gardening heart. Both foliage and decorative glass offer colorful alternatives to the traditional blooming beds and I use them as much as I can in my own garden.

Foliage

Planning your foliage garden well means your garden can stay beautiful year round without flowers. Mixing leaf structures and plant heights adds interest. At the top you see Fern ‘lady fern’ mixed with Hosta ‘halcyon’ in my side garden at home. I love the blue of the hosta because it contrasts marvelously with the bright green of the soft, feathery-leaved ferns.

A favorite combination is to mix some coleus love into my shade vegetable containers. Lacinto Kale from Bonnie Plants and Coleus from Hort Couture’s ‘Under the Sea’ line make a fabulous color splash together. No flowers can be seen, but the foliage color is astounding and really adds to a shade patio container arrangement (see below).

Lacinto Kale with Coleus

Heuchera and Hosta

Mixing Heuchera and Hosta together can be a brilliant foliage combination. In the garden bed above you see a random bed plan of Heuchera ‘snow angel’ and Heuchera ‘beaujolais’ mixed with Hosta ‘krossa regal’, Hosta ‘gold standard’, and Hosta ‘half and half’.

wine bottle border

Glass

Bottle Tree along pathWant to keep your perennials in place while adding color and interest with glass? Bring whimsical glass accessories in to the garden beds. I have endless wine bottle paths (photo above) draped with ground cover and a fantastic bottle tree (photo right) I found at Carolee’s Herb Farm, a favorite stop whenever I am in central Indiana.

Bottle trees are a remarkably cool folk art brought from Africa and the Middle East centuries ago and were originally used to capture bad spirits. Now they capture color and light and bring a bit of joy to my suburban shade garden.

Below are two books I recommend to help you study up on filling your garden with color not found in a flower; Fine Foliage by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz is a delightful full color book which brings wonderful ideas for foliage color combinations, and Bottle trees.. and the Whimsical Art of Garden Glass by Felder Rushing is an outstanding full color celebration of creative glass-in-the-garden creations.

Bottle Trees Book and Fine Foliage Book

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.


Vertical Gutter Garden with Asparagus Fern

Big, blank, shady walls are bullies in my garden. Limited by no sun, dry conditions, and poor soil, my shady walls ogle my garden tools threateningly and push me around with that intimidating attitude all bullies have. I spend hours staring at an empty wall trying to come to terms with a sustainable solution that might work. Without a doubt, you have the same mean wall-bully hiding in your garden that hides in mine.

There’s only one way to fix a perplexing shady wall. In dealing with a wall-bully, one must cover it with a creative solution. A quick answer to that problem is to paint the wall, add several trellis’s all along the area, then plant a non-invasive shade climber at the base of a trellis, so the wall becomes less threatening and more appealing.

How To Say No To Bullies

My favorite wall-bully solution, however, is to recycle old rain gutters into a vertical wall of garden. Find both new and old gutters and downspouts online, at home salvage warehouses, or at your local hardware store. Screw the rain gutters into the wall. Be sure to screw into supports and joists whenever possible to give the wall garden extra support.

While you could hang the old gutters on a wall and place the soil and plants directly in the gutters, I adore the idea of using a repetitive color pattern as a bright pop on the wall. Here you see rows of preplanted Asparagus Fern sitting in bold orange containers within the gutters. Each container has its special spot on the recycled gutters that stretch nearly ten feet high up a tall shade-filled wall. If one of the plants dies, it is easy to replace the plant by simply adding another container, thereby making this technique an easy-to-manage solution.

Do not let shady wall-bullies push you around; get out there and discover a creative, sustainable, solution like recycled gutters to make that difficult wall into your best friend.


Athyrium niponicum 'Burgundy Lace', Japanese painted fern

As a tribute to my mother and Mother’s Day, today’s blog post is about ferns. It’s not that ferns were a favorite flower of my mother. In fact, she grew only a few flowers, and they had to be tough and easy to care for like bearded iris, peony, self-seeding petunias, and zinnias, from which she saved seed each year.

No, the topic of ferns is appropriate because that was my mother’s name. (You might say that I was destined to become a horticulturist with a mother by that name. But none of my five siblings went into plant-related careers, although they all are gardeners to some degree.) In many ways, ferns remind me of Mom. They’re unassuming and hard-working, providing beauty and backup support for other stars in the shade garden. They may look delicate, but they survive or even thrive in tough conditions.

One of my favorite ferns is Japanese painted fern, pictured above. With its silver and burgundy tinged fronds, it’s showier than many other ferns. It makes a lovely low-growing groundcover in moist shade. I’m quite sure that Mom never wore any burgundy lace, but she always brought out Grandma Schrock’s hand-crocheted lace tablecloth when we entertained.

Another favorite of mine is cinnamon fern with its reddish brown spore-bearing fronds. Mom wasn’t a heavy user of spices (Dad didn’t like his food spicy.), but cinnamon was a staple in the pantry. Cinnamon toast was a great way to start the day.

Ostrich fern, whose fiddleheads unfurl this time of year in woodland gardens, is featured in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. If you’re in Des Moines, stop by the garden on Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. to see them–and everything else that is in bloom. The garden officially opens for the season on May 6, 2011, which is National Public Gardens Day. If you can’t make it to Des Moines, visit a public garden near you.

Mom is no longer with us, but her legacy lives on in her six children, 15 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren.

Osmunda cinnamomea, Cinnamon fern

Matteuccia struthiopteris, ostrich fern


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