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 is 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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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’.
Want 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.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
Garden Obsession, Gardening, Get the Look, Plants | Tags:
books, bottle trees, bottles, christina salwitz, Coleus, edible, felder rushing, fern, fine foliage, Foliage, garden book, glass, heuchera, hosta, kale, karen chapman, perennial bed, perennials, Shawna Coronado, shed, vegetable, wine
I don’t know about you, but my patience has been tested this spring. Just when I thought winter had finally lost its grip, a freak snowstorm hit Iowa last week, leaving several inches of heavy, wet, white stuff in its wake. But we Midwesterners are resilient. And so too, it appears, are many of the blooms that were caught naked in the arctic blast. The fat lavender buds on my Jane magnolia, for example, were just beginning to open when temps plunged from 82 degrees one day to 32 the next. If the cold doesn’t finish them off, I figured, the wind and driving sleet will. Happily, I was proven wrong. My magnolia blooms are still intact and prettier than ever.
This isn’t the first year that early blooms have had their toughness tested. Spring’s mood swings happen so often that cool-season gardening has become, well, cool. We can resist planting tender geraniums and petunias until warm weather is here to stay if garden centers offer up a smorgasbord of irrepressible flowers. Here are several container recipes that I’ve tried that will flourish even if temperatures dip into the nippy range.
Gardening, Plants | Tags:
ajuga, armeria, bacopa, chives, cool-season garden, diascia, English ivy, Geranium, helichrysum, heucherella, hosta, kale, lettuce, magnolia, osteospermum, pansy, petunia, phlox, spring garden, sutera, viola
What would possess a person to creep into my garden under the cover of darkness and steal a single miniature hosta? That’s what happened a couple of weeks ago and I’m still fascinated by what I discovered when I awoke at 6 a.m to let my good dogs Scout and Finch out to do their early-morning business. The scene of the crime was self-evident, even in the first morning light. At the base of my front steps sits a handsome homemade hypertufa trough filled with miniature Solomon’s seal, miniature astilbe, and a handful of miniature hostas. These were hostas I admired and purchased from Flying Frog Farm in Indianola, Iowa, after a photo shoot for Country Gardens a couple of years ago. Guests to my garden seem to gravitate to this diminutive display and are charmed by the less-than-large versions of their favorite shade-loving garden plants. As I maneuvered my terriers down the crowded steps, I spied the hypertufa container, obviously disturbed from its base and slightly damaged, with a tidy pile of potting soil on the ground beside the pot and a mysterious blue metallic flashlight left behind—and an obvious hole in the container where miniature Hosta ‘Little Jay’ was thriving and blooming just hours before when I turned in for the night. Who on earth would creep into my yard, flashlight in hand, and remove a single miniature hosta that is easily attainable for less than $10 from a local hosta farm? Mind you, there are all kinds of much more desirable (and expensive) plants—cllvias, aspidestras, sanseverias, stapelias—and handsome containers filled with all kinds of new, rare, and unusual plants scattered around my front yard and porch in containers that could be easily snatched in less time than it would take to disengage that single miniature hosta from the root-bound confines of its hypertufa home. What’s more, anyone who knows me or has ever visited my garden or who lives in my neighborhood or walks by my garden knows very well that if you asked me, I would share any plant with anyone who ever bothered to ask to me. In fact, I particularly pride myself on my plant-sharing personality (after all, I’m bombarded with more new plants each spring than I could ever successfully tend in the not-so-big garden that surrounds my turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts bungalow and the plants I’ve passed along now punctuate my street…so that when I take my good dogs on their daily walks, I am able to admire the habits and virtues—as well as the disappointments—of many more plants than I could ever experience in just my own over-planted garden). It seems the selfish gardener knew very well what he or she was looking for. Most disconcerting to me, the culprit seems to have been someone—a friend? a visitor from a garden tour?—who had visited me and knew their way around my front-yard garden and what specifically they intended to take and make their own. Most disturbingly, within 24 hours of the crime, the left-behind flashlight mysteriously disappeared from the scene of the crime. If anyone has any information about these hosta hijinks it would be most appreciated. I’ll keep you posted.