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.
The following is a guest blog post from Helen Yoest.
The Southeast and autumn are like shrimp and grits, the two just go together so well. After a long hot summer, fall is the perfect time to venture back outside. The air is drier, cooling the Southern garden even if the thermometer still registers temps in the 80s.
Let’s head out to garden to visit with some tried and true friends, ones that will give you reason to enjoy the season.
Threadleaf Bluestar, Amsonia hubrichtii
Standing near the mailbox is my old friend, Threadleaf Bluestar, some people call him Hubricht’s Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii). This amsonia is native to the Southeast and is a tough plant with three long seasons of interest. The spring is the time this herbaceous perennial begins to send up stalks of narrow thread-like foliage topped with sweet blue star-like flowers giving rise to its commonnames.
During the summer, Threadleaf Bluestar takes the form of a soothing mound of soft green leaves. The fine texture is enough to desire the plant in its summer garb, and if you know what’s coming, you’ll find yourself looking at it for what it will be once autumn arrives. As the weather cools, this amsonia will turn bright gold. Flashy, fresh, and a little bit frisky.
Grows to 2-4 feet high. Prefers full sun to light shade; regular to moderate water.
Perennial in zones 4-10. You can remember the botanical Latin name by thinking, (I) Am So N (to) Ya.
Tatarian aster, Aster tataricus
In the back garden, near the Love Shack, is Aster (Aster tataricus), some call him Tatarian Aster. He’s leaning against the birdhouse post. This aster is one tall drink of water. Reaching 6 feet tall, with little to no staking required, this late fall blooming herbaceous perennial radiates with scores of cornflower-blue daisy-like flowers and sunny yellow centers.
Grows up to 6 feet high. Prefers full sun; moderate water. Perennial in zones 3-9. You can remember the botanical Latin name by thinking A STAR. Indeed, I think this plant is a star since I named my son after it, Michael Aster.
Mingling in the front garden near the fountain are the rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida). They visit on and off all summer through fall but come out in great numbers after a rain, hence their common name.
I first got interested in white rain lilies when I learned about a ceremony in 2007 of the Southern Garden History Society honoring Elizabeth Lawrence, the first women Landscape Architect from North Carolina State University and revered garden writer. Members made a pilgrimage to Lawrence’s unadorned grave in a colonial churchyard outside Annapolis where they planted white rain lilies donated by Old House Gardens – Heirloom Bulbs. Rain lilies were some of Miss Lawrence’s favorite little bulbs. Then and there I purchased my first few of these pass-along plants, and now I have hundreds growing in my garden, Helen’s Haven http://gardeningwithconfidence.com/blog/about-helens-haven/ sharing with other gardening friends who visit in late summer.
Grows grass-like floppy foliage about 8 to 10 inches long topped with perky flowers 3 to 4 inches tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate to moist soil. Perennial, semi-evergreen in zones 7-10. You can remember the common name by thinking, RAIN LILIES ;~\
Ginger, Hedychium ‘Elizabeth’ shows up in the fall and steals the show. You can put her next to anyone, even some of your favorite friends like the colocasias, but ginger will be the one getting all the attention. It’s her nature to want you to feel tropical, as if you were stranded on a desert island.
Grows 6-8 feet tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate water. Perennial, in zones 7b-11. You can remember the common name by thinking, of Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. Tall, beautiful, (although I’m more the Mary Ann type) and in this case, like Gilligan’s Ginger, with an orange top. And like the Ginger character, this perennial will have your lips moving even when you aren’t saying anything.
A crazy plant if there ever was one, the red spider lily, Lycoris radiata, sends up stalks, seemingly out of nowhere, because there’s no foliage until after the flower blooms. Then you have a nice tuff of green to carry you though the winter, only to die back in the heat of summer.
This beauty hails from the Orient but has a strong connections to North Carolina. It was first introduced to the United States by Captain William Roberts, who brought a few dried bulbs back with him to his New Bern home after he sailed on Commodore Matthew Perry’s famous mission to open up Japan’s trade routes in 1854.
Grows 18-24 inches tall. Prefers full sun to part shade; moderate to moist soil. Perennial, semi-evergreen in zones 7-10. You can remember this plant by its other common name, NAKKID LADIES. This name was given because the stalks rise in the absence of leaves.
Helen Yoest is an award winning garden writer and author of Gardening with Confidence: Fifty Ways to Add Style for Personal Creativity and Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden. Helen is also author of the popular blog, Gardening with Confidence®.
The following is a guest blog post from Leslie Halleck.
With Halloween just around the corner, I find myself giddy with anticipation. I’ll admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday when it comes to decorating. As the designated “scary house” of the neighborhood, I feel it’s my duty to deliver not only on the sweets when the kids arrive, but also to max out the “creepy” factor. In addition to all the standard decorations that go into creating a house of haunt, I also like to create plant combinations that reflect the season. There’s nothing better than adding plants with black foliage to porch containers to complete the look and feel with some style.
Plant varieties with black foliage are hot right now, but plants with true black foliage are far and few between. One of the newest arrivals is the BLACK DIAMOND™ series of dwarf crapemyrtles. When I first spotted these beauties I knew I had to have at least one, and that they’d be perfect for Halloween container specimens. The plants sport spectacular black foliage that offers up a striking contrast to the five available flower colors. BLACK DIAMOND™ Pure White is my favorite; the bright white flowers against the dark black foliage are stunning. If you’re using the “thriller, filler & spiller” method of container design, these are definitely your thriller (which just happens to work perfectly with our Halloween theme, no?). When mature, these semi-dwarf shrubs reach a maximum of 10- to 12’ feet tall, but can be kept to a container size by tip pruning. Make sure you place them in a full sun location to keep plants in bloom and foliage color strong.
For an architectural modern look, Aeonium arboreum ’Zwartkop’, also known as black rose, is the perfect filler for a Halloween themed container. Aeonium is a striking succulent which forms clumps of tall gray stems that hold shiny rosettes of almost black leaves. These rosettes are often called flowers because of their shape. Another fantastic fall filler for your Halloween doorstep is Petunia ‘Black Velvet’. I adore this variety because the flowers are as black as can be with a velvety sheen to them. Don’t forget about black pansies or violas! ‘Black Devil’ offers up coal-black blooms with a tiny yellow center. They make for the perfect tabletop centerpiece when planted or displayed inside pumpkins.
A good container combination always benefits from a plant that trails over the edge…also known as your “spiller”. ‘Black Heart’ Sweet Potato vine is a vigorous creeping vine with beautiful heart shaped leaves. Foliage color is a deep burgundy to almost black. This annual is easy as can be to grow and can work in a full sun to part sun environment. It will also tolerate dry spells if you forget to water, which is a bonus if you live in a hot climate. All of these black beauties create a striking contrast with combined with silver foliage plants such as dusty miller or Centaurea cineraria ‘Colchester White’.
Leslie is a dedicated horticulturist and gardener with more than 20 years of green industry experience. She earned her M.S. in Horticulture at Michigan State University and her B.S. in Biology/Botany from the University of North Texas. Leslie is also a Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH). She currently runs her own consulting company, Halleck Horticultural. You can read her growLively garden blog at www.lesliehalleck.com
Hands down, my favorite late summer and fall perennial bloomer of all time is the Japanese Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’. An absolute non-stop flowering gobstopper for weeks on end by my front step from late August through October. Originally I chose this plant because it is known as the hardiest and easiest Japanese Anemone to grow, but soon it’s captivating wind flowers and bee laden blooms became my favorite September flower-power plant. In fact, bees can be found smothering the flowers the entire bloom season, so anemone is a lovely plant to attract pollinators to your garden. Best yet, this is the perfect perennial to toss in the ground then ignore for most of the season.
How To Grow Robustissima Anemone
While anemone love a rich, moist planting site, this particular variety will do well in average and even sandy soil. Add plenty of organic matter to enrich existing soil before planting. Robustissima Anemone is the most adaptable of all the anemone’s to drier conditions, but need more watering attention initially until they are established. Once established, plants form a low mound of green leaves with tall branching stems that produce interesting branches of bud balls that will develop into attractive soft-pink five petaled flowers.
Anemone Robustissima do well in full sun to part-shade and are tremendously easy to grow. I leave the seedheads up all winter for interest and clean the beds in early spring before green shoots redevelop. Divide every few years in the spring to keep the plants in check. Add additional organic matter like compost to the beds, mulching well, in the fall.
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!
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.
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.
They look beautiful paired with ferns!
I hope you can get your hands on some perennial begonias in your area – they are definitely a staple in my shady garden!
Photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa
Several times each week I take a stroll through our Test Garden. Not only do I stay in touch with the hottest, new plants and how they’re flourishing (or not) but it’s also a great, relaxing retreat for me. I’m one of the brave few that enjoy Iowa’s hot and humid summers. Many days I’ve thought of skipping the computer, putting my gardening shoes on only to help Test Garden manager Sandra for at least an hour or two….probably three.
But alas….I’d never get Garden Notes out the virtual door! (ahem…..are you receiving our weekly dose of garden goodness?)
This week I’m completely…totally…infatuated with the ‘Marmalade’ coneflower. While most online resources show a vibrant orange hue to this flower, the environment in the Test Garden lends to a beautiful mix of fuchsia, coral and orange. It’s simply gorgeous.
And then today…
The finishing hues of this coneflower is what really appeals to me. That, and its double-bloom feature. What do you think? Ready to get the shovel out and plant some? Lucky for you, White Flower Farm has them in stock!