August 24, 2009
My Shady Garden . . . OK, It's Really Just a Holding Area
"So is this just a random collection of plants?" asked my non-gardening friend.
". . . ummmm, well, I guess it is," I answered after a pause to conceal my astonishment at her frank comment. Despite numerous transplanting frenzies to try to organize my shady garden bed into a picturesque vignette, it was obviously still just a holding area for shade-loving plants. A fellow gardener would have found some euphemistic way to compliment my museum-like display, but then I'd still be fooling myself to think that there was some DESIGN involved in this area, when obviously there was not. Thank heaven for non-gardening friends who say it like it is.
Despite the lack of coherence and unity, this area is serving a useful purpose. While I'm waiting for my trees to grow and create numerous shady beds around the edges of my backyard, I have time to try out different shade plants and get to know them before organizing them into a design. For example, when I brought home 'Prince of Silver' and 'Plum Pudding' heucheras this spring, I thought that PofS was my favorite. Though its new foliage was lovely this spring, Plum Pudding (shown above with 'Jack Frost' brunnera and maidenhair fern), has become my new favorite because its leaves are still a gorgeous burgundy while PofS (not pictured) has turned into a boring grey.
When I posted about heucheras this spring, I stated that the leaves of 'Green Spice' would lose almost all their burgundy veining by summer. I swear they did last year, but this year the burgundy is still going strong in August.
Here 'Green Spice' is pictured with green lady's mantle, 'Plum Pudding' and 'Palace Purple' heucheras. Do you Gertrude Jekyll fans notice the color scheme? Gertrude loved to combine white with a hue and its pastel (ie white, red and pink). The pastel connected the two other colors together. I think the green-and-burgundy 'Green Spice' does the same for the burgundy heucheras and green lady's mantle. Nice. I'll have to use them together in the real design.
Some surprises have shown up in the holding area, like this mixed color astilbe. Dare I run the risk of killing the plants by trying to separate the different colors? Probably, it sounds like fun (and do you see the boring grey 'Prince of Silver' heuchera to the right of the astilbes? I think it needs just the right companion plants to make it shine, but I haven't found them yet).
I'm gaining confidence with growing things like this maidenhair fern. My dad's ferns always struggled, so I have this weird idea that I can't grow ferns, either. But this one is putting on new growth! Its lacy leaves are a nice contrast to the bold leaves of heuchera, brunnera and hosta. And the black stems are cool.
Speaking of hostas, I've completely fallen in love with the steely blue leaves of this dwarf 'Blue Ice' hosta and the similarly colored though larger 'Halycon'. I love this blue with the burgundy heucheras, the silvery brunnera and all the shades of green.
This 'High Society' hosta is now out of its pot and growing next to 'Halycon' hosta. It sparkles in the shade, and I'm excited to see how the leaves change as the plant matures over the next few years.
Spurred on my friend's comment, I have been dividing and transplanting this week to try to create some coherence in this bed. It no longer looks like the pictures in this post. I'm moving some plants into a new bed that hubby has promised to dig out for me tonight, and I'm dividing other things and replanting to add repetition to the design. I'll post on the finished project after it gets settled in . . . and hopefully before future shopping trips turn it back into a plant museum with just one of this and one of that.