April 2012 – Plants for shade

‘When faced with a tough environment, bring in the tough lads’

Well, such fighting talk is not what we expect at the Gardening Club, but Peter Jackson, Scotsdale’s ‘guru’ went on to explain at our last meeting. Exotic, brightly coloured tender, sunshine-loving plants have no place in the shady border. Gardeners must face up the simple fact that ‘tough places need tough plants’.

Fear not though, Peter mentioned many plants which look good and will survive in shady places. But first, make sure that you plant properly – use moisture retentive gels and Rootgrow which contains mycrorhizal fungi enabling the plants to extract nutrients and hold onto water in difficult soil conditions. Then, choose wisely. Remember the smaller the plant, the quicker it will get established.

Peter recommended the following:- the architectural plant Fatsia Japonica which forms a reliable backdrop, the Choisya White Dazzler which grows well in semi-shade to about a metre high. Smaller leaved plants are good too – try varieties of the Euonymous. Cotoneaster dammerii provides reliable ground cover as does Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese Spurge) with its rosettes of glossy, dark green leaves with serrated edges. In early summer upright clusters of tiny, white flowers contrast beautifully with the dark green foliage. Vinca minor (the lesser periwinkle) would be a good companion
Reliable perennials for the shady border include the lovely alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) and the Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal) susceptible to saw fly so spray early in the season Don’t forget the digitalis (foxglove) – particularly the traditional pink and white ones or the Hellebores – promiscuous plants so do not let them go to seed! Heucheras are better in partial shade – split them every three years. Look out for the beautiful cranesbill, the geranium Rozanne – cut back after flowering and you may be lucky and achieve three bursts of colour in a season!

The list is endless – I haven’t even mentioned the Christmas box, the spotted laurel, ferns, ivies ………………………………………….. all tough lads!

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