12 Feb Grow a Shade HAPPY GARDEN
BY DAWN BLUEMEL OLDFIELD
“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.” – W.E. Johns
Many homeowners find the little trees planted by the developer are now big, casting shadows across the landscape. Plants that flourished in full sun are now struggling or dying from the lack of it. Grass that was previously green is now sparse, leaving patches of bare dirt. You can’t talk roses or zinnias out of being sun worshippers, but even in the shadiest location you can grow more than scrubby weeds. Don’t fight the shade, embrace it!
Caladiums and impatiens are popular shade loving annuals. They are lovely, easy to grow and commonly found. But, why settle for the ordinary, when you can create something special? There are many beautiful, unusual varietals of shade loving plants to choose from. The trick is knowing the difference between dappled, light, medium or dense shade, and what plants prefer which conditions.
Some sun plants are actually happier with a little shade during our hot Texas summers. Sweet Potato Vine, a popular annual, does well in the shade, adding color to a dark, shadowy spot. Shade loving Elatior Begonia and Painted New Guinea Impatiens feature showy flowers; while Vancouver Geranium is noted more for its foliage than flowers, and Persian Shield’s purple leaves add color and interest. Dutchman’s Pipe is an annual vine with heart shaped leaves and huge flowers! Its buds looks like a giant pinto bean, but soft as a pillow filled with air.
Ferns aren’t just for woodland gardens. Holly Fern, an evergreen, is probably the most under-used fern there is in Texas. Southern Wood Fern is a Texas native, and Autumn Fern is also a wonderful addition to any shady area.
Bear’s Breeches, an evergreen spring bloomer has Foxglove-like blooms with fern-like leaves. Hellebores are a spreading woodland plant with the prettiest flowers. It blooms in early winter, with flowers ranging in color from green, burgundy, white, and bi-colors. Consider Toad Lily, a fall blooming plant with thick foliage, and speckled orchid-like blooms.
Often thought of as a sun plant, Turk’s Cap is one of the best flowering shade perennials. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to its red, pink or white turban flowers. Another great plant is Heuchera. There are about 15 different varieties, with leaves ranging from lime green, purple, to coppery colored.
Texas Gold Columbine is a Texas native with dainty butter-yellow blooms. This drought tolerant hummingbird attracter flowers in the spring. Pineapple Sage is an herb that deserves more attention in the landscape. Hummingbirds love its’ tubular red flowers, and the leaves really smell like fresh pineapple! Lamium has light silvery foliage in tiny orchid-like white or pink blooms.
Trees which shade the house, keeping it more comfortable and energy efficient, are probably not making your lawn very happy. Stop struggling to grow grass under trees. A turf that truly thrives in shade does not exist. Try a ground coversuch as Ajuga, Mondo Grass, or Asian Jasmine for color and texture without the mowing!
With any garden, be water-wise and follow watering restrictions. It is a precious resource that should not be wasted. While many shade-loving plants like a damp home, you won’t have to water often in the shade. Visit the Town of Prosper website www.prosptertx.gov for updated watering guidelines.
A shade garden will bring you joy, and provide a picturesque habitat that attracts lightening bugs, birds, and butterflies. Revel in your shady retreat, where perhaps a bench beckons, offering a welcome place to enjoy a cool beverage or a good book.
For more information about shade loving plants
visit a trusted nursery professional, or contact the CCMGA Information Center at 972-548-4232. Visit ccmgatx.org for a complete list of recommended plants for our area.