This is the time of year when I start to spend more time in by the fire than out in the garden (although I still have more bulbs to plant…). One of my amusements is to look through the garden pictures, with an eye to what worked and what didn’t.
I want to make my grouping of plants under the big madrone into a more cohesive group, so one of the things I’ve been looking for is plants that have worked well in semishade for me. Northern Shade has opened my eyes to how much texture and color you can get with the right foliage, something I might have worked out by looking at the forest floor. But sometimes gardening is like a crossword puzzle: somebody fresh has to come along to fill in the blanks you can’t get. I’ll need to do research on the plants Northern Shade recommends, though, since my climate is a lot hotter and dryer.
Before I was reminded of the possibilities of foliage, though, my original shade-plant-finding focus was a hunger for flowers; flowers for summer (after the bulbs) and for shade to semishade, which is mostly what I’ve got.
The digitalis in the photo at the head of this post obviously did very well under the madrone (the red-barked shiny-leaved tree you can see in the picture). And I have a past history of digitalis doing well in places like this, where they get some morning sun, and occasional dapples throughout the day. This foxglove (an unknown variety from the drugstore) kept on gradually increasing its spire as it flowered, until it had a whippy spine of seedheads several feet high, topped with a few flowers.
My ‘Royal Standard’ hosta is a common plant, but a new venture for me. It sulked in the full shade I gave it before, putting out a few leaves but never flowering. I had mixed feelings about hostas; they seemed kind of like, I don’t know, plants for gardeners who had completely matched wardrobes and sock drawers with no strays: not plants that would fit in my garden. But in my continual research for shade plants that flower, I’d found that hostas fit the bill, and that some of them even had fragrant flowers. When I went to a local plant sale, it was pretty easy for me to get persuaded into a good deal on Royal Standard.
I found that this junior leaguer actually fit quite well into my garden, once I put it in a pot on the back porch where it got more shots of sun. It brought forth the beautiful rose-flushed buds that turned into a modest scape of (to my nose) mildly sweet-scented flowers. (For those of you who are wondering about the dead leaves in the background: those are buckeye leaves, which are the earliest to come out, and shrivel by late summer.)
My prejudices began to tumble. I started to see what people saw in the leaves: the innocence of the tiny leaves on the flowering stem,
the sensuous ribs of the broad leaves below–
which turned gold all at once in fall.
Next post: more flowering shade plants