Does hot, dry summer weather have you puzzled about how you can raise attractive flowers in your yard, especially if your water supply is limited? Read on — there is hope in the shade!
Even if we think we know what shade is, let's define it in gardening terms. If a place in your yard gets six or more hours of sun a day, it is in “full sun.” From that point, it diminishes to zero hours, which is “full shade.” In between are various levels of filtered or dappled sunlight, which is a shade gardener's dream. Depending on other factors, this area might support some sun-loving plants, too.
I cannot possibly name them all of the plants that will do well in the places between full sun and full shade, but hopefully you will find some ideas here. Plant breeders have developed many new varieties, so always check the plant label or other sources, such as a knowledgeable person in the nursery, for factors such as height, foliage color and hardiness in the Rogue Valley.
If an area of your yard has east exposure only, or if there are established trees nearby that give it the desired filtered shade, here are some candidates to consider:
Hosta: now available in literally dozens of variations of leaf color and size; many people are unaware that hostas bloom.
Bleeding heart: Find them in many different varieties besides the old-fashioned one.
Heuchera: Also know as coral bells, available in several variations of your grandmother's favorite.
Hellebore: sometimes called Lenten rose, blooms earlier than most plants — may do so nearly all winter, if we have a mild one.
Primrose: another early bloomer
Astilbe: not just your plain vanilla any more
Begonia: the wax type likes full sun, but tuberous type likes shade. The tubers are not hardy here, so grow them in a pot you sink into the ground, and take in before winter.
Coleus: gorgeous variety of leaf colors.
Oxalis: pretty, but spreads easily – plant it in a bottomless pot to control it.
Fuchsia: be careful of variety; choose only hardy types.
Hydrangea: several colors and forms.
Ferns: almost endless varieties, many with unusual fronds.
Lily of the Valley: same caution as for oxalis.
Japanese anenome: wonderful fall bloom.
Impatiens: one of my favorites; blooms all summer.
Hardy cyclamen: not florist type, which is a houseplant
Pulmonaria (lungwort): blooms early spring, and the dark-green, long-lasting leaves dappled with silver are a bonus
Others include allium, columbine, traditional lilies, sedum and lady's mantle.
Here are a few tips for your shade garden:
Combine plants with different colors, textures, shapes and heights to add interest.
In general, plants with variegated or chartreuse-colored leaves tend to scorch more easily.
Don't plant when the soil is wet. Compacted soil is not friendly to roots.The first year, water sufficiently to get roots established.
Many shade-lovers do not like being totally buried in leaves all winter. If tree leaves do not fall on your shade garden, use mulch, but do not heap it on, or bury plants.
Coming up: Kelly Brainard, of Ashland Greenhouses will talk about how to extend the growing season by using structures such as a hoop house, cold frame or greenhouse. The class will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Cost is $10; call 541-776-7371 to register.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.