NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR MARCH 31, 2007

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WHAT WILL GROW IN SHADE?

BY GLADYS JEURINK

 

          There are different kinds of shade and some are almost impossible to grow anything, such as deep shade under a low growing evergreen. This is usually a very dry place since rain canít get there any better than sunlight and if it does the tree snatches it away at once. Mushrooms like shade but they must be moist. They also happen to be very dangerous unless you know one from another. The kits are fun to try as you will be using known spores but they do need some attention as they live on decaying material.  A kit may contain a partially decomposed log or instructions on how to find your own and they have to be kept damp all the time.  Fairy rings show up in your lawn because a dead root or decaying material is there. They are neither edible nor fun. Ginger will grow in rather deep shade but it needs its share of water.  In this type of area I like ground bark (fine) because it is easier to walk on or gravel.  Both of these let any rain down to the tree roots and keep wooden legs of chair and chaise lounges dry to prevent rotting.

          Probably the most important thing about shade gardening is the soil.  Has it been completely filled with tree roots? Have the trees used up all the nutrients? Is there any humus there to hold food and water? In one place I read that a WILLOW TREE can drink 60 gallons of water in one hot day.  Donít try to improve things by pouring good soil over the roots.  Before long your tree will suffocate for lack of oxygen. Full shade is the hardest in which to grow.

          Sometimes it can be made into part shade by removing tree limbs to let in more light.  This wonít change the heavily rooted area which I like to cover with several inches of mulch.  Part shade is a very good area for many plants especially in Nebraska where summer sun beats down on the plants and scorches some of them. Afternoon part shade and protection from wind produces some of my best plants.  The East side of the house and under a high trimmed LINDEN (Lincoln Electric System took care of this) gets morning sun. Most of my houseplants go out here and grow well and a WISTERIA (Wisteria chinensis) climbs a pole to spread out above the back gate while a bird usually nests deep in the tangle of branches. The top of the WISTERIA creates a shade area below while it is in the sun with long chains of purple flowers. I need to keep pruning the many branches that start out in order to get in the back gate.

          IMPATIENS and FIBROUS BEGONIAS fill in several of my shady spots.  Both of them adjust from sunny to partial shade if their soil is damp.  Both of them also do well in containers to add bright colors.  They are also very sensitive to cold so are the last plants I set out in the spring.  GOUTWEED, BISHOPS WEED, or SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN (Aegopodium podagraria) is a very aggressive groundcover that also invades sunny areas. There is a green form not as popular as the variegated.  You need to watch as sometimes part will revert back to the green and needs to be removed!

          There is a nursery in Florida that sells painted CALADIUMS by the quart. These bulbs I plant around and in-between 3 JAPANESE FOREST GRASS (Hakonechloa macra) as both like high shade and damp soil.  The grass gets about 18 inches tall with dramatic white stripes in bright green leaves in 3 foot wide clumps under the big COTTONWOOD TREE. The grass is listed for hardiness zone 7 but mine has survived three years so I try to keep 2 to 3 inch mulch over the roots of both of them year round.  The CALADIUM bulbs get smaller rather than bigger in my yard so I need a new quart every spring.  Our summer heat is just not long enough for them to grow after putting out those many colored leaves.  Rabbits like to eat on the grass as soon as it starts to grow, so I have had to keep it covered with Liquid Fence or blood meal.

          LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY (Convallaria majalis) are small plants (6 inches) with pink or white perfumed bell flowers. In damp shady areas they can take over other plants so you need to divide every few years. Many years ago when I bought my first ones I picked up a number of plants but when I reached the cash register I found out each one was actually ten plants with a rubber band around. As tiny as they are they can outspread any plant 10 times their size.

          A plant generally found in ditches, along edges of fields and other sunny places is the OXEYE DAISY. In light shade it tends to flop when covered with blooms and tends to spread rapidly with both seeds and roots.  When they come up where I want them I just drop a cage over that area and the cage supports the heavy blooms. So far I have never seen a bug or a disease that could touch them.

          There are many plants to fit in shade, especially high or dappled.  The major problem will be food and water.  Shrubs and trees are very efficient at getting more than their share. These plants can be watered very quickly using a hand sprinkler near the roots thus avoiding fungous and high water bills from sprinklers.

Copyright 2007