NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR JULY 23, 2005 *****************************************************************


Several years ago I started noticing the variegated plants and decided my yard could use a few.  The first one I tried was “Houttuynia”, a short water loving green, yellow and red perennial.  This one turned out to be one of the most invasive plants I have ever had.  It can go under obstacles and likes either sun or shade.  Some people use it as a bog plant. It also looks good as part of a container pond with its bright colors warming the entire pond. The little white, waxy blooms are a neat addition.

          My next surprise was variegated “Fallopia”, which is listed as a vine in the plant encyclopedia. Mine is a vigorous bush about 5 feet high and as wide.  I planted this small spotted and striped plant with pink tipped leaves in front of my “Buddlia alternfolia” (Butterfly Bush) with its drooping branches. By the second spring I could not even see my “Butterfly Bush” so this year as soon as its red tips showed, I dug up some and moved them to the back of my garden and killed the rest.  It didn’t even notice I had moved it and it is already 3 feet high and wide with handsome leaves.

          When the flowers are not in bloom the foliage and fruit must give interest to your garden.  The “Ampelopsis” (Porcelain Vine) with its white edged leaves has variegated fruit that is small, round shiny beads of blue, purple and green all at the same time. I cut mine back to the ground every fall to keep it from being too large.  It has many branches and they may be 20 feet long.

          If someone wants a ground cover that will do well in shade and also grows in sun, “Aegopodium podagraria” grows rapidly to fill in space.  It is also called “Bishops Weed”, “Goutweed”, and “Snow on the Mountain”. There is a solid green form as well as the white edged one. Both can compete with tree roots and poor soil.  Plan on cutting it back as it is very aggressive and prefers to find any spaces it can. If it gets ratty looking during the summer it can be cut back and will fill in again.

          An outstanding foliage plant for shade is “Brunnera” with its dainty blue flowers in spring. But its main attraction, if you have “Jack Frost”, is the wide areas of white in the frosty green areas of the leaves. Sometimes it is called “Siberian Bugloss” because of the frosty look caused by the white hairs. It likes damp shady soil.  I have heard people call it “Forget Me Not”, but I know of several other plants also called that. It never gets over 12 inches tall but may be 12 to 20 inches wide. If it dries out, it will go dormant until the next spring. 

          Another shade lover is ‘Solomons Seal” (Polyganatium variegatum). About 2 to 3 feet tall the white stripes run length wise along the long leaves.  The buds hang suspended on the underside of the leaf and become tiny dark fruit.  I like the foliage as a background in bouquets.

          One of the strangest blooms I have had for several years is the torch lily (Kniphofia uvaria). The variation is in the bloom. The plant is also call “Red-hot Poker”, “Torch Lily”, or “Poker Plant”. The blooms are a 12 to 15 inch long spike, most commonly yellow at the bottom of small flowers and bright red at the top. Now you can find different colors with the spike 2 to 6 feet tall.  It comes up looking like a clump of grass.  Most nurseries list it at hardiness zone 6 but mine has lived here, on a slight south slope, in hardiness zone 5 for a number of years. They do not like to be moved.

          Grasses have a number of color variations, some for sun, and some for shade.  Hakonechloa aureola” (Hakone Grass) is only about 12 to 18 inches high with bright yellow stripes that loves shade and water.  “Zebra Grass” is 8 to 9 feet tall withy vertical stripes across its stems after it is about a foot or so high. “Zebra Grass” fountains and “Strictus Grass” looks the same but is more upright.  A variegated grass that prefers sun but grows in shade is “Gardeners Garters”, or “Ribbon Grass” (Phalares arundinacea). It grows about 3 feet high, can be aggressive, and will spread rapidly if you let it. Its leaves are white and pale green.  I mow mine down about the first of July. It grows in the worst part of the yard-the west side of a brick garage with a cement walk in front-hot and dry!!

          “Hosta” is noted for its various arrangements of blues, greens, yellows, and white to create any look you might want.  One of the interesting big house plants is the “Scheffleria” with each leaf pattern a little different. Mine spends its summer on the east side of the house and in winter it has a north window.  Either place seems to suit it well.  When it reaches 6 foot it can be cut back or air layered to make it the size you prefer.




          Autumn gardens can be the most productive and satisfying when planted in midsummer. Also pests and diseases are less in warmer weather. For your fall garden select the shortest season cultivars available to insure harvest before a killing frost arrives or look for “early season” or “fall garden” on the package or display at your garden center.

          You can still plant the following in South Central and Southeast Nebraska for a fall vegetable garden:

Beans, Beets, Carrots, and Cucumbers plant between now and first week in August

Lettuce, Okra, and Peas, plant between now and August 10th – 15th:         

Turnips and Radish need to be planted before September 1st.

Spinach can be planted between August 1st and September 15th:  

          When planting seeds, don’t forget to keep seeds moist while germinating. Sometimes I put a board over the row of seeds to help keep the soil from drying too fast. I remove it when the seedlings appear.  For more information contact your local County Cooperative Extension office or on the internet go to At this website in the top box scroll down to “Extension”. In the bottom box type in “fall vegetable garden” or NebGuide G98-1342A. Any of the publications that are listed can be printed for your use.