Hooray For Shade

Shady garden spots have that quiet and peaceful feeling about them-but that does not mean they have to be to uneventfully green.  Sum and Substance hosta is notable for its lime green color; that bold chartreuse looks like someone turned the lights on.  Container plantings in shade can have just as much punch.  This pepperomia is a vibrant shade of green; the intensely pebbly surface reflects light, and attracts the eye.  Pepperomias are small growing shade loving tropical plants that can brighten a shade garden in the summer, and keep you company indoors over the winter.     

There are plenty of tropical plants that are completely happy in shady places outdoors.  These bromeliads are anything but shy in appearance.  I wanted to planty some pots I could keep in the shade of the lindens at the shop.  This red/orange and green duo is just the sort of plant that will brighten that very shady spot.

This pepperomia Jayde features deep green, glossy, and perfectly heart shaped leaves.  It looks juicy enough to be a water plant.  It will make a great companion plant in a container.

This black leaved Calathea is an attention getter.  The shape of each leaf is described by a simple outline and midrib in hot pink.  The green blobby flowers you see pictured here cannot hold a candle to those strikingly beautiful leaves.    The surface of these pale green lance leaved Calathea leaves look as though they had been hand painted.  The pattern reminds me very much of rustic French or Italian china.  Where did I find these plants?  Telly’s Greenhouse, of course.  George has a great eye for unusual and beautiful plants. 

This particular green caladium glows white in the centers of the leaves, and is puinctuated with terra cotta colored blotches; it shines in the shade. 

Putting it all together is the fun of summer container gardens.  A window box in a shady spot can be very lively indeed.

Finishing Up

I have been working steadily on the landscape for this client for the past 6 years; every year we have done something.  The driveway garden we saved for last.  Her youngest daughter loves basketball-we could not take the driveway mounted basketball hoop down until she was ready for college-Jenna has just moved out.  The concrete driveway was almost 30 years old.  My client chose to replace it with concrete aggregate.  Concrete embedded with gravel has a much dressier look.  Why would we be looking for a dressier look?  The driveway landscape gets visited every day, sometimes multiple times a day. This is one spot that should always look great.    

Given that the basketball hoop was coming down, an entire 10′ by 30′ section of concrete could be removed all together.  This 300 square feet would become a perennial garden.  The new drive had an 18″ border defined by a substantial expansion joint, filled with a rubber filler material.  The pattern visually breaks up the large expanse of concrete.   

The driveway went in April 16-20th.  Given our relentless spring rain, and the advent of annual planting season, we only got back to finish this project a week ago.  This is a simple perennial garden-only tried and true white flowers.  White hardy hibiscus, white knockout roses, Casablanca lilies, white echinacea, Becky shasta daisies and white astilbe.  My client will not want to tinker with this-her tinkering focus is firmly fixed on her containers.

Nothing much is revealed during  the trip up the drive. This is deliberate.  The arborvitae in the back of the garden is faced down by green velvet boxwood in the front.  The perennial garden is planted in between the evergreens.  This will make for a finished and polished look in the winter-and a sumptuous look in summer.  

Eventually the tall perennials will make themselves known during the summer months.  But for the roses, all else will be cut down in late fall. 

A pair of Belgian oak boxes stained a black brown have been on the rear terrace for a few years.  I brought them out front to provide accompaniement to this garden. I like seeing annual plants in proximity to a perennial garden-they  bloom on and on, no matter the status of the perennials. 

A decomposed granite path leads to the rear yard.  I got rid of all of the grass here-what a nuisance it would be to cut grass in this small space.  Anything I design, I ask myself what will be involved to maintain it.  Let me explain.  Anything difficult or beyond too challenging to maintain means that failure and frustration is bound to loom large. I like any design to be friendly and doable.      

We stuffed the Belgian boxes full of white annuals-white mandevillea, angelonia, Sonata cosmos, petunias, variegated trailing plectranthus, euphorbia Diamond Frost and silver dichondra. They looked great the day we planted.  Better days are to come. 

I took this picture the first time I ever saw this property.  Before the pool, and the pool house.  Before the arborvitae hedge. Before the cypress deck, and the stainless steel fire bowl.  Before we took down the basket ball hoop, and replaced the drive.  Before we tore out the pressure treated lumber deck.   A great landscape takes time.  A big block of time. My advice?  Take whatever time your dream takes.

Coming Along

How I enjoyed my fourth of July holiday.  The weather was perfect-partly cloudy, and not too hot.  With only one annual planting left to go, I had time to catch my breath, and tinker in my own yard.  My container plantings are coming on just fine.  As usual, I planted caladiums in my planters on the north wall-they thrive in that bright shade.  This small leaved variety whose name I do not know looks a little like fireworks-does it not?   

I suppose the fireworks designation really belongs to the Janet Craig dracaenas.  The large strappy lime colored leaved make a big statement in shade.  It will grow readily in very low light; direct sun will burn the leaves.  I trimmed off the lower leaves, to make room for the caladiums.     

I have planted one color or another of solenia begonias in the terra cotta boxes for years.  Non-stop begonias are not that easy for me to keep-but here they are, in the most intense shade of orange.  They succumb to rot so easily.  My plantes are staked up for better air circulation, and I remove any deteriorating foliage at the first sign of trouble. The green and white caladium with terra cotta blotches face down some lime irisine that needs more time and heat to get tall.  I like the change of texture provided by the liriope in front; lots of perennials are great looking in containers. 

My potunia verbena pot has finally stabilized; the heavy and just about daily rains have abated.  I keep this pot on the dry side.  The container is placed between two chairs, so I plant for a top view, rather than a side view.

This pot always gets planted green in some form or another.  The nicotiana alata lime is in its usual spot.  Nicotiana is probably my most favorite annual flower.  The cooly lime green, simple star shaped single flowers are my idea of a really great looking flower.  Two varieties of coleus some lime licorice and selaginella complete the planting.  I have had a tough time with licorice this year-I suspect the early cold rain is to blame.  

Though I planted an embarrassment of riches in Orange Punch cannas at the shop, I had to bring one home; my olive jar is the perfect place for a tall growing plant.  A shrubby growing orange lantana, and a couple of purple wave petunias complete the ensemble.  The companion planter is planted with the same scheme orange and carmine color scheme.  The heat of July will bring on the flowering of the dahlia. 

The University series of dahlias is new to me; this purple variety is a great color.  My coleus needs a little pinching, and my tricolor geranium needs to grow up, for all of the volumes to balance out. Annuals in my zone shine in July and August.   

The lime irisine in this box has yet to make much of an appearance, but the solenia begonias are thriving.  Like the non-stop begonias, I stake them with bamboo.  The solenias will fall over with the weight of the flowers-this habit makes them great for hanging baskets. The vinca maculatum has grown so long, I swept it up on the ledge.  I will be interested to see if it continues to grow, in this horizontal position. 

 There are 5 containers on the drive, and 2 in ground plantings at different levels.  I have tried a lot of color schemes here; warm colors seem to look the best with the yellow and orange stone. 

I have never planted any yellow flowers here before, but I am liking how it looks.  Yellow butterfly marguerites are a nuisance in the deadheading department, but when they are good, they are very good.  It seems like they are happy; they should double in size before the end of the season.  As much as I love yellow petunias, they are not particularly vigorous.  We’ll see if I can manage to keep them happy. 

In the rose garden, a different color scheme all together. In deference to my pink and white roses, I have pink mandevillea, nicotiana mutabilis and alata lime, white angelonia pink and white petunias, and Persian Queen geraniums.  Faintly visible is my steel plant tower; the vine and nicotiana get a lot of help staying upright from it.  By summer’s end, it will vanish from view.  This Tuscan style square is a very large pot; it asks for a planting that will grow large.  Watching plants grow is my favorite channel.

July 4th

The last stop, on my 4th of July holiday overnight?  A visit to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners Michigan.  Don’t forget, Buck was on this trip too.  As any machine that moves and moves fast is of great interest to him, our friends knew he would really enjoy it.  I am a Detroit girl, so of course I like cars-but I was not really prepared for what I saw.    

There are over 200 cars in this privately maintained collection. All of the details of how Donald and Genevieve Gilmore came to collect cars, and then open this museum can be accessed via their website- www.gilmorecarmuseum.org. Situated on 90 acres of land, there are 10 restored or reproduction old barns, all maintained in pristine condition. 

They house all manner of motorized vehicles, each one a visual treat.  Most of them I had never seen before.  Though their forms were incredibly varied, all of them had one thing in common.  They were sculpturally interesting objects in their own right.  I cannot imagine the design skill, thought, ingenuity, inventiveness and science that went into the manufacture of these objects. So many different fields of expertise are represented in each vehicle; many people and many processes had to come together in a very precise way.  It is equally as amazing that these vehicles were made in numbers.  This museum is a visual education in the history of the automotive industry.  

This model A Ford was dated 1903.  But for a few dings in the paint on one side panel, it looked brand spanking new.  The woven wicker baskets on each side-gorgeous.  I don’t have much to say about the individual vehicles, as I know so little about them, but I did have my favorites.     

1963 Chrysler turbine

Checker Motor Co cabs

hardtop Metropolitan

 Ford Cobra, courtesy of Carroll Shelby

DeSoto detail

This 1947 DeSoto was my favorite. 

This was an in depth look at a uniquely American phenomena, and an appropriate way to spend a few hours in celebration of Independence Day.

The grounds were every bit as uniquely American style as the automobiles.  The museum sits on a giant tract of land.  As far as I could see, mowed grass, and a few maturing shade trees-mostly sycamores. 

This is a vast landscape, mostly devoted to wide open spaces.

It poured hard for 20 minutes while we were there; what a pleasure to watch the rain.

This dose of Americana-inspiring.