DEAR GARDEN COACH: I have a very shady spot where ferns and nasturtium are happily growing; I would love to pull the nasturtiums out and add other plants that like shade. I want to keep it as a dry shade garden.
M.P., Walnut CreekDEAR M.P.: I am not sure if your garden has deciduous or evergreen shade. In the spring, deciduous trees provide dappled light and fill in with shade as the summer season arrives, while evergreen shade is shade year round.
I recently visited the UC Davis Arboretum to check out their spring blooming plants, and I suggest checking out their website for the list of their “Arboretum All Stars.” It was put together by the arboretum and the California Center for Urban Horticulture, as educational information for the home gardener to help with choosing plants that are beautiful, drought tolerant and suitable for our area.
A garden you could visit is one I designed for the City of Walnut Creek in Civic Park. The criteria for the design included low maintenance plants, and use of native and non-native plants that were compatible with oaks.
For this garden, I referenced the California Oak Foundation that has an extensive list of of such plants. The garden, now 7 years old, is established, thriving and requires little maintenance other than weeding, occasional pruning and deadheading.
The Civic Park garden has shrubs and perennials including Spiraea japonica ‘Gold Mound, Philadelphus lewesii (mock orange), Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ (Ninebark), Correa alba (Australian fuchsia) and Correa ‘Wyn’s Wonder’ (variegated Australian fuchsia).
Perennials include native and non-native Heucheras (coral bells), Helleborus, Mimulus aurantiacus (monkey flower), Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage) and Carex divulsa (Berkeley sedge).
Here are a few highlights of my favorites:
- Heuchera is in the Saxifragaceae family, and all are native to the United States. The common name for Heuchera is coral bells because of its tiny urn- or bell-shaped flowers. Heuchera is named after a German professor of medicine and botany in the 18th century, Johann Heinrich von Heucher. California is home to 15 species as well as many cultivars.
- Spiraea is an under story plant, which means it likes the spring sunlight and is then protected during the hottest months by the trees as they leaf out. The cultivar ‘Gold Mound’ has golden-green foliage that brightens any dark spot in the garden and in spring, the pale pink flowers arrive just as the Heuchera’s flowers are fading.
Salvia Spathacea is one of 900 salvias growing in the world, and more than half are native to Mexico, and Central and South America. It blooms in late spring, and if deadheaded will continue blooming sporadically throughout summer.
- Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ is a cultivar of the California native shrub, Physocarpus capitatus, or Western ninebark. Its carmine colored bark adds interest in the winter months, and in spring, meadow green foliage deepens to a wine color with the onset of warmer temperatures. White corymbs — flat-topped flower clusters — have a tinge of pink from the tiny stamens. This contrast makes the flowers pop against the deep reds of the foliage.
Send your gardening questions to thegardencoachBANG@gmail.com.
Published at Thu, 04 May 2017 21:00:33 +0000