Planning for the shaded garden

Whilst most of us are dreaming about the sunshine, I’m thinking about the shade.

There’s a part of my garden that spends a fair amount of time in the shade. The clay soil is pretty tough here – like the stickiest glue in the winter, and like concrete in summer. I’m hoping to improve this with compost, bark, a little sand and grit, but this will take time to accomplish.

When I moved in, nothing but weeds lived in this corner of the garden, which is up against a tall perimeter fence, and bordering the side of my patio and instantly visible from my lounge window.

I realised that it was shady, and transplanted a number of young Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ seedlings into this space. I first sowed these back at my old house in 2011, and they have self-sown into my garden pots from my old garden, and come along for the ride when I moved house.

A pink Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrid Mixed' on flower
This Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ seedling survived the garden transplantation in 2017.

These are growing well, and I added a fern too (they’re so ancient and elegant!).

The uncurling fronds of a lush green fern.
I’ve had this Fern in a pot for years – I love its curled fronds of lush green foliage.

Now it’s time to add another shade-coping flower – i’ve opted for Thompson & Morgan’s Aquilegia ‘McKana Giants’.  Strangely their website says ‘full sun’ yet the packet reads ‘full sun or semi-shade’, so I’m going to hope the latter works.

These come in a range of colours, and apparently they can reach a height of 1 metre, and so alongside the foxgloves, they should add a nice bit of height against the fence.

This afternoon I sowed these tiny black seeds into some multipurpose compost, lightly dusted some on top, and then sealed them in a bag and put them at the back of my fridge. Yes, you read that correctly. The fridge.

Apparently, they have to stay there for about 3 weeks (or at least until they begin to germinate, after which they can hop out and into my propagator. I assume that this simulates Winter, as my mother has many that happily self-sow in her garden each year, so they’re not fussy about the cold.

Seeing as we have a new ice age branded ‘polar vortex‘ coming this week (I guess it sells newspapers, right?), I could probably just put them outside instead!

Whatever your weather, stay safe and warm, and happy gardening.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew.

The uncurling Fern and the countdown starts

It’s countdown time in the garden with only days to go until a fanfare erupts. Meanwhile in the shady corner, lush green leaves are uncurling.

So, the countdown begins to a great occasion – a visual feast. No, I’m not talking about the olympics – it’s a great big display from the daylilies.

This year the Daylily ‘Hemerocallis Bonanza’ plants have thrived – well watered and with warm weather earlier on in the year, their lush leaves have reached high – feeding their roots. This is now set to pay off with many stems reaching above the leaves, each carrying multiple flower heads that will burst with orange.

Daylily 'Hemerocallis Bonanza' and Hydrangea
The Daylily ‘hedge’ (centre) is preparing for a fanfare of orange flowers.

As their name suggests, Daylilies open in the early morning, and close in the afternoon – but their fanfare is short lived with most varieties seeing their flowers withering by the second evening. These really are short-lived, and that’s why catching them on bloom together is going to be a delight.

Daylily
The Daylily was much smaller and with fewer flowers in 2011.

In early spring I dug around the Daylilies, loosening what had been quite compact  poor soil and emptying out some of last year’s left over compost and old compost from pots. It must have been this and the following weather that has brought them on.

The uncurling fronds of a lush green fern.
The Fern’s lush-green fronds uncurl in the shadier part of the garden.

Up towards the back of the garden, there’s another plant that’s reaching upwards with a lush green stem – the Fern, which I’ve had in the same pot for about 12 years, is busy uncurling some new fonds. It’s gentle green foliage thriving in the warmth but shaded corner. Sadly this lost it’s label many years ago (if you’ve any ideas – leave a message below!) having followed me through several house moves, but it’s never looked better.

Planting out the Aubergines

The Aubergines finally find their home and are joined by the rescued Nasturtiums.

I planted out my four Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants into a wicker basket at the weekend.

The basket, bought from the excellent Twenty Pence Garden Centre, is a few feet high and contains a durable liner bag into which I have put a mixture of composts and some soil, with a few drainage rocks in the bottom. I’m not sure how well this is going go, or how long the wicker basket, or more to the point, the liner bag, will last. However, I’m willing to give it a go and see how it gets on.

Aubergine and Nasturtium plants in a wicker basket.
The Aubergine and Nasturtium plants in the wicker basket.

The Aubergines were very keen to move on to their next pot, so this is ideal for them. I’ve been feeding them regularly, and so they’re flowering and in need of being planted out. Hopefully they’ll forget their windowsill days quickly and become established in their new home.

Amongst them, I’ve planted some Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ in a bid to add some colour, and have something spill out over the sides of the pot. These Nasturtiums were ones that i bought as a ‘rescue’ purchase. They’re a bit leggy, but I read that they can attract hoverflies. Hoverflies in turn feast on those pesky aphids which pretty much obliterated my Sweet Peas in an afternoon. There’s also my neighbour’s old dilapidated trellis that divides our gardens, and which is next to the basket, so the Nasturtiums might want to climb this too. I may even try some of the leaves in salads.

This part of the garden gets sunshine from the East, and it stays in the garden for quite a while. Plants such as my Fern and the Digitalis ‘Primrose Carousel’ do well nearby, and I allow the yellow Corydalis ‘Pseudofumaria Lutea’ to grow up through the join between the paving here in a bid to add some colour for a few weeks in July.

However, the glorious sunshine has turned to chillier days with grey skies and rain showers. Hopefully the sunshine will return to help ripen those veg.

The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ that I planted on 6th July had begun germinating by the evening of the following day and they are now standing about 3cm tall. Hopefully these will crop for longer than the previous lot.