Summer inspiration in the shade

Patio planter - suburban-gardenIt’s summer and my garden is bursting with colour and different textures against a lush, green background. Some plants require more attention than others while some have happily self-seeded and spread across the garden. Some of the plants moved house with us, while others have been added in to those that were already here. I’m a fairly thrifty person and am glad that I’ve kept some of the original planting as it fills the space and with a little care and mulching has revived.

Shade is tricky because there are different kinds of shade and light conditions change as the year progresses. There are very few plants that can tolerate full shade and those can tend to flower earlier in the year. Also the colour palette of these plants are usually limited to cooler colours which can work as I’m trying to stick to a colour scheme to harmonise the variety of plants within our garden.

At some point I’m hoping to create my own attempt at a low raised bed along the dividing fence between our house and our neighbours which will be better for the plants (and save time on watering in the summer). To be honest these pots end up fending for themselves most of the time and still manage to look good.

These are the plants that are working for me at the moment in the pockets of shade in my garden:

Dianthus 'Tatra Blush' - suburban-gardenDianthus ‘Tatra Blush’ – This is a very fragile, unusual dianthus that has won over my heart. As it ages it turns pink and has a rich scent. Dianthus should be planted in full sun however this one manages with some strong sun during lunchtime and for most of the afternoon during the summer. The rest of the time it is in shade. The pot has also had a generous mulch of sand. This is a hardy dianthus as it comes from Cally Gardens in Scotland, however it will die back to some extent during the winter. I’m going to leave it on my patio over the winter, so it should hopefully be sheltered from the worst of the frosts.

Geranium versicolour - suburban-gardenGeranium versicolour – I adore anything that is patterned and so it is a joy to see this geranium sprawl over the container from my back window. It only gets some sun in the morning and so copes well. Because it is white, it gives off an almost luminous glow and helps to lighten the space. Geranium versicolour is as versatile as its name suggests and is also just as at home in full sun.

Geranium nodosum 'Silverwood' - suburban-gardenGeranium nodosum ‘Silverwood’ – Another useful geranium to have as this new introduction which provides good ground cover without sprawling wildly. It can even cope with dryish shade and the leaves are unusual with their glossy texture. The whiteness of the flowers really does brighten up my patio. Gets practically no sun at all. Although these are starting to look a little ragged now they still glow.

Geranium phaeum 'Our Pat' - suburban-gardenGeranium phaeum ‘Our Pat’ – A new variety of geranium with tall heads of purple-black flowers. This is enchanting and adds some height to my border of pots. Gets practically no sun at all. The leaves provide really effective ground cover and this geranium grows in clumps. Although this plant is hardy it is also deciduous so it will disappear during the winter months and emerge once more in the spring.

Geranium macrorrhizum 'White-Ness' - suburban-gardenGeranium macrorrhizum ‘White-Ness’ – Another useful geranium, happy in either sun or shade, wet or dry. This is a really undemanding, semi-evergreen geranium which covers the ground well. The pure white flower heads are unusual and so dainty and sit tall above light green, aromatic foliage.

Heuchera 'Binoche' PVR and Heuchera 'Silver Dollar' - suburban-gardenLast year both Heuchera  were very small. So, I decided to plant them up in pots, to create some autumn/winter colour by the back door. They have just grown stronger and stronger. I adore the mint green leaves of Heuchera ‘Silver Dollar’ PBR (right side). Again it adds some illumination to an otherwise dark corner and has kept its intensity throughout the year. The pink flower heads just came out at all angles and have been in flower since May. Gets a small amount of sunlight in the early morning.

Heuchera ‘Binoche’ PBR (left side pot) – The intense darkness of the leaves caught my attention more than anything else. The flowers on this heuchera seem a lot more delicate and are a creamy colour but it is the leaves that seem to take over. I don’t think this heuchera would work well on its own in the shade in my garden but the mint-green leaves of the sedum really help to show off the red-black foliage. Gets a small amount of sunlight in the early morning.

Sedum unidentified - suburban-gardenSedum – I haven’t identified this sedum yet. It was in our garden when we moved and I was looking for other plants to add to my winter pots, so in it went. I love the soft but firm, succulent leaf textures. I observe in anticipation every year the transformation of green into pink/red heads and then into autumn seedheads. Sedums tolerate partial shade but can also be planted in full sun. This sedum gets a small amount of sunlight in the early morning and still looks healthy.

Hosta 'Guacamole' - suburban-gardenHosta ‘Guacamole’ – This hosta has simply enjoyed being in the shade (it gets a small bit of light in the morning) and its heart-shaped leaves have turned a luminous green colour. Although Hosta ‘Guacamole’ can tolerate full sun. In winter I cover all my hostas with a layer of bark chippings and that seems to keep them safe until the spring.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Quadricolor'Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Quadricolor’ – I think the pale green and cream leaves overlaid with a yellow edge are incredibly striking on this hydrangea that is just about to burst open with pink lace-cap flowers. This hydrangea does not get any sun and is only hardy if it lives in a sheltered or maritime garden. Hence why it is placed near a fence at the back of the house. Again its leaves have provided plenty of interest since March and will continue to do so until the autumn. My soil isn’t that great for hydrangeas so I tend to keep them in pots with ericaceous compost and regularly make sure they are fed.

Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa' - suburban-gardenHydrangea aspera ‘Villosa’ – I like the unusual, large velvety grey-green leaves of this hydrangea. It also has lilac-blue lace-cap flowers that develop during the summer and open in the autumn, providing plenty of interest over a long season. What is more remarkable is this hydrangea does not rely on acid conditions to produce its blue pigmentation as most hydrangeas do. Prefers partial shade and is hardy.

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' - suburban-gardenAucuba japonica variegata – I needed a decent sized shrub to cover up a ragged corner wall and one that could cope in partial shade and found this. It is really unfussy and has thrived. In the summer it does get some light in the late afternoon on a sunny day and once more has toned down the grey colour walls. Fully hardy.


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