Since you would probably rather not be planting out in the blazing summer sun right now, here are some options for planting in shade or filtered sunlight. It will take years for us to cover all the amazing filtered sun and shade loving perennials, shrubs, and trees that we have here at the nursery, but we’ll just keep working on it until they take away our laptops at the nursing home. This week, we’ll take a quick look at three perennials – one that provides spectacular flowers and intoxicating fragrance, one that provides stunning giant foliage, and one that makes an excellent tough groundcover. Then we’ll take the opportunity to remind you how much you need Japanese maples in your private landscape.
Pink butterfly ginger, more formally known as Hedychium cornarium ‘Elizabeth’ grows 6-8’ tall and spreads up to 2’ wide. While it is evergreen in zones 9,10, and 11, the roots will survive the winters up into zone 7. In our area, ‘Elizabeth’ will produce highly fragrant flowers in 8-12” bloom clusters at biweeklyish intervals during spring and summer. Removing the bloom stalks as soon as they are spent will refocus the plants energy on the rhizomes. Hedychium grows rapidly in sun, part sun, and filtered shade, and prefers well-drained, consistently moist soil. While it is a member of the true ginger family, Hedychium does not produce the rhizomes that we know as culinary ginger.
Giant farfugium (Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum) produces stalks of 1-2” yellow daisy-like flowers in early fall, but that’s not necessarily why you’ll want it in your shade garden or lounging beside the pond. The main attraction are its large dark green glossy leaves. Large, as in leaves over 18” across on a plant that doesn’t reach over 2’ in height. Giant farfugium does best in moist locations situated in part to full shade. Its leaves will wilt in the hot sun, and it’s just not a pretty sight. Some people prefer to remove the emerging bloom stalks, dispensing with the flowers altogether. It prefers a rich soil that never dries out. Native to Japan and eastern Asia, giant farfugium is evergreen in warmer climates, and the foliage dies back if temperatures dip to 20° F. While it has no real insect or disease issues, slugs and snails are fond of the leaves. The best uses for giant farfugium are in moist woodland gardens or borders, alongside streams, ponds, or in bog gardens. As you can imagine, mass plantings are quite impressive.
Pink jumpseed (Persicaria capitate) also originates in Asia, and serves as a perennial groundcover, usually 3-6” tall, dense, forming an expansive mat via creepers, up to 5’ wide. Pink jumpseed grows rapidly, and in colder climate it is deciduous. The plants feature red stems with dark green leaves, banded by a maroon chevron across the center, which turn red during hot, dry weather. Pink puffball flowers sit above the foliage, about ¼” in diameter, appearing from late summer into early fall. The plant may thin out a bit in cold weather, but will fill out again once the weather warms. Pink jumpseed prefers full sun to part shade, and a situation in moist, rich soil. The plants develop some drought tolerance once established, and do well in containers and raised gardens, where it is attractive spilling over the edge.
One could devote years of study and contemplation to all the astounding variety in size, color, and growth habits among Japanese maples, which include Acer japonicum and Acer palmatum. Japanese maples generally make great understory trees, situated in filtered or direct sunlight. The brighter the light, the better the fall color, but young leaves may scorch in direct sun in our warm climate. No matter how small one’s garden is, there is a Japanese maple that will perfectly complement the situation. They aren’t fussy about soil, if it is well-drained. Keep them sufficiently watered during dry spells to avoid stressing them, but start reducing the amount of water in late summer to improve fall colors. Prune, if needed, in late winter before leaf buds open.
So if you’re in the mood to get down and dirty in the shade, come into our nursery and check out all the wonderful selections we have that will complete your cooling private paradise.
For more information on pink jumpseed/knotweed visit these webpages.
Visit this webpage for more information on Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum
These webpage offers additional information on Hedychium “Elizabeth” and general information on how to care for Hedychium.
These webpages provide information on some particularly pleasing small stature Japanese maples, as well as care for all types of Japanese maples.