A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Monday, May 09, 2005

Semi-Shady Garden

The semi-shady garden was the first garden I created at this house. The backyard is enclosed by an ugly chainlink fence. When I moved in, the previous owners had randomly planted azaleas along the most of the fence and the back of the house. Each bush was a different color and size. I loathe azaleas so I went on a mission to eliminate them. Each year I would dig out a flower bed along a section of fence, yanking out the offending azaleas in that area. I started in the corner closest to the side door and steadily worked my way around the yard ending with the back of the house where I planted my first heirloom roses .

The first section was located in a corner very close to my neighbor's oak tree which has been so good at predicting the weather . This corner gets sun early in the morning and late in the afternoon. The rest of the day it is in dappled shade. While clearing out the azaleas, I found a tiny seedling rosebush. Using twine, I tied it to the fence. The poor thing looked crucified. It has grown and bloomed each year but not well. I don't think that it gets enough sunlight.

The very first plant I planted in this garden was an old-fashioned bleeding heart. They are one of my favorite flowers. I am also extremely superstitious. We moved around a lot when I was child. Every house we lived in, my mother planted an old-fahsioned bleeding heart next to the back door. I have continued this tradition in the two houses I have lived in as an adult. The bleeding heart loves the spot I picked for it. It is just huge now. Also that first year, I planted a fern leaf bleeding heart and started planting a few primroses each year. I made the mistake of transplanting some violets into this bed. They are so happy there, they try to take over every year. I have to be ruthless about eliminating all unwanted seedlings.

I have tried growing many different flowers in that spot over the years, but it is a difficult garden. It either gets too much shade or too little shade for most flowers. The flowers that have been successful there are not ones I would expect. Such as Ipswich pinks and sweet william. And cosmos. Cosmos, which normally like sun, grow great there. Last year I tried some Seashell cosmos, a wonderful old heirloom, there. It was a dismal failure. But . . . today when I was preparing the bed for planting, I found about two dozen cosmos seedlings. I moved them to along the fence and crossed my fingers. Maybe I will have a pleasant surprise.

Today I planted Grandmother's Garden columbine seed. There is already one there that is huge that I had grown from seed and two that are not doing well at all so I don't know if this columbine does well here or not. Another experiment is White sweet rocket. I am growing the purple version in the purple garden which gets more sun but this flower is supposed to be able to tolerate partial shade.

I am also trying Valerian, another one that I can't remember why I ordered it other than it will grow in partial shade and I liked the picture. The last seed packet had me puzzled for days. Gas plant. I've never heard of it. What would possess me to order such a thing? I finally dragged out the catalog (I've learned to save catalogs after I order from them). "Once called Fraxinella or Burning Bush, gas plant was commonly grown in England in the late 16th century . . . As the old names suggest, the volatile oils released by the ripening star-shaped seedpods can be ignited, if all atmoshperic conditions are right". An exploding heirloom. Definitely something that would appeal to me. Patience is recommended to germinate and grow this, but I can wait. No problem.

Today, I swear, I am going to get up from this computer and march myself into the kitchen without getting distracted and start soaking my morning glory seeds. I've been forgetting to do this for a week now.


At 9:15 PM, Blogger crazygramma said...

My guess is it would be very prudent on my part not to plant any gas plants, since we live in a high forest fire area. We had major forest fires here in 2003, that caused major destruction. I sure wished at the time I was not doing insurance for a living. They do sound exciting though. What color are they?

I had the same problem remembering to soak the Moon Flower seeds I finally put them by my kitchen sink and did them in the morning when I was making coffee, and even got around to planting them.

At 12:30 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

The Select Seeds catalog describes them as ". . . tall wands of mauve-pink flowers accented with violet veining and long upwardly curving stamens." You can google the scientific name Dictamnus albus 'Purpureas'to see pictures. They aren't outstandingly attractive. Just the fact that they might explode intrigues me. Although I agree with you that this might not be the best plant for your area.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Sylvana said...

You hate azaleas! I try to grow them every year and every year they die on me. :(

At 11:22 PM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Sylvana, the last town I lived in, everyone landscaped with azaleas. And not just the residents. The town did too. And the local churches. You know what they say about too much of good thing.

The trick to growing azaleas is acidity. They love acidic soil. And they have to be mulched really well because their roots are very shallow. The roots need to be protected from heat in the summer and cold in the winter.

At 12:48 AM, Blogger Sylvana said...

Yep, I know what you mean.
I knew about the acidity and I have that covered- but I will try giving some extra mulch and see how that works out. I've already killed some that I am having an impossible time tracking down again! They were really lovely, too.


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