Saturday, June 14, 2014

Difficult plantings

Do you have a difficult planting area in your yard? Some place where the light is variable, it's either too dry or too wet or if you leave this green-space alone it just looks bad? I do. Oddly enough my challenging space was originally built as a stone planter box at the front of the house! Every year I dig in different plants and they just don't do well...  All that silver brocade I posted about  previously, see here, has died out, as well as two lavender plants. When I pulled out their remnants this season, I discovered lots of tiny brown ants. I'm pretty sure all those ant nests didn't do much to promote root growth, so combined with our harsh winter this planter box was really a giant plant coffin.

A couple of years ago, when I was desperate for color (flowers never bloom reliably here either) I had tried caladiums with their brightly colored leaves, they did well, so I thought I'd give them another shot. Anyway, I turned over all the dirt in this planter, added a bag of topsoil and some manure fertilizer. Then I headed to Lowe's garden center to look for caladiums. Well, fortunately they had four plants left, while none of my usual garden centers had any, so I purchased the most colorful three.

The scoop on caladiums is that they are tropical plants in the Arum family; they are grown from bulbs with light preference ranging from bright shade to part shade or filtered sun, they thrive in temps over 70F and love high humidity. Perfect for most Missouri summers and the odd light requirement works for this funky planter location too. The only downside here is that I've got a 12 foot planter and 3 smallish pots of caladiums, definitely more plant mass is needed.

I found a couple of quart sized Gryphon begonias, another interesting primarily foliage plant. These begonia leaves are maple leaf size & shape, but have a reddish underside and a dark green topside with silvery spots. Their light requirement goes from part shade to shade and they don't need much watering. Sounds perfect, since half the planter gets variable sun with partial shade and the final 6 feet are mostly shady.

For the far end of the planter with least sun exposure, I though I'd try a Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), a Missouri native plant which grows in part to full shade and producing yellow flowers. This is a new plant for me, other varieties of poppies have not done well  in my yard, so this is a completely experimental planting. This plant likes moisture, so being closest to the rain barrel is a plus.

The plantings have been in for about two weeks and they look like they are thriving. I really like the foliage variety. I've got my candles on Pennsylvania blue stone slabs between the plants. I'll be monitoring how well these plants handle our 100 degree summer, but so far they look like good choices for this challenging spot.

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