Monday, June 30, 2008

Growing Green

Emma Townshend at IndyBlogs has challenged gardening bloggers everywhere to show their green today, that is to look beyond all the showy blossoms blooming in our gardens right now to take a closer look at the most important color of all. I hadn't planned on doing a post today, but after looking at several green posts, I decided to join in the fun. That means no long-winded storyline today, just lots of photos of what is going green in my garden.

Taking a quick look around the garden this morning to capture a few photos in ten minutes, I realized the main flowerbed, the first planting I did when we moved here, is a riot of color. I think I went for "show" when I planned this bed. Instead I had to look to my containers and shade garden for some green. I seem to have gone for more foliage in my plantings this year--maybe that is a sign of my growth as a gardener? This first photo is of one of my favorites for containers, Persian Shield. It isn't even green, obviously, but the purple foliage is a nice counterpoint to the showy pink petunias and geraniums in several pots.

Coleus is one of those old-fashioned plants that I wasn't that fond of a few years ago, but growers have been coming up with some spectacular varieties in recent years. The introduction of the Kong series made me re-think coleus, and I usually include one in a couple containers.

This year, though, I saw so many new varieties of coleus that weren't even "Kongs," that I could have bought one of almost every kind I saw. I restrained myself, though, and just bought this "Glennis."

I don't think knowing the specific name even matters--just pick the one that strikes you! Next year I think there will be many more coleus here, not just in containers, but in the shade garden as well.

I love the showy foliage of caladiums, and I planted several bulbs in my shade garden, but I haven't seen any life from any of them. I think they may have gotten drowned when we had the torrential rains at the beginning of June. I consoled myself by buying one plant and putting it in a container.

An old standby for containers for the "spiller" effect is the sweet potato vine. This one is "Marguerite," and I have three of them in different places. I'm not sure what to call this color, but it is a lighter, brighter green than so many other plants and really creates a striking focal point for containers.

I have planted a couple of the darker, nearly black ipomoeas before, but decided I really didn't care for them. But this year when I saw this "Bewitched," I was won over by its shiny, velvety leaves. It really doesn't show up very well in this photo, but trust me, this is much prettier than "Blackie" or other dark sweet potato vines.

But this one--now, this one is a real beauty! It's called "Tricolor Impomoea batatas." (If you're impressed I know the names, it's because this year I actually saved all my tags!) Notice the young leaves begin as a dark pink and then mature to a variegated green with pink tinges on the edges.

Moving on to the shade garden area, there is a lot of green here, especially since hostas are the main planting in this area. But if you ignore the lovely pink blooms of the "Endless Summer" hydrangeas (supposed to be blue, but of course I always forget to add some acidic food until after they've started blooming), you'll see even the leaves are quite lovely.

I hope to eventually have a lot of ferns in this area, but the small bare-root plants I ordered from a mail-order company last fall didn't make it through the winter. So this Japanese painted fern is a bit lonely.

The lamium, "Silver Beacon," I think, is a plant I've shown before. It is growing profusely through the shade garden--a word of caution if you've never grown it before: plant it where you want something to spread.

Heucheras have certainly grown in popularity the last few years, and I'm becoming a big fan. This is a new acquisition this spring, "Dolce Creme Brulee." Not a very good picture--it actually has more of a bronze tint--but it was hiding behind some other plantings in a container. It will be moved to the shade garden this fall.

The "Plum Puddings" I bought on a whim and planted last fall are doing very well.

I've mentioned before that I expanded my small shade garden last fall, nearly doubling its size. It's a work in progress with lots of empty spaces yet--the plant budget got shot before I got to this area. I did buy some inexpensive hostas from a mail-order company last year, including a "grab bag" of unnamed varieties. They're all doing quite well, but as to be expected they're still quite small.

But here's the show-stopper of the shady ladies--my Sum and Substance hosta. This one, I think, is only four years old and has really taken off this year--must have been all that rain this spring. I didn't get out a tape measure, but just "eyeballing" it, the leaves are about 10-12 inches wide! Next spring I'm going to have to move everything next to it to give it some more room to grow.

But the best green of all is nothing I've planted. This magnificent old oak tree stands as a sentinel at the front of our yard. At one time there were several large trees on the property but many of them succumbed to lightning and storms. This one, though, has survived, living for generations before me, and I hope it will stand for many generations to come.

Well, it's been fun looking at the garden with a different perspective! Unfortunately, I've spent my usual blog-reading time doing this post instead, so I apologize--I will try to visit everyone tonight. Despite some nice rainshowers this weekend, there is still a lot of watering to do or I will have nothing green left!
For other "green" posts, be sure to check out Emma's blog.


  1. Hi Rose,

    You put your blog reading time to good use :)

    I haven't really considered Cleus before as a plant to use in my garden, but yours looks lovely.

  2. Oops, that should have read Coleus before - must proof read my comments next time!

  3. Beautiful!

    Our hostas - one has disappeared altogether, the other is looking eaten.

    I feel rather like Polly Garter from Dylan thomas' Under Milk Wood. 'Nothing grows in our garden except babies.' Or something like that! Certainly nothing like yours, which is lovely.

  4. I love coleus too Rose. I just wish they were perennial. I guess it is a good thing they aren't or I would have one of every one I see. Ha..

    Your oak tree is a treasure. I hope it lives a looonnnnngg time.

  5. Hi Rose.... there are some amazing colours in there. I love the persian shield, I am not familiar with it, the colour is beautiful....does it flower or is it just grown for the leaves???

    I usually plant coleus, I havn't this year for some reason. Seeing your post has reminded me, I must make a note for next year.

    I love the oak...we have them here, they are my favourite.

    What a lovely green post....

  6. Rose, I enjoyed your 'growing green' as I have the others I have read. Sometimes it is a good idea to look at our gardens from a different perspective. Bu concentrating on the greens we can add the much needed "bones" to our gardens. That is something I definitely need to work on for next year.

  7. VP, They have really come up with attractive varieties of coleus in the last couple years. The great thing is it works well in shade,so I should use some to fill in some of the empty spaces in my shady areas.

    Liz, My hostas seem to like where they are, with little help from me:) Try some coleus--just some watering as necessary, and I promise you can't kill it! And if you keep pinching it, it really fills out.

    Lisa, I'm going to try taking some cuttings of coleus this year and over-wintering them. Whether I can keep them all winter depends on how forgetful I get:)

    Cheryl, The persian shield does not flower, but its velvety foliage is enough. One of these days I'm going to do a post of all my containers so then you can get a better idea of what it looks like.
    The oak tree is my favorite, too, not something you can plant for instant gratification:)

    Beckie, I realized, too, I've been going for the colors and show; I need to plant more greens to balance everything out. Help me remember that the next time we go shopping!

  8. Rose you have such a lovely garden. Your green's are fantastic, such a great collection. SO glad you decided to do this post :)

  9. You've got great variety, Rose. don't you love sweet potato vine? It keeps that bright "early spring" color all season. I actually had some survive the winter in my geranium pots, but as soon as I set them out on the stoop the squirrels dug them right out of the pots and made a meal of them!

  10. Rose,

    Hasn't this been a fun experience! You've reminded me that coleus does have much to offer these days...I have even seen some miniature leaved varieties that are incredible. Do you remember the very first ones that came across our awareness...way back in the college years! I still like all the sweet potato vines...except when they are used too much in plantings in front of commercial businesses.

    Have a lovely evening and see you later.


  11. I think it is relaxing to look beyond the flowers to see the leaves because after all, they are there before and after the flowers.

    Carol, May Dreams Garens

  12. Thanks, Suburbia. It was fun to look at the garden in a different way.

    Joyce, Sorry about those squirrels. I think my outdoor cats keep them away from the garden.

    Gail, Yes, it was fun! I agree today's coleus is a far cry from the ones when we were younger.

    Carol, Good point! Actually, that's one of the reasons I planted so many Stella d'Oro daylilies--I liked the foliage when they weren't blooming.

  13. Your greens are looking good. Love the coleus. I didn't grow any this year and I miss them.

    One of my favorite 'greens' is the variegated hostas. Have you ever noticed at dusk how they stand out? I love walking thru the garden and seeing the white steaks and splotches just sort of shining in the murky light.

  14. I had a vison...everyone is going out and buying coleus tomorrow. sure have some pretty plants there.

  15. I would call 'Margarita' Sweet Potato 'chartreuse,' my favorite foliage color, although I'm wowed by that Persian Shield. Really must try that next year. I haven't seen that dark Sweet Potato, but instead of the standard darks, I got a red one. It's pretty neat.
    While you're moving things away from Hosta 'Sum & Substance,' you should stuff some Spring ephemerals in next to it. Those leaves are great for hiding dying foliage. (I'm thinking Dutchman's Breeches, Squirrel Corn, or Erythronium albidum.) Love, love, love the Oak. Is it a Burr?

  16. Marnie, I like hostas of any kind!

    Eve, I didn't realize the coleus was going to be such a hit!

    MMD, I haven't seen a red sweet potato vine before; that sounds really interesting. Thanks for the tips on the spring plantings; that's a great idea. And the oak--I'm not sure of its type. One of my goals this summer is to identify all the trees in our yard. I thought it might be a white oak.

  17. A lovely post, Rose. I am big into green (as you might have guessed). Japanese painted fern is a favorite, easy to divide and makes a lovely border. Happy Gardening!

  18. Nice photos. Love those "shade greens". I planted some coleus in my garden a few years back, but it didn't take. So did not try again. But, you've inspired me.
    Thanks for the fun poems on my blog! Happy gardening!

  19. Rose, your greens are all lovely. It seems we share some favorites!


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