For this week's ABC letter of C, you probably would guess that I would feature my signature plant, the purple coneflower, which is still in riotous bloom at the moment. (See sidebar photo to the right for the latest visitor here.) But I have written about this favorite of mine and posted so many pictures of it that I thought instead today I would feature a couple of shady characters who haven't received much press here.
First, the Coleus. Several years ago, when the Kong Coleus pictured above was first introduced, it was all the rage. It's understandable, although this rather washed-out photo doesn't do it justice: its large leaves and deep colors commanded attention in any container planting.
In the last few years, however, breeders have created so many interesting variations of the original, humble coleus that I seldom buy the Kong variety any more. Most of the coleus in my garden are used in container plantings; this pink-veined green and white one provides the perfect complement to some hot pink impatiens.
Others, like this gaudy multi-colored coleus, are planted in the shade garden to add some much-needed summer color. All my coleus are planted in partial shade, but they will grow well in any light conditions. However, according to planting instructions, their colors intensify in shade or partial shade.
This coleus actually has more of a bronze tint than shows up here and is paired with a yellow callibrocha and a "Key Lime" heuchera in a large crock.
While many of the coleus I purchased this season had no names, this one does--it's called "Royal Glissade." But the names really don't matter anyway, as each plant can differ from its parent in appearance. I don't look at the tags when buying them . . . I just pick out the ones I like. And this year I had to restrain myself from buying one every time I went plant shopping!
Coleus are so easy to grow; anyone can grow these in a garden or as a houseplant. Remove the seed heads as they form, and pinch them back every so often to avoid their becoming too leggy. This "Religious Radish" can grow to 42" according to its label, but I have pinched it back frequently to create a bushier shape. Although I purchased all my coleus seedlings this year, they are very easy to grow from seed or to propagate from cuttings. I've already taken cuttings from all the plants purchased this spring and rooted them in water, then planted them in new pots. If I take care of them over the winter I won't even have to buy new ones next spring . . . unless I see another one I like, of course:)
"Big Red Judy" was the first choice this spring with her dark red, almost black foliage. Indeed, "Judy" is so big that I couldn't get all of her in this photo:) Notice how well she partners here with another shady plant . . .
Like coleus, Caladiums are grown for their interesting foliage rather than blooms and come in so many color combinations to add color to the shade garden. They can be planted as bulbs in the spring, but this year I splurged and bought plants instead. This fall I plan to dig them up and replant them again next spring.