Gardening Blog

Lowcountry gardens that are made in the shade

I have a canopy of shade in my yard that comes from more then 30 trees. To get some color going in my shady yard, I must grow plants in narrow gardens alongside the longish driveway. I've some leeway; one side gets six hours of sun; the other less then two.

The solution to this growing problem? As the trees have grown over the years, I've discovered the way to go is found in containers. As yards have grown smaller or disappeared; growing plants in pots has become the growing way to go.

Today we'll deal with the shady side. In summertime it's my favorite place to be. I love the first tour in the early morning, coffee cup in hand. Almost always I've a new discovery, a new plant volunteer, a plant that has budded up overnight, or a bulb in flower that somehow has managed to jump the driveway.

Whatever is going on, it's mostly happening in pots. The orchids summering outdoors under the hanging baskets of impatiens and begonias; coleus, alternantherea, torrenia, begonias, three bonsai plants, hypoestes (polka dot plant), and Swedish ivy, have been planted in containers. Right away, you're noticing that with the exception of the impatiens, begonias, orchids and torrenia (wishbone plant); these are plants that are standouts for their beautiful foliage, not for their flowers. There are 14 coleus plants. When you read this, there will be 19, as there are five sitting rooted in water, on my outdoor plant station.They're waiting to be planted when I get more pots. With the exception of a new coleus variety, watermelon that I read about and found at our local Greenery Nursery, all of the plants were grown from cuttings that I took from their ancestors last fall,

In the ground and looking happy to be there, are the ground covers that have found their way around the pots. Irish moss, parsley plants, the Swedish ivy that's escaped from its pot and is galloping around the orchids, and surprising: many plants of butterfly weed. The surprise is that these butterfly seducers can flower with but a couple hours of sunlight.


Where do they come from? The tiny volunteer plants that pop up out of the ground in the spring; often they are nowhere near their mother plant. The wind? A bird? No matter; I'm glad to have them. I planted four hanging baskets of impatiens this spring using volunteers. One basket groups pink and orange together; it's oddly attractive. I've no clue to the Swedish ivy's appearance. It popped up in an orchid plant container while wintering indoors. As for the coleus; last summer I discovered that when I cut off a too-long coleus branch and tossed it to the back of the garden, it rooted. That's now what I'm doing with all those pinch-offs too small to plant.

And now for the wishbone story. In May 2000, I purchased a wishbone plant and planted it in a hanging basket. Surprisingly, this "shade" plant grows well with half-day sun. When it frosted out in the fall I let it be. The following spring I removed the dead branches and let the dried flowers stay. Soon there were small plants popping up. Many small plants. I transplanted dozens into pots and did a repeat last fall. I cannot tell you how many flowering plants I have today, in the ground, in pots, in hanging baskets. Maybe a couple hundred? And that's not counting pass-alongs to friends.

Doing your own propagating, helping Mother Nature, is so satisfying And in today's world, so easy. Pots and containers with water reservoirs can help. These containers available in many sizes and styles from sources such as (Gardener's Supply Company -- 800-427-3363 or can reduce watering needs from every day to up to five days in hot weather.

Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.