Summer Containers For Shade: My Year Of Living Dangerously, But In A Boring Way
This summer I defied Impatiens downy mildew and lived to tell the tale. For two years I have avoided Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) because of a widespread and devastating blight that has received extensive publicity.
Despite the tidings of doom, my neighbor John planted Impatiens for both of those years with no problems.
You can accuse me of mad recklessness – but I don’t care! Which is not to say I’m encouraging you to do the same.
The nice thing about Impatiens is that they make nice flowery mounds in the shade, and they are comparatively cheap if you need to buy them as plants. They are pretty undemanding, requiring little more than a little moisture. To play it safe, I mixed New Guinea Impatiens (I. hawkeri – which are blight resistant) in the containers with the regular Impatiens, but I. walleriana was far more floriferous.
Some consider impatiens overused, but who cares? Just because a flower is common doesn’t make it a bad plant.
On the other hand, containers cannot get by on Impatiens alone. They need some companions for at least a bit of contrast. New Guinea Impatiens and ‘Babywing White’ begonias failed to stand out at all. Green and white Caladiums were a little better, but still not satisfying.
For a while I was excited about Flowering Tobacco ‘Only the Lonely’ (Nicotiana sylvestris). I liked the height, the big leaves, and the unique flowers.
The excitement died when the blooms sputtered out in late July, however.
Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister’ did better, and was attractive to hummingirds. I may use more of these next year.
A happy discovery was that Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) will bloom in the back garden from May through mid-July, at least in a milder year. I am hoping they will flower again by September now that I have given them a good shearing.
In a corner of the back garden I have three containers in deep shade. There I have one plant of Fan Flower ‘Whirlwind Blue’ (Scaevola hybrid). I really like it,and I would plant more of it if I didn’t remember the Great Fan Flower Massacre of 2013. Rabbits, I thought, were the perpetrators, but now I am told it was likely Goldfinches. Either way, a large number of Fan Flowers planted in the wheelbarrow and other containers were absolutely torn to shreds. I am reluctant to go through that horrifying experience again.
On the other hand, Oxalis ‘Molten Lava’, if placed on the edge of a tightly packed container, will spill nicely. That’s another one I may try more of next summer.
What are your favorite plants for containers in shade?