Summer Containers for Shade
Recently there has been a strong movement towards perennials among the containers in our shady back garden. They got tired of buying hordes of annuals in spring, and then again in summer. Oh wait, that was me that got tired.
It took me a while to orient myself to perennials in shade containers because I have always had the mindset that containers should be about blooms – especially in shade where blooms are somewhat limited after spring. But I came to feel that it would be better if these containers were more dynamic, changing gradually in tune with the seasons.
Several Hosta fortunei ‘Patriot’ have found their way into the larger containers. They remind me of the white and green Caladiums I like, but you don’t have to overwinter the tubers or buy new ones every year.
The ‘Patriots’ above are sharing their pots with orange New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), and Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima). The Sweet Alyssum is no longer blooming, obviously. In a week or so I will cut it back in the hopes that it will bloom again in September.
Another perennial plant that looks awfully good to me in containers is Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’). Now if only I can keep the rabbits from eating it.
Of course, I am not abandoning annuals. Some containers are still all-annual, or just about. Above, for example, there’s a ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana x sanderae) with more New Guinea Impatiens. Although the Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia numularia ‘Aurea’) is also perennial, having been planted last year.
Here’s our wheelbarrow planter. You can see from this and other pictures that I haven’t removed all of the white Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) and Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor) that were planted in spring. Instead, I’ve just mixed in a few more heat-tolerant Impatiens.
In terms of perennials, you can see there is more Creeping Jenny and a couple of Hosta ‘August Moon’. ‘August Moon’ may not have been the best choice for a container, even a big one. A lot of Hosta dividing could be in my future. Also, I prefer the coloring of ‘Patriot’.
Another perennial I am trying out in the shade containers is Golden Globe (Lysimachia procumbens), which you can see here with some blue Pansies. It’s very handy to be able to move containers about and use them to fill holes created by the ephemeral flowers so common to shade gardens.
Perhaps you remember the big old concrete fountain that was monstrously heavy and had a few other practical problems. Well, it has been reborn as a container. It’s full of the little regular Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) and New Guinea Impatiens.
There’s also another ‘Patriot’ Hosta, a small Variegated Dwarf Solomon Seal (Polygonatum humile) that’s very hard to see, and a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). The Cardinal Flower is a bit of an experiement.
I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with these containers going into next year. The idea of filling them with early spring bulbs, like Snowdrops (Galanthus) and Triandrus or Cyclamineus Narcissi, is very appealing.
In terms of overwintering, all of the perennials discussed here are very hardy (up to zone 3), so I don’t expect to give them any coddling.
Have you been trying anything new with your containers in shade?