One would think that an attractive, heartily blooming, fairly quick-spreading groundcover that thrives in shade would be one of the best-known perennials on the planet, but that’s not the case with Galium. Perhaps it’s because plants need soil that isn’t allowed to dry out. So mix in ample peat moss or compost, and water it once a week, big deal. Clusters of tiny, star-like, very fragrant flowers appear in early summer atop very attractive whorls of light green, narrow lobed leaves that remain attractive all season. The foliage is also fragrant, and can be used as a culinary herb.
Care and Use
In addition to the aforementioned soil additives and watering regimen…that’s about it. It is a true shade plant, it will grow where it’s pretty dark, but will falter in midday sun or anything more than several hours of early or end of the day stuff. Dappled shade is perfect. Even in shade, if you get a real hot stretch in summer, water it a bit more frequently, especially the first season. You can even grow it in fairly lousy soil if you don’t let the soil dry out. Sweet Woodruff is not very particular about soil pH.
Use it as a groundcover in shady parts of the property where you’ll see it—alongside a path, beneath trees, fringing a deck. Good on shady slopes, mixed in with Ajuga, Lamium and Pachysandra. It’s great as the matte around and between hosta and other shade perennials. Wine makers, you can experiment with it as a flavor additive.
The important thing is, buy lots of it. Buy it in flats. You want to start with at least 12 plants, 32 would be better. Plant in a grid eight to 12 inches apart. Hardy to Zone 4.
I can’t think of a genus of plants grown for foliage that has more to offer than Solenostemon, hereafter “Coleus,” since no one in the world refers to this genus by its Latin botanical name. Coleus you know. But have you planted Coleus lately?
Two reasons I consider Coleus highly valuable: One, they grow in part shade/shade, and are a mainstay of shady beds, shady containers and shady window boxes. Two, in the last five years, the nursery nerds have devoted thousands of hours and millions of dollars to developing varieties that grow in part to full sun. Meaning today, one can grow these fabulously colorful plants anywhere in the landscape.
Care and Use
Singles work great popped in here and there throughout the perennial garden. In containers, they rule. I did two large church container boxes, flanking the front door, with five varieties, 15 total plants in each box, and by early July the entrance to the church was the most glorious explosion of color you’ve ever seen. You’ll have to trust me, I never had my camera as I drove by, and of course am incapable of remembering that I have a camera in my phone.
A great trick: At the back of the perennial border, raise up a container on bricks or some form of pedestal (needn’t be fancy), then plant one of the taller coleus varieties in the container. Or do it three or five times along the back. By midseason, you have four-foot coleus looming in the background, with the perennials in front hiding the container and pedestal.
Considered annuals in the US and Canada, coleus are actually perennials, and are easy to over-winter. Dig the plants, pot them, and bring them inside before frost. Check the plants closely for insects and treat if needed. Pinch the plants down by half. Place in a bright area in the home. Add humidity by setting the container in a saucer filled with pebbles, with water to the top of the pebbles, or mist once a week with a spray bottle. Never fertilize, and water only once per week, or when top of soil is fully dry. Plant outside in spring after frost danger has passed.
Always pinch off the flower spikes that begin to appear on plants in midseason. The blooms are OK, usually blue, but as soon as plants bloom they get tired and lose their vigor. Pinch the bloom spikes once per week and plants will continue to kick out fresh new leaves into late fall. I’ve had plants in light shade grow 32” tall with a 26” spread.
When shopping at the nursery, Proven Winners™ far and away has the best and widest variety of shade, part shade, part sun and sun coleus.
Photos (except the top one) courtesy of the Proven Winners™ Photo Gallery.
I’ve always loved the concept of growing Achillea, or Yarrow, I was just never able to do it past my first laughable attempt early in my gardening career. Yarrows are one of those “full sun” perennials that need every speck of full sun implied by the definition, and my semi-shady yard proved never suitable. My Yarrows always grew prostrate, a form of living mulch, by the end of June.
But one joy of being a landscaper is that I get to besmirch other people’s yards, and get paid to do it to boot. So when planting perennial gardens I plant Yarrows, wherever there is sun. ‘Strawberry Seduction’ is a member of the recent Seduction™ series of Yarrows bred in the Netherlands. These are mid-sized (18-20” tall) plants with an equal spread. Fast-growers, this new series has introduced a prolonged bloom period (early summer to fall), good upright habit, and some very, well, seductive new bloom colors.
The deep green foliage is lace-like, attractive and in good scale with the large button clusters of tiny flowers. In terms of garden use, yarrows are an old, old plant, and whereas it is a mainstay of the classic cottage and cutting garden, its semi-prairie appearance makes it great for large spaces.
Large clusters of strawberry red flowers have a gold center, giving the appearance of a colorful, domed canopy. As flowers fade and die, they turn yellow and remain attractive. Other varieties in the series include ‘Saucy Seduction’ (rose pink), ‘Sunny Seduction’ (yellow) and ‘Peachy Selection’ (peach drifting dangerously toward orange, buyer beware).
Care and Use
As stated, Yarrows need full sun and they ain’t a kidding. Six hours of direct sun minimum or there will be much diminishment of bloom and stature. Plants need decent drainage, but what else is new. They will not tolerate wet soils or over-watering— they like to get quite dry between waterings. They are fabulous for hot, dry climates.
Deadheading will repeat bloom. This is an excellent flower for arrangements and drying. Yarrows in general attract butterflies and are deer and rabbit resistant (which means only it’s the last thing they’ll eat). Hardy to Zone 3.
Plant Spotlight Archive