Psycho garden lighting & structural evergreens

October 21st, 2010 Posted in Agave celsii, garden design

Light is where things get tough in the garden.

Inland sea oats seed heads

We can amend our soil or build up mounds, but generally, we’ve got what we’ve got. Blackland Prairie is never going to be the Hill Country.

Lighting, however, changes continually: not only by season, but by how fast trees and shrubs grow and how you prune them. Just when you’ve got it figured out, you lose a tree or gain one. And if you don’t pay attention to lighting, you’re doomed. You can fertilize all you want, but if a plant wants sun, it won’t work in shade. Shade-lovers cower when they get a spotlight afternoon blast.

In shade with spats of sun, I planted inland sea oats, pictured above, recommended only for the hardy who don’t mind digging up a billion seedlings every year. Recently, I finally found a pink turks cap (no ID other than “pink”) to add a spot of color to that area.

Pink turks cap

The toughest “design” situations are where you get sun in one spot and shade in another in the same bed. How do you create a cohesive appearance when you can’t have the same plants within 8 feet of each other?

In my island crape myrtle bed, sun gently hits the back side in morning, then goes to shade. The front side is shady until late afternoon when it gets a penetrating blast of western sun. This year, when we pruned up the crape that crowded our path, some plants simply fried.

The versatile winner here is evergreen variegated Dianella tasmanica. Annual Salvia coccineas attend it, since they’re tucked away from the most intense blast.

variegated dianella

I did lose my original dianellas in last winter’s 14°. But I expect that won’t happen again soon, so I planted anew last spring. They take morning shade, blast of afternoon sun, aren’t water hogs, and don’t need much tending.

For the now-blank front edge of the bed, I’m considering pink skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens). The bi-color sage (Salvia sinaloensis) roasted, so I’ve moved them to the back side of the bed, hoping they rally. My experiment with white Mexican heather was a total failure: they want morning sun, not a blast in the afternoon. Formerly, pink skullcap withered because they didn’t get enough light.  I’ll try again and see what happens!

At the back side, Agave celsii gets a little morning sun and a touch of the afternoon blast that hits the dianellas straight on the head.

Agave celsii

Last spring, I tried one variegated Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Aurea-variegata’) in the back side. It’s done so well with the psychotic lighting and weather that I added three last weekend.

variegated Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii 'Aurea-variegata')

The tiny thing against the rock is a new Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ since I lost the original to the rains. Hence, I’ve left blank space since it grows quickly.  I’ve added more coneflowers, and sprinkled in some poppy and larkspur seeds for spring until everything fills in. I moved a few Lycoris radiata bulbs in the process, and various spring bulbs are peeking up.

In those quirky areas, consider Daphne’s featured plant this week on CTG: oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) from Robin’s Getting Grounded garden. It’s one that likes shade but appreciates gentle sun for best flowering.

oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

And on CTG this week, Tom meets with Adam Diaz from PlantEscape Gardens for that easy-care evergreen structure we all want. Along with his trend-setting nursery that features local artwork, he designs as Stonecrop Design.  Here he’s using Fernleaf bamboo (Bambusa multiplex).

Adam Diaz Stonecrop Design fernleaf bamboo

Here it joins Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans).

Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) with fernleaf bamboo

Here’s waterwise Candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) in a narrow walkway.

Candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica)

Here’s Adam’s CTG plant list.

Canning has made a serious comeback, since gardeners want to preserve their homegrown food. This week, check out Trisha’s latest tips and a few recipes to try, like for jalapeno jelly. I’ll never forget my first experience with canning. It’s powerful!

Until next week, Linda

  1. 11 Responses to “Psycho garden lighting & structural evergreens”

  2. By Cat/The Whimsical Gardener on Oct 21, 2010

    I feel like this post was written directly to me! I have a bed with crazy, psycho light too and love your suggestions. I’m going to try some of them. I even have the plants, just need to relocate! Also, the screens designed by Adam Diaz are beautiful and I have just the spot for something like them. Thanks for all the great information.


    Linda reply on October 21st, 2010 5:49 pm:

    Thanks, Cat! Yes, it’s ongoing drama with me as the garden changes lighting situations. I’m drooling over Adam’s designs. I bet you can do something like that for sure!


  3. By Iris on Oct 21, 2010

    Ooo-ah! Your variegated dianellas are cool. Surprise, surprise: I’m not familiar with them, so thank you. They would brighten several spots in my yard–will be keeping an eye out for them. I’m also intrigued by the Candelilla. Is it best in a container?


    Linda reply on October 21st, 2010 5:48 pm:

    Hi, Iris! Yes, the dianella has become one of my favorites to brighten up shade. It would work for you, for sure. The candelilla can definitely be in the ground or container.


  4. By Annie in Austin on Oct 21, 2010

    That title made me think this post was about spooky Halloween illuminations, Linda – but now, like Kat, think you wrote if for me! It’s so hard to deal with early morning sun on part of the borders, full pecan shade for hours followed by scorching, western sun at the front (most visible) side of the border in afternoon.

    Amazingly, the delicate looking Mutabilis rose is handling it, but it also wants to grow 10-feet wide and be an only child.

    I liked the orange-flowered Dicliptera suberecta/Uraguayan hummingbird plant that you showed last year, bought one and now have a few rooted cuttings… do you think it can take the western sun?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


    Linda reply on October 22nd, 2010 2:57 pm:

    Hi, Annie,

    I have a mutabilis rose in a situation like yours & it’s just fine. What a trouper!

    The dicliptera: mine gets western sun in small bursts. It wilts pretty fast if given too much at a time. It rallies, though. It’s a pretty versatile plant but I don’t know if it could several hours of western sun. Mine that gets the worst of it gets maybe 2 hours of that pain. Worth a try!


  5. By Louise D. Suhey on Oct 24, 2010

    Hi Linda! I planted a pink Turk’s Cap last year and it’s really taken off this fall. I just found it listed at the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio as Malvaviscus ‘Pam’s Pink’. It’s one of my new favorites. Could you please tell me what kind of digital camera you use. You take great photos that I’m very envious of. THANKS!


    Linda reply on October 24th, 2010 1:16 pm:

    Hi, Louise! I’ve been looking for a Pam’s Pink forever. This one from Barton Springs is just called “Pink.” Let’s hope it’s the same.

    I use an Olympus E-Volt 500 but these days there are tons of the “latest greatest” digital SLRS out there. Canon, Nikon, and Olympus make great ones. Many of them do video now, which mine doesn’t. I have an inexpensive Nikon Coolpix which takes good pictures & video, too.


  6. By Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings on Oct 25, 2010

    As I read, I found myself nodding. Yes, this one died due to too much sun, that too much water. Too cold. Oh, do I know about these trials of trying to get the light and shade just right. Further, trying to take a photo of a yellow rose or a white one is nearly impossible. They always look overexposed.~~Dee


    Linda reply on October 25th, 2010 3:18 pm:

    I have a really hard time trying to get white flowers in focus–haven’t figured that one out yet!


  7. By Kathleen Scott on Oct 28, 2010

    Hi Linda, I’m just catching up from time in the High Plains and enjoyed this post. The first picture is particularly gorgeous.

    I think every real gardener has had plant site issues at some time or other. Things grow up or out or we didn’t know how much sun or not a spot really got. Your area will be gorgeous by spring.


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