Peter Cun­dall: How to get the best out of shady char­ac­ters

Gar­den­ing guru Peter Cun­dall ex­plains how many beau­ti­fully flow­er­ing plants don’t need full sun to thrive and many grown in Tassie do well un­der the dap­pled shade of trees

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - with Peter Cun­dall

While most of the plants we grow, thrive in full sun­light, it’s a well-known fact that many of the most beau­ti­ful flow­er­ing plants thrive best in the dap­pled shade of trees. The most valu­able, gen­tle sun­light they need is re­ceived dur­ing the early parts of the day, with good shade dur­ing af­ter­noons. Few plants pro­duce flow­ers in deep, sun­less shade.

Aza­leas and rhodo­den­drons al­ways suc­ceed in the soil be­neath most de­cid­u­ous trees be­cause of the acidic con­di­tions and de­com­posed fallen leaves. Rhodo­den­drons with very large leaves thrive and flower to perfection in very shady cor­ners, although ex­tra deep shade pro­duces growth buds but few flow­ers.

The ma­jor­ity of rhodo­den­drons, es­pe­cially those with small leaves are fully at home in full sun, although flower trusses may be­come bleached and fade quickly. Ex­cep­tions in­clude Pink Pearl which blooms glo­ri­ously in full sun­light.

Among the most beau­ti­ful of all wood­land shrubs is Pearl Flower ... no won­der it was nom­i­nated as the Plant of the Cen­tury by Bri­tain’s Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety

Ku­rume aza­leas are also at their best grow­ing in di­rect sun­light. For dap­pled or semi-shade the Sat­suki hy­brids are un­beat­able. These are worth search­ing for be­cause they pro­duce clus­ters of huge flow­ers in early sum­mer when most other aza­leas have long fin­ished bloom­ing.

De­cid­u­ous aza­leas - usu­ally la­belled ‘mol­lis’ in many gar­den cen­tres - are won­der­ful for light shade. They look par­tic­u­larly good grow­ing be­neath Ja­panese maples be­cause they flower just as the first colour­ful maple leaves ap­pear.

Many de­cid­u­ous aza­leas on sale are grown from seed and still pro­duce spec­tac­u­lar dis­plays of golden, or­ange, red or apri­cot blooms. Mol­lis aza­leas are dif­fi­cult to prop­a­gate from cut­tings, un­less young soft shoots taken in spring are used.

Af­ter lower leaves have been re­moved, a dozen soft-wood cut­tings can be in­serted close to­gether into a 150mm pot filled with a moist mix of pit sand and co­co­peat. If kept out of the sun and both pot

and cut­tings kept en­closed in a clear plas­tic bag, roots be­gin to form in weeks.

There’s a bril­liant wood­land shrub called Enkianthus cam­pan­u­la­tus. De­spite its long name this won­der­ful plant is ideal for most cool-cli­mate gar­dens. Any pro­tected, cool, slightly shady and acid-moist con­di­tions are per­fect as long as drainage is good. In spring, the branches are fes­tooned with creamy bells, each marked with crim­son stripes. This 3m tall shrub is per­fect for grow­ing among rhodo­den­drons and ferns.

The Ja­panese Star Anise (Il­li­cium anisa­tum) is an­other wood­land beauty. Be­ing very slow grow­ing means it takes a very long time to be­come a tree. The aro­matic, star-shaped fruit are slightly toxic, so avoid us­ing them.

Vibur­nums of all kinds tol­er­ate light shade. Most el­e­gant of all is V. to­men­to­sum Mare­sii, is a small, won­der­fully-at­trac­tive tree with un­usual, hor­i­zon­tal branches. In spring the over­lap­ping sprays of bright green leaves are laced with lovely flat, snow-white flow­ers, light­ing up the light shade in which it thrives.

The Chi­nese Snow­ball (V. op­u­lus Ster­ile) flow­ers dur­ing Novem­ber. It grows con­tent­edly, even when crowded among other shrubs, but reaches into sun­light in or­der to flower. The flow­er­ing bracts look as though some­one has adorned this large shrub with snow­balls. Eas­ily grown from semi-ripe cut­tings taken in early sum­mer.

I’ve of­ten seen the plant known as the Sa­cred Flower of the In­cas (Can­tua bi­color), grow­ing and flow­er­ing beau­ti­fully in light shady con­di­tions. The long trum­pet flow­ers can be yel­low and white, pink, rosy-pur­ple or striped even on the same shrub.

Luck­ily this rather strag­gly plant thrives in Tas­ma­nia and is of­ten un­der planted with Span­ish blue­bells which flower at the same time.

Among the most beau­ti­ful of all wood­land shrubs is Pearl Flower (Pieris x for­restii). Grow­ing up to 2m tall it be­comes cov­ered with droop­ing clus­ters of pearly­white flow­ers in mid-spring, sur­rounded by bright red new leaves. To­tal en­chant­ment. No won­der Bri­tain’s Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety nom­i­nated this amaz­ing shrub as the Plant of the Cen­tury.

All these plants can go in right now into any lightly-shaded but empty spots in your gar­den. And they make fan­tas­tic Christ­mas pre­sents.

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