Welcome to A Writer’s Garden where writers who are gardeners or just love gardens will be sharing their garden and flower stories, as well as a bit about their writing.
today’s guest is Janis lane, who not only writes and gardens, but also co-owns a garden nursery with her son. Welcome, Janis!
Perennial SHADE PLANTS
Astilbe: colors range from white to red with many pastel shades in between. Since we are looking for a plant to brighten up a dark spot, red is perhaps the last choice. Something in the rose, light pink to white will add interest in a clump of hostas. Not a favorite of marauding deer. Height ranges from six to twenty inches depending on the variety. Zones are favorable to cold country. Recommend a clump of three to five of the same color for a healthy showing. The frilly ferny blossom is quite pretty in a cut flower collection, if you can bear to remove the bright blooms from your garden. Seed: fairly difficult.
Before we move on in the selections of plants, let’s talk a bit about the environment in which the plant will rest. First consideration is the cold/warm agricultural zone, which is the lowest temperature the plant may survive, but not necessarily thrive. Here in Western New York our coldness zone is from 4 to 6 depending upon location. Near the lake is the warmest, perhaps a 6. Other places, on a hill in damaging winds, consider yourself a 4/5. Always check the information on the identifying card that comes with the plant. It is possible to take a more tender plant and tuck it into a shelter adjacent to a warm wall or foundation to encourage it to thrive. Be wary. If the tag states 4-5, you have been warned. Astilbes are pretty zone hardy, but they enjoy a bit of partial sun now and then in the summer.
You have a new house with fantastic foundation plantings, but you really wanted to enjoy a patio right there. Novice gardener that you are, you timidly approach the tangle of greenery. Stop! A few truths to contemplate: first, there is no perfect garden. It’s always a work in progress. Second, if you are pleased with your efforts, it’s perfect. Only your opinion really matters. (Caveat here if you live in a neighborhood with particular rules.) Third, one of the best ways to make friends and get acquainted with the neighbors is to ask their advice regarding gardening. They may even give you the history of your mature garden, giving reasons why this corner or that corner is planted just so. Fourth, and this is important, perennial gardens change over the season. What you see in the spring may and certainly will be a very different scene by September.
Rushing into changing everything might be a mistake if you miss out on some of the more spectacular plantings that bloom throughout the summer.
Patience might be the word of the day for a new owner of a mature perennial garden. After a season passes, a more accurate assessment may be made or incorporated into new plans.
Brunnera, a foil for hosta.
Grows in the deepest shade, blooms lovely blue after early “Forget-me-nots” have vanished and the silvery leaves of some varieties sparkle without the bloom. Hardy to zone 3; deer and rabbits seem to prefer other plants, like for instance, hosta. With the current over-population of deer, this is an invaluable bit of information for shade gardeners. Let me reiterate. Deer Resistant. Not ever fail proof. In our perennial garden, a crop of very old peonies was decimated by a fawn just losing his spots. We stood watching helplessly thinking he hadn’t developed his taste buds yet. We lost a year of bloom, but perhaps it will revive this Spring.
Bloom time for perennial gardens.
Perennials bloom for two to four weeks, but return year after year. This is an important distinction from annuals. There is, of course, room to plant both, either separately or combined. We’ll return to a discussion regarding annuals, which bloom all summer, make, scatter seeds, and then die.
Plans for the placement of perennials is essential, but not critical. If you plant a short plant behind a taller one, you’ll soon realize your error. Pay attention to the information on the card as to height and everything will come about.
Bloom times should be staggered for perpetual color in a perennial garden. What do I mean by that astounding statement? Only that if the card tells you this plant blooms in the spring, its next door neighbor probably ought to bloom in the summer. As summer progresses, one fades, another takes its place. If you have followed the guideline to plant three to five of a certain variety, slowly, as one color replaces the next, the garden will not only change colors, but stay in constant bloom. You’ll reach a finale with fall blooms (pretty pink physostegia or anemone) or, late summer, replace a small bed of now scraggly annuals with outrageously brightly colored mums.
Just a short discussion re those lovely summer visitors. Erroneously some folks think planting perennials saves them work as the plant returns year after year. Which is easier? A bed where you pull up everything at the end of the year and start over in the Spring, or a bed where you must carefully weed around established plants (that have hopefully been carefully mulched.)? Gardening is never static and requires hands-on always. Suggest a novice gardener decide how much time he/she wants to spend working outside before chosing. My personal preface is both. I could not live without a splash of marigolds, profusion zinnias, or a stand of blazing sunflowers. But neither could I be satisfied if my friendly Brunnera was missing come Spring.
About the Gardener/Writer
Janis Lane is the pen-name for gifted author Emma Lane who writes cozy mysteries as Janis, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane.She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color.
At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.
Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.
by Janis Lane
Snapshot Suspicions is another adventure with Abby, beautiful, vagabond wildlife photographer, and Adam, ruggedly handsome, millionaire protector of the environment. A dangerous wildlife mystery requires the close attention of Adam and the local sheriff as Abby deals with two hired goons stalking her with a grudge. Basking in the rosy contentment of their love, Abby and Adam must trust each other as they encounter the first rift in their relationship. An engaging puppy presents a conundrum and a terrifying incident.
Abby discovers she can enjoy photographing subjects (AKC) other than wildlife and delights in setting up her own office, while Adam breathes a sign of relief when Abby makes a permanent commitment. Could she finally be thinking of a life time pledge to him?