Saturday, August 11, 2012

Shade is also a place

The seldom-seen shady corner...

The New Dawn's large pot, with hollow walls and a reservoir in the bottom, is at last hidden. Resting on top of it, and right in the corner, is a 14" terra cotta pot filled with the tiaralla whose leaves you can barely see, a clematis (now in bloom way up above) and a gloriosa lily. It is a happy pot. It was a new addition this year, a wonderful dead space to use, nothing else going on, and nothing else could be squeezed in with the leggy New Dawn, which already shares accommodations with an autumn clematis and two statuesque lilies. The impatiens in the front are volunteers that came up in the gravel earlier in the year, now potted up in 6" terra cotta.

Next door are the premature fall anemones, old lilies, and the hosta. At floor level this corner gets the least sun on the terrace, as it nudges up against the south wall of the small space. At the 5' elevation, all that changes. Tall plants that like sun are fine: to wit, the lilies, the rose and clematis. Lower plants must like bright shade.

When I was designing gardens full time I used to spend a lot of time explaining shade.

There is my favorite charcoal, Royal Oak, lurking under braai. I love it. It catches fast, just with balls of paper underneath, and it burns long, and hot. It is impregnated with nothing horrible, and is made of hardwoods, I think in Missouri. It comes in nice shardlike shapes and sizes. No great big logs, little dust. 

On top of the braai are the orphans, currently a Mexican hyssop with no place to go (especially not Arizona), and a new Nepeta (subsessilis), which needs potting up. Does anyone know it and grow it? It is Japanese and likes some shade, I hear.  

The beaded cow is from Cape Town. It is an Nguni cow. I saw a real one in the Drakensberg just before we got caught in that scary mountain pass thunderstorm and flood a couple of years ago. Oh! And matches. A gift from Rockport. That might sound funny, but I have a thing about matches. Not as bad as my dad's thing about matches, but it's still a thing. 

There you have it. No more secrets. 


  1. I know three things about Nepeta.

    1 it likes cool, moist soil

    2 it will NOT tolerate being dry.And it will give very little warning;just up and die on you.

    3 it is so lovely you should try it!

  2. dinahmow - you mean this particular one? The grey-leafed nepetas I know are very drought tolerant...

  3. Amazing how many things you have in what looks like a tiny corner ! I've just read your story in the scary mountains 😨it reminds me one trip we took in the Croatian rocky mountain (Velebit) was supposed to be a shortcut...without a map and with a young baby...we got lost, with no water. It was gorgeous but scary !

  4. Marie, I have grown the one you have tucked in that one pot (on the left on the table). I would also say it likes more water than say, Walkers Low. I love its more limey green color and the bright blue larger flowers. Its color is better in more sun, and it responds very well to frequent pinching of its growing tips, making it bushier, otherwise it seems to want to be a single leader growth plant. Removing the spent blooms makes it seem to bloom forever. Unlike Walkers Low it does not come into bloom early (June) and get sheared back for a second spurt of growth from the base (and an additional bloom if your season is long enough). It seems to bloom more with the summer solstice. I love this plant, ideally it gets full sun for increased vigor.

    I hardly ever see it for sale commercially, you must have friends in green places!

  5. I just wanted to let you know, that even though I have an enormous yard and garden (overrun with grass and weedes) out in the country. Your blog inspires me.

  6. Love how you worked in a shot at AZ.

  7. Your nepeta is a species plant from Japan. They aren't as drought tolerant as some varieties.

  8. We added N. subsessilis and several others to our lineup when Walker's Low was the PPA Plant of the Year. I grew it like the others (most of which grow like crazy for us) but never had much success with it. Like Rachelle, ours did not bloom with the others (I foolishly expected it would) and it was unhappy in our VA piedmont heat so by the time it was ready to bloom, it was too ugly to sell. I've had similar problems with one of the cultivars and a new Nepeta that I'm fairly sure has subsessilis in its parentage. It looks great online so hopefully you can make it work :) Missouri Botanic Garden has good info on their site. Good luck!

  9. yeah, shout out to the Missouri Botanical Garden. i am a member and they have a great plant info website:

  10. Sorry, I should have said "This" Nepeta.
    But Rachelle has covered it very well.If you can make the terrace in July more like the Japanese mountains...;-)


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