Gardening With What You Have

Plants That Get The Job Done

Christine Froehlich 06/13/2016 Comments

Plants That Get The Job Done


I'm always looking around for tough plants I can use on sites like this one - dry shade, lots of roots.....your basic nightmare. This little spot was located on a slight incline that would be viewed from a distance, so anything I planted had to be substantial and bold. It had to be easy to care for too, as the homeowner I was designing it for wasn't big on weeding and watering. Finding attractive plants that grow quickly and don't take over the whole bed is a tall order though. 



before pictures



 I decided to plant it with an assortment of hosta and Geranium 'Biokovo'-the little deep rose perennial you see below. These may not be the sexiest plants around, but they're attractive, easy to care for and grow quickly. There were other things in the bed already, lamium, a few ferns and some matricaria that had self seeded. I figured they could duke it out with each other.



after shot of shade bed


I will admit that Geranium 'Biokovo'  is a rambunctious grower - it would eat this little boxwood (in the picture below) right up if I let it. But it's easy to pull out and weeds rarely permeate its dense foliage.



geranium biokovo 1



 It's hardly a choice perennial, but it's a terrific groundcover. From late May through mid June, it puts on a nice show. Shade, sun, dry rooty soil, whatever - it doesn't miss a beat. The foliage may be a little drab after it flowers, but the tidy little leaves look good all summer - if you plant it in a bit of sun, the foliage will turn deep magenta in the fall.


Hostas may not sound glamorous either, but you can count on them to perform and you can do a lot with their big bodacious leaves, multi-hued colors and variegated foliage...what's not to like? Most of them can tolerate sun, shade and less than stellar soil conditions. Below is a shot of the nightmare bed after I planted it. That's Hosta 'Sum and Substance' front and center.


sum and substance hosta


 It stands out from a distance too. The bed is attractive, easy to care for and weeding is minimal.

 at a distance



You can create a variety of color palettes with hostas, and they grow happily in moist or dry conditions.





If you have damp soil, try underplanting them with the Hakonochloa 'All Gold' forest grass you see in the foreground.



gold foliage


They pair up nicely with evergreen and deciduous shrubs as well as other groundcovers. Here's another color theme, Hosta 'Sieboldi' and Cornus kousa 'Ivory Halo'.

gray foliage


Bottom line, you can invent some nice combinations with sturdy plants like this. As I see it, smart gardeners choose their battles!


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