Posted: Jul 3, 2007 2:12 pm
I keep thinking about your shady bed, Jack Stands! Please note: the following is a a bit of initial work and planning but could potentially yield years of pleasure.
Forget doing anything this summer but start planning for the fall. Fall is a great time to plant, divide perrenials and then in the spring you can watch it all come up. First you have to get your soil prepped. I have a feeling your hydrangia died b/c of poor soil. I'd dig a bed in late October/early November. Turn that dirt, turn it, turn it. If it's full of clay like so much of Memphis soil is, then get a cuple of yards of garden soil from Natures Earth on Summer and mix it in. It will be worth it the initial cost and work, otherwise anything you plant may have the fate of that Mother's Day hydrangia. After you prep the soil then I would get some hydrangias (regular and oak leaf - do not give up on this tried and true southern gem!). Get pass-a-long hostas from Alisa and ferns from someone. (Ferns and hostas - never buy them. I'd give you some of mine but they're still brewing. In a couple of years though bring your shovel.) Another shady bush that people don't grow so much anymore but is an old fashioned southern favorite is the Bottle Brush Buckeye. Trees by touliatas has them and I'm sure Dabney's and other green houses do too. They'll get big and wide and they have these wild white flowers on them in June. They are very Dr. Seus like. I love them. Other shady perennials - elephant ears (black taro), astilbe, ginger (ground cover) and wild begonia, which is mighty pretty. (Go to the Lichterman and Botanic Garden plant sales in early April. They have lots of shady native plants they grow themselves - like the ginger and wild begonia.)
Shady annuals w/ color that aren't flowers: coleus and caladiums. You will have deep reds, bright reds, purple, pink, bright whites, etc. all in the leaves of these beauties. Stringers always has the best collection of coleus every spring. They get widest variety of colors. Caldiums are cheapest to do by bulb. Every March I go to Dan West (they have the best calladium bulb selection) and get about 30 bulbs at a $1 a pop and then around late April when the ground has warmed up, I plant them. (If you wait until late April to buy them as bulbs they'll be gone. If you buy the plant they'll be $4 - $6 a pop!) It takes at least until Memorial Day before they'll come up but it's a real show when they do and they stay fresh looking through October, at which time you can dig them up and put them in a paper bag and put them out the next year. Oh, and you can always throw some impatients in there. My point is you can have lots of color w/out them if they don't do well.
Remember, if your soil is full of clay like so much memphis soil is, then it would be worth it to mix some good soil in. Natures Earth on summer is my favorite place for mulch, soil, etc. If you have a truck they will fill your truck for $30 of whatever you need. Every spring I get mulch from there. It's so much better than getting bag after bag at the Home Depot. (They deliver for about $25, which I have to do b/c I don't have a truck.)
Last but not least, if you get stuff for a plant fall planting water for a few weeks after you plant about every three days. Get a soaker hose, they are the best. Good luck, Jack Stands! I wish I could show you my shady bed. That sounds bad... but you know what I mean. Sorry this is so long, but I'm a garden nerd. Please don't ask about sunny perennials b/c my head might burst.