Gardening in Langley: Colours possible in shade

Dear Anne,

“I am hoping you can give me some suggestions as to what to plant in a newly created bed that is almost in the shade during the summer months and spans about 4.7 metres (12 feet).

Brian Cronkhite, Burnaby

Sarcococca humilis blooms very early in spring, and has small white very fragrant flowers.

Winter colour from red berries can be had from skimmias. You need a male and a female skimmia to get berries.

Dwarf rhododendrons would succeed beautifully under trees. I’d suggest the Yakushimanums, which are generally various pinks, some quite pale with a deeper pink bud. All are excellent plants and many kinds are easily available. 

There are many lovely purples among small-leaved rhododendron hybrids, including Blue Diamond and Ramapo, as well as whites and pinks. Garden centres have a good selection in spring.

For good spring bloom, brunnera has a long flowering season. Some varieties have gold-splashed leaves. All have small, blue forget-me-not flowers. Another good, long spring bloomer is pulmonaria, with flowers that can be variably pink, blue, or white with pale green or silver blotched or splashed leaves. Both brunnera and pulmonaria self-seed abundantly.

So does Helleborus orientalis, which buds early in the year. After flowering for many weeks, the cup-like flowers morph into large seed-heads. They self-seed prolifically.

Over the summer, columbines and astilbes thrive in shade. For fall flowers and silver-dappled winter leaves, Cyclamen hederifolium makes a lovely low-growing plant.

Hydrangeas also enjoy shade. The lacecap ones might grow to conflict with your trees, but Hydrangea macrophylla and its large mopheads stays compact. 

With a presence that gets more emphatic each year, Fuchsia magellanica, begins flowering about the end of July and continues till frost. It’s popular with hummingbirds.

Clematis would flower well if it can get up trees into the sun. Very vigorous ones can be hard to control. The shorter clematis should be easier to handle.

The one vine-like plant that flowers persistently in 100 per cent shade is Jasminium nudiflorum which has yellow (scentless) flowers through December to February. It’s not self-supporting, so it must be tied onto a frame, and it needs drastic pruning after flowering. But it flowers for many weeks at the most needy time of year.

Dear Anne,

“I have a kalanchoe plant that has finished blooming. I have cut back the flower stems. How do I get it to bloom again?”

Koko, Vancouver

After cutting back the flower stems, encourage reblooming by putting the plant in a dark place for 14 hours each day – then put it in bright light for another ten hours each day. Since kalanchoes are small plants, it should be easy to pop them in and out of a cardboard box.

This light variation should last for about six weeks, and during that time, it’s best not to water them or fertilize them. It should be a completely dormant time.

When you see buds on your kalanchoe, it can return to having a normal life again.

Some people apparently keep kalanchoe going strong for years by this method.

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