Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hostas Make the Shade Garden

When you plant a Japanese garden, it's not all that flashy, and it is probably at least partially planted in shade.  In my garden's case, it's almost all shade since it it is within the edge of an old wooded area. That means you need to find out what shade plants work in your area. That is a trial and error pursuit. Some plants that aren't supposed to work in shade, will acclimate themselves to a shady location over 2 or 3 years. Others won't ever be happy there and will die if you don't move them to a sunnier spot.

I have come to rely on a few shade plants as the backbone of the garden, and hostas are one of them. We have received a lot of rain this year so far, and the hostas are getting so big that they are crowding on top of others next to them.  This one above, which I think is called "Abiqua Moonbeam", wasn't that big last year but has boomed out to about 2 feet wide this year. Hostas are perennials, so you can collect them a few at a time and they will come back for you year after year. You can also divide them when they got too big, which I think I will be doing next year.
The chartreuse beauty here has always been the big daddy of the hostas in the garden, but this year it has also spread like crazy and is over 3 feet wide.  I have it placed on a curve in a walking path, and it covers the space you would usually fill with 2 or 3 plants.  It is called "Sum and Substance" and is one of my favorites.  The chartreuse color really brightens up the darker shade.  It also looks great against the dark mulch and slate lining the paths.  Hostas do need to be watered if you get a dry patch during the summer, but overall they are pretty hardy. They are also one of the best plants for medium to deep shade. There are hundreds of varieties, so you could actually plant a varied hosta garden using few other plants.  Try a few hostas in your shade garden and you will soon fall in love with them.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Brown Snakes are Friendly

I have seen a couple of brown garter snakes in the garden this Spring.  When I was growing up, I only saw green and black garter snakes, I didn't know they came in brown.  Since I have lived here in Virginia, I have seen a few copperheads, which are poisonous, brown, short, but fat and scary.  So I was a little skittish to take a piece of wood off the woodpile last week and see a skinny brown snake curled up trying to keep warm.  I just gently put the piece of wood back on top of him.  I am not a "snake-picker-upper' of any snake, but they are welcome in the garden if they are not a danger to us.  I mean, I don't want to be fiddling with a plant and be in fear of getting bitten by a poisonous snake. This isn't the desert!

Anyway, I looked up these brown snakes and found that they are friendly, they eat slugs, which we need because slugs chew holes in the hostas at night. So, they are welcome.  I did get the chance to pick one up yesterday when I saw my cat, Zippy, in the yard occupied with something. Upon further investigation, he had a baby brown garter snake about 8 inches long, which was scared to death and probably anticipating his demise.  I shooed Zippy off and picked up the snake, which curled up in my hand.  He was pretty nice, no threat, cold, not slimy or anything.  I let him out under a hosta 30 yards away.  Nice fellow.  They are cool but unfortunately cats are fascinated by them. Time to have a talk with the cats....again.