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GardenSMART Episode

Show #26/6813. Container Plants For Intense Shade Or Sun

Summary of Show

Typical Habitat Of Popular Indoor plants
If we consider the TYPICAL HABITAT of our most popular indoor plants, we find that they naturally grow in the deep shade of a tropical rain forest. There they have adapted themselves to very low light, which is what makes them ideal indoor candidates. It also turns out that they're perfect candidates for containers in those shady spots in our garden. This opens up a whole new palette of color and texture for the designer because many of these plants sport bold, bright colors that work wonders in dark, dreary corners.
For More Information Click here

How Much Shade
Pamela agrees - the first thing one needs to do when looking at a shade situation is to figure out HOW MUCH SHADE there is. Is there light shade, medium shade, dense shade. Light shade means you might be getting half sun, half shade, morning sun, something like that. And that's pretty easy to garden in. When you get to medium shade, the plants one can use diminish. When we get to dense shade, there are even fewer plant options. And, most of them are native to rain forest areas, they're tropicals.
For More Information Click here

Indoor Plants Fashionable
Suddenly indoor plants have became FASHIONABLE again, especially with millennials. Pamela agrees the green industry has really revved up production. She went down to central Florida to visit one of the growers who is heavily into this and was absolutely floored by all the textures and the colors he had. Now granted, the colors are not going to hold up in this much shade. But the textures are great and another thing that's cool is every day garden centers in their shade section now have a good many of these plants.
For More Information Click here

Pamela started With Guzmania Bromeliads
PAMELA STARTED with guzmania bromeliads. It is one of the bromeliads that takes the most shade. She didn't know if it was going to bleach out with this low light but luckily, it didn't. And then came in with interesting textures and some colors. She actually planted it randomly, which is odd because Pamela is so structured - "we're going to have this one and then that one, then repeat this one and that one." This is completely, randomly planted.
For More Information Click here

Specifics - Specific Plants
They next take a look at some of the SPECIFICS in here. There are a lot of different ferns. Pamela is used to ferns, probably 20 years ago when she went in the shade section all they had were ferns and ivies. So she has a lot of ferns and different kinds of ivy. But look at the new one, this Hypoestes is fabulous. The idea that she's getting this much color in this much shade is uncanny. Then we have the aluminum plant that's giving us texture as well as that spark of silver. Then we have what is called the inch plant, tradescantia zebrina, then move over to Rex begonias.
For More Information Click here

Cooler Months-Moving Indoors
Eric notes, we are talking about using indoor plants in this planter. So, it naturally follows that when we start getting into the COOLER MONTHS, we should just pick this up, set it indoors and protect it. The only reason that they're not perennial is because they're not cold-hardy. In their native habitat they are perennial naturally. So, it is more investment, these are not as cheap as a flat of annuals, but we can get years and years and years out of these plantings.
For More Information Click here

Window Boxes Side Planted
These window boxes are SIDE-PLANTED, which means you actually plant some plants through the sides. That provides extra fullness. Another thing Pamela likes about this planter is it's flat on the bottom instead of being curved. That way, you can put it on top of a deck railing as she did here. The only reason why she put it on top of the deck railing was because it would not clear the chairs if she had hung it from the railing.
For More Information Click here

Next Container
The NEXT CONTAINER is another wonderful example of what one can do with mostly indoor plants in deep shade. There are a number of repeated elements between the two containers, but additionally there are some splashes of really, really fun feature plants that Eric would like for Pamela to talk about. The focal point is the centerpiece. Pamela always likes to have a really dominant, splashy centerpiece. These are Anthuriums. They can take no sun whereas a lot of these shade plants can adapt to maybe morning sun. No, this one will really burn. Several other plants that Pamela thinks are significant - the first is aglaonema, which is another one that actually did hold its color in deep shade. She has a lot of different ivies, but one of the focal points that really pops up is the Dracaena lemon lime.
For More Information Click here

Repeated Themes
We've talked about the theory of using REPEATED THEMES in containers and how that really ties everything together, and it's one thing that Pamela has done wonderfully in this little corner of the deck. For example, the bromeliads are represented in all three of these containers. What Pamela was trying to do here was have a unifying factor other than just silver, thus incorporated other, different plants.
For More Information Click here

Baking, Intense Full Sun
Another really, really tough space to grow in is the BAKING, INTENSE, FULL SUN. Especially as we talk about containers. That can be, from a maintenance standpoint, a little difficult. On Eric's' back deck, it's 100% full sun pretty much from sun up to sun down. He has all these wonderful trough planters where he was growing herbs because it was close to the kitchen, plus was trying a lot of things that would provide more dense foliage because he wanted a really, really lush look. But the reality of life kind of catches up with us sometimes, when it's not practical to water those every day or every other day.
For More Information Click here

Right Plant In The Right Space
There are some plants that can perform marginally well, but it's best to get the RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT SPACE. If we can do that it takes so many of the headaches away from the gardener. More than any other single thing the difference between a green thumb and people who claim to have a brown thumb is siting plants correctly and working with the plants.
For More Information Click here

Succulents
That makes perfect sense to Pamela, coming from Florida and doing landscape architecture down there so long, she planted SUCCULENTS in containers whenever she was in a situation where they could not be drip irrigated. Because of the fact that the sun was so bright down there for the whole year, she would always use drip on plants that needed water. Pamela and Eric are looking at what she calls rosette succulents. They happen to be echeverias, which is what most people think of as a succulent. But she would like to point out that we also have huge plant families like agaves and sansevierias that also work really, really well in high sun, high light, low water situations.
For More Information Click here

Soil For Succulents
One of the only things one needs to bear in mind with succulents in general is just make sure you've got a WELL-DRAINED SOIL. You don't want to use a typical potting soil, look for something that's designed for succulents. Many of Eric's' succulents are planted in a modified orchid soil. So, just make sure that they have really, really good drainage, if we do that they're pretty easy to grow.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Pamela Crawford
Great Landscape Artist - Landscape Designer - Gardens -Pamela Crawford

Plant List

Show #26/6813. Container Plants For Intense Shade Or Sun

Transcript of Show

In this Episode GardenSMART is talking container design, but with a different twist. So much has changed in the last few decades in the world of containers, it has moved well beyond what we would consider a trend. Containers are now very much an expected element in any garden design. Along the way, there have been meaningful advances in container manufacturing that have opened up so many new opportunities for the gardener to insert bold, fun colors along with an endless array of sizes, shapes, and textures. And, containers have opened up small spaces by allowing the gardener to go vertical as well as bringing walls and handrails into play.

On a parallel path, plant breeders have also been working tirelessly on new selections that are super dwarf and compact and custom made for containers and small gardens. Things we never thought possible, like fitting a bald cypress into a patio garden is now not only possible, but popular.

We reconnect with renowned container designer and author Pamela Crawford to explore the use of a category of plants we don't often consider for containers, but it turns out they're perfect. And, that category is indoor plants.

If we consider the TYPICAL HABITAT of our most popular indoor plants, we find that they naturally grow in the deep shade of a tropical rain forest. There they have adapted themselves to very low light, which is what makes them ideal indoor candidates. It also turns out that they're perfect candidates for containers in those shady spots in our garden. This opens up a whole new palette of color and texture for the designer because many of these plants sport bold, bright colors that work wonders in dark, dreary corners. Nearly all of them are perennial plants. And all we need to remember to do is to bring our containers indoors when it starts to get cold so that we can enjoy them over the winter, plus use them again the next season. Pamela's been using this technique in her container designs for quite some time and has some beautiful examples of her work to share.

Eric thanks Pamela for joining us again. And, we've got so many exciting things to talk about as usual. Pamela has been a container gardener for many years and has gardened in a number of difficult situations, whether intense sun or in this case, deep shade. There’s a lot that she has learned over the years about growing in these tricky conditions and being successful in this environment. Pamela agrees - the first thing one needs to do when looking at a shade situation is to figure out HOW MUCH SHADE there is. Is there light shade, medium shade, dense shade. Light shade means you might be getting half sun, half shade, morning sun, something like that. And that's pretty easy to garden in. When you get to medium shade, the plants one can use diminish. When we get to dense shade, there are even fewer plant options. And, most of them are native to rain forest areas, they're tropicals. When Eric first took a glance at Pamela's designs out here, the way that she had incorporated so many of these tropical plants that we typically think of as house plants into her design he was impressed. And, Pamela did that because of shade. If you look up what you're going to see is mainly trees. You're going to see branches, you're not going to see sky. And that's how she assess sun, how much sky there is, then watches the way the sun peeks through throughout the day. And, it is dark on this particular porch. She is thrilled at how these plants turned out because she didn't know they were going to get this full. The downside is many of them had leaves that were a lot more colorful when in the garden center in bright shade than they are on this porch area. But the textures look so lush together they really pull this off. Eric thinks that's a wonderful tip for the home gardener when thinking about dense shade. He's had gardens in the past that have been in very dense shade and you just start running out of things that will even work. Looking at tropical house plants, then thinking about the lighting conditions inside our home, these plants that we think of as designed for being indoors, typically grow in very, very, very dark spaces. Just because that plant is typically found inside our house doesn't mean that we can't move it outdoors. Obviously every plant grew outdoors before we put it inside so they will absolutely perform in this setting and it's a great category of plants to think about when we're looking at dense shade. And availability is so much better.

Suddenly indoor plants have became FASHIONABLE again, especially with millennials. Pamela agrees the green industry has really revved up production. She went down to central Florida to visit one of the growers who is heavily into this and was absolutely floored by all the textures and the colors he had. Now granted, the colors are not going to hold up in this much shade. But the textures are great and another thing that's cool is every day garden centers in their shade section now have a good many of these plants. So, even though the colors are going to be more muted in dense shade, they still really, really have a lot of interest and there's a lot of pop to these plantings. Pamela finds it amazing because over the many years she has been container gardening and writing books about container gardens, that this is the first one she has ever planted in this much shade that has looked this full.

PAMELA STARTED with the guzmania bromeliads. It is one of the bromeliads that takes the most shade. She didn't know if it was going to bleach out with this low light but luckily, it didn't. And then came in with interesting textures and some colors. She actually planted it randomly, which is odd because Pamela is so structured - "we're going to have this one and then that one, then repeat this one and that one." This is completely, randomly planted. The only thing she did that follows her typical design theory is the idea of having a dominant centerpiece and it worked. Sometimes we get surprised. Pamela asks Eric to tell her what he thinks. What do you think of the plants that are in there? He loves it, this reminds him of walking through an old growth woodland forest. Just the way that everything grows together. And she has an incredible array of diversity and it's a range of some plants that are more common and some plants that are quite tropical. Just seeing the way that they all play together, is a very, very happy surprise.

They next take a look at some of the SPECIFICS in here. There are a lot of different ferns. Pamela is used to ferns, probably 20 years ago when she went in the shade section all they had were ferns and ivies. So she has a lot of ferns and different kinds of ivy. But look at the new one, this Hypoestes is fabulous. The idea that she's getting this much color in this much shade is uncanny. Then we have the aluminum plant that's giving us texture as well as that spark of silver. Then we have what is called the inch plant, tradescantia zebrina, then move over to Rex begonias. Rex begonias, she's had mixed luck with. She bought two this year, one lived and one didn't. All the other plants have done really, really well. It takes them longer to fill in, but if you have patience, they do great. Also, they are more expensive, more expensive than annuals, so it's important to remember that you can put these inside in the winter.

Eric notes, we are talking about using indoor plants in this planter. So, it naturally follows that when we start getting into the COOLER MONTHS, we should just pick this up, set it indoors and protect it. The only reason that they're not perennial is because they're not cold-hardy. In their native habitat they are perennial naturally. So, it is more investment, these are not as cheap as a flat of annuals, but we can get years and years and years out of these plantings. Then maybe every year we sprinkle in some annuals so that we are not looking at the same thing all the time. So, it can be more of a long-term investment.

These window boxes are SIDE-PLANTED, which means you actually plant some plants through the sides. That provides extra fullness. Another thing Pamela likes about this planter is it's flat on the bottom instead of being curved. That way, you can put it on top of a deck railing as she did here. The only reason why she put it on top of the deck railing was because it would not clear the chairs if she had hung it from the railing. They do come with hooks and the j-hooks which can be screwed into the edge. If using them up against wood, Pamela always puts something underneath. She uses Chapstick caps, toothpaste caps or whatever, just to move them up a little bit so the coco fiber doesn't come into contact with the wood.

The NEXT CONTAINER is another wonderful example of what one can do with mostly indoor plants in deep shade. There are a number of repeated elements between the two containers, but additionally there are some splashes of really, really fun feature plants that Eric would like for Pamela to talk about. The focal point is the centerpiece. Pamela always likes to have a really dominant, splashy centerpiece. These are Anthuriums. They can take no sun whereas a lot of these shade plants can adapt to maybe morning sun. No, this one will really burn. Several other plants that Pamela thinks are significant - the first is aglaonema, which is another one that actually did hold its color in deep shade. She has a lot of different ivies, but one of the focal points that really pops up is the Dracaena lemon lime. It has bold stripes in it. She did get a little bit more designer here in that she repeated it three times. Pamela asks again - Which plants does Eric particularly like? What he likes about this is the design reminds him of the way that a floral designer thinks about a bouquet. You've got splashes of color, but then there are also these other beautiful filler plants that add so much texture and depth. It has the maidenhair fern, then other little, small ferns. Then there are probably four or five different types of ivy that weave in and out of the pops of color. And he thinks of that as the greenery that goes into a beautiful flower bouquet and that makes this a really dynamic, elegant, complex thing. It's the composition of this that he loves. There are any number of plants that could be interchangeable in this, but it's the way that they all work together. Any little corner of this basket that you look at is just a very complete piece of design.

We've talked about the theory of using REPEATED THEMES in containers and how that really ties everything together, and it's one thing that Pamela has done wonderfully in this little corner of the deck. For example, the bromeliads are represented in all three of these containers. What Pamela was trying to do here was have a unifying factor other than just silver, thus incorporated other, different plants. She didn't want to stay with the exact same recipe, but needed them to coordinate together so that your eye didn't look away and say, "oh my gosh, that clashes and looks terrible.” So what she used for the centerpiece plants in all of these is a bromeliad. She calls it silver bromeliad, the botanical name is alcantarea odorada. The reason she used these plants in this container is this corner gets a lot of sun. There are a lot of silver bromeliads, Aechmea fasciata is probably the most common but it actually will take full sun. The best place to find these is just google the botanical name, and you're going to see lots of them for sale.

Many of the questions that we get from viewers at GardenSMART have to do with, “What do I plant with extreme growing environments?” “What works there?" And that is one reason Eric loves our conversation about deep shade, because it's an area where people don't feel like they have as many options.

Another really, really tough space to grow in is the BAKING, INTENSE, FULL SUN. Especially as we talk about containers. That can be, from a maintenance standpoint, a little difficult. On Eric's' back deck, it's 100% full sun pretty much from sun up to sun down. He has all these wonderful trough planters where he was growing herbs because it was close to the kitchen, plus was trying a lot of things that would provide more dense foliage because he wanted a really, really lush look. But the reality of life kind of catches up with us sometimes, when it's not practical to water those every day or every other day. So he was really struggling to try to maintain plants in a place where they really didn't want to be. They really needed a lot more soil and maybe didn't want 12 hours of direct sun. So he was just fighting nature in the same way as in the deep shade.

There are some plants that can perform marginally well, but it's best to get the RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT SPACE. If we can do that it takes so many of the headaches away from the gardener. More than any other single thing the difference between a green thumb and people who claim to have a brown thumb is siting plants correctly and working with the plants. Pick the plants that belong in that space and you'll be so much more successful. So, what he did on his back deck was took out all of those herbs, planted them in his garden with more shade, then went with 100% succulents and cacti. He's been so much happier since then because he finally got the right mix of plants.

That makes perfect sense to Pamela, coming from Florida and doing landscape architecture down there so long, she planted SUCCULENTS in containers whenever she was in a situation where they could not be drip irrigated. Because of the fact that the sun was so bright down there for the whole year, she would always use drip on plants that needed water. Pamela and Eric are looking at what she calls rosette succulents. They happen to be echeverias, which is what most people think of as a succulent. But she would like to point out that we also have huge plant families like agaves and sansevierias that also work really, really well in high sun, high light, low water situations. One of the things that she's done the most are succulent bowls, they are so easy. Just pop the succulents in a bowl and that's it. She doesn't water them, just leaves them there. These particular rosette choleas are gray right now. Pamela went to a nursery in central Florida in February when it was cool, they had a lot of rosette succulents that were all these bright colors and it was really, really startlingly beautiful to see. A lot of the ones planted in these bowls get pink tips or pink centers. But, it's completely different in the summer than in the winter.

One of the only things one needs to bear in mind with succulents in general is just make sure you've got a WELL-DRAINED SOIL. You don't want to use a typical potting soil, look for something that's designed for succulents. Many of Eric's' succulents are planted in a modified orchid soil. So, just make sure that they have really, really good drainage, if we do that they're pretty easy to grow. In the world of plants, one that Eric wants to mention that he has had wonderful success with, yet is quite new to the market, is the mangaves, which is a hybrid between manfreda and agave. There's a whole wonderful line of them that Walters Gardens has been playing with over the years that are just now starting to make it into market. With them you get really the best of both worlds with all these bold colors from the manfreda and then a lot of the hardiness of agave plus an incredible range of colors. With these tropicals and house plants and then also with succulents, we have categories of plants that are exploding and there's so much exciting stuff that's going on out there. A great new hobby for a lot of gardeners.

Eric thanks Pamela, we always learn so much when spending the day and it's been so much fun over the many years just seeing the way that her design aesthetic has evolved and all the many wonderful things that she has put together and the many wonderful books that she has written. There's so much that we're able to learn from Pamela. Are there any final words of wisdom that she might have for our viewers?

Pamela does. She's very enthusiastic about the availability of plants now. It used to be that you could only go to your garden center to find plants, thus we were often limited in plant choice. At this point in time, she would venture to say that every plant on this deck is available online. So, if you have problems finding a plant, just google it and order it in. Eric agrees, that's a great tip. Oftentimes we see either in books or gardening television, plants that look really, really exciting to us. But that used to present a challenge, however the world is getting smaller and smaller every day with the internet.

An other thing Pamela would like to emphasize is if you do stop by a garden center and she does that a lot. Even if she's at the grocery store, there's probably a garden center next door or down the street she goes and visits the garden center. If she sees a bunch of stuff that looks good, she jumps on it because if she waits and goes back the next day, it's gone.

Eric agrees. Thanks Pamela so much for sharing the day with us. We had so much fun. Container gardening is so much fun. Pamela in turn thanks Eric for visiting.

LINKS:

Pamela Crawford
Great Landscape Artist - Landscape Designer - Gardens -Pamela Crawford

Plant List

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