It's shady...NO! It's sunny?

lindakimyAugust 28, 2007

I hope someone can give me some advice about a planting bed beside my driveway. The driveway runs pretty much west to east and this bed is on the north side of it. There's woods - mostly oak with some pine, hickory, and persimmon - along the drive behind this bed. To complicate matters, the drive curves in an S shape, which means that there are some trees to both west and east of the bed even though they stand back from the drive itself. Clear? I'm not surprised.

So...when we moved to this place there were lorapetalums planted in the driveway bed. They were almost dead. In the first place they had had no care for months. But also the soil in this bed is poor and sandy. At least drainage is perfect! But we have had moderate drought for several years and the bed tends to dry out very quickly. I moved the ailing lorapetalums to another area and amended the bed with compost and stall cleanings and put in cannas, thinking that they should do well in a south facing exposure.

The cannas failed to grow well, probably because the bed was not really rich enough but also because there is not enough sun there during spring and early summer. I spent one Saturday checking hourly to see whether it ever received full sun. It didn't. I moved the cannas to a full sun exposure and they took off like rockets. They are now about 9 feet tall and blooming like crazy, compared with about 2 feet and hardly any blooms in the driveway bed.

So then (late May or so) I decided to treat the bed as a shady area since it was evidently too shady for cannas. I planted caladiums. They grew VERY well at first and made a lovely bit of color there until late July when, it seemed that the earth turned and - WHAT!? - my driveway bed is now in full, blazing sun every afternoon and my caladiums are brown and crispy.

This is obviously a problem of exposure that changes as the earth's tilt moves during the season. But WHAT can I plant there that can tolerate this? Actually, I would prefer something that would thrive there but that may be asking too much. I am not really particular - perennials, annuals, shrubs. I would like something that would bloom or have colorful foliage and have a fairly long season of color because the drive is very long and boring otherwise. Any ideas?

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Maybe give chrysanthemums a try? Mine are fairly drought tolerant, and they seem to need more sun in the fall around bloom time. That's a tough one!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 8:22AM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

If you like Daylilies, I have them planted in both sun and shade, more flowers in the sun though.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 10:41AM
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Chrysanthemums are a great idea, dragonplant! They should make a nice base - green most of the season and then great color after other things are over. AND they are available in all the garden centers right now for cheap!

Aftermidnight, I LOVE daylilies! Wonder if some varieties do better in shade than others? Research time!

I was thinking last night about maybe treating this as a sort of seasonal bed - sort of like the ones in front of fancy public buildings. You know, put out spring blooming annuals early on and then rip those out and replace them with something that can take the sun. A bit labor intensive but it could work - especially with a bit of a perennial base like the mums and daylilies.

Thanks for the ideas and please keep 'em coming!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 11:07AM
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stage_rat(5--Indiana Riviera)

I think we have a similar growing situation in our yards, although you wrote that the driveway area never receives full sun in the spring? So, there's NEVER actual sunlight on the ground, or is it dappled sun/shade? My yard is mostly dappled sun/shade, and I have a spot that is shaded by the garage in spring, then gets much more sun in the summer months. (It gets noontime sun, but is then shaded by the house). Oh, and my soil is sandy, too.

If you're actually getting some dappled sun in the dirveway, those cannas may do just fine there--they'll poke along in the spring, then take off in summer. Full-sun plants that do well for me in part shade include zinnias, feverfew, agastache, ditch lilies, obedient plant, silene armeria, phlox and foxglove. Peonies! Zebra grass or other ornamental grasses, Black-eyed susan. I don't know how well any of those do in your zone, though. My agastache is in the spot that receives little sun until summer, and then gets the hot noon sun, and it is a very happy plant!

What about spring-flowering bulbs? They'd look great in the shady spring, and then could be shielded by some summer foliage from sun-loving plants. But, I know your zone is a factor with bulbs, too.

If you really don't get any sun at all until mid-summer, I don't know what to suggest!

With the sandy soil, I have found that fertilizer just washes through. I have amended it a lot, (I amended some of it with clay soil this year!) but I also fertilize more. Using an organic fertilizer will ensure you're not over-applying soluble nitrogen, or use a time-release fertilizer.

I hope some of these ideas help!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 1:34AM
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I've had similar experiences to stage rat with zinnias and phlox when I lived in zone 8 (Austin).

I would suggest lantana. I love the stuff. The only thing it really doesn't like is too much fertilizer or too much water. Several varieties bloom for 8+ months out of the year, too. Just be sure you edge it; it can be invasive but stays inside borders pretty well.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 9:24AM
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Not that sure about your zone (8) but I agree with many of the sugguestions. For perennials: grasses do very well in poor soil. Mix in Blackeyed susans, Goats Beard (love it!) and Russian Sage which will tolerate dappled light but love full sun. You may also like sedum. Plant the sedum along the perimeter of the drive since it only grow about 15" high.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 7:47PM
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