By Janie Blank
For almost twenty-five years I lived in the woods. Not really deep woods but to give you an idea, my sunniest spot got about 3 1/2 hours a day of sunshine. Not even close to what is required for a plant that says full sun.
Experimentation was the name of the game for me and my friend and neighbor. We shared our successes and failures, traded plants and worked hard to maintain a pretty yard. We had to plant a lot of annuals to maintain color. But my true love is perennials! We would continue to try any plant that said sun to part shade. In many cases they actually did pretty well. Of course we had little to compare it with, not having a neighbor who had much sunshine.
We had our best success with Daylilies. In Central Ohio I was able to have blooms from June 15 to the first week of August by planting early, middle and late season varieties. The Stella D'Oro and other re-bloomers, did not re-bloom. However, I was able to get hundreds of blooms assuming I could keep the deer from chomping off the buds. Daylilies, and not just the roadside orange, can be grown in a lot less than full sun as the tag suggests. I was fortunate that my sun was mid-day sun. I am not sure but think this might make up for some of the shortage of hours of sun. Depending on the plant I am sure an argument can also be made for morning sun.
Another plant that always provided my garden with six weeks of blooms was Bee Balm or Monarda. I had a variety of shades from pink to purple to lavender to red and they made a nice mass of color. The bees and hummingbirds loved them and I could always count on their return. However after about ten years they started to die out and needed replenishing. I tried them in other areas of the yard, but the only place they came back with vigor was the section of garden that had the mid-day sun.
I had only minimal success with Lythrum or Loosestrife. The blooms were sparse and the stocks were not strong. They did continue to return each year but without any vigor. Purple Coneflowers and Rubeckia just were not happy at all. They did not return. Coral Bells always had beautiful leaves and were perennial but they had just a first set of blooms and no more.
Of course we did well by the old standards for shade, Hostas and Alstilbe. I had three wonderful Hosta beds with every possible variety. They bloomed over a course of a couple of months giving a beautiful show of foliage even after the flowers had been cut back. The Astilbe also did well and had great color but no matter what they say, my Hosta and Astilbe that were in a few hours a day of sun did better than those that were not.
Fast forward to this summer and I am now in a new home with hours and hours of sunshine each day! I am like a kid in the candy store when I go to the garden center. It is now almost mid-August and without planting a single annual, I have masses of color in my yard!
Since the last time I gardened in sun they have developed something called carpet roses. Wow! They do not require the care of a tea rose but the color is just fantastic! Mine get at least 7 hours a day of sun and much of that is morning sun that I have come to learn roses prefer. I am thrilled with their performance.
My Stella D'Oro and Happy Returns daylilies, the repeat bloomers, are doing just that! I dead head them and fertilize and they are sending up new buds. It will be fun to see how long they last. They do not get sun until about 10:30 in the morning but then get it all afternoon.
I also planted Lythrum and they are tall and straight and full of blooms a third of the way through August. I enhanced that bed with Purple coneflowers and Bee Balm. They get the afternoon sun only.
It will be fun to see what next year looks like and how these perennials like their new home in the sun.