Colorful Annuals for Shade
Every year I design the window boxes and main container at my family’s camp in Maine. Someday I want to write an article on all the combinations I have used, but right now this summer’s offering is all I can handle. I really enjoy the process of putting together the plantings because, at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, I don’t get the chance to work with annuals (although I also use perennials in the containers). The process of designing containers is like creating a temporary work of art. Cramming all the colors, textures, habits, and heights into one pot to be viewed just for the season is fun.
The container and the window boxes are by the front door, which faces the path coming down from the road. It is a part shade site, but it gets a lot of morning sun, making almost any plant suitable. I have used plants that take full to part sun and also plants that require part to full shade, and all have thrived. Over the years, my plant choices have become taller and more dramatic, with 2011 being my most colorful design yet. The house is stained driftwood gray, and the only color limitation is the front door, which is eggplant colored.
Just in case you want to use some of these plants in your own containers, here are the details. In the pot above, height, interesting texture, and color is provided by the annual red fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’. I use this grass a lot in containers because it is very reliable and only gets better as the season progresses. The middle of the containers is filled with purple ‘Dark Star’ and orangey pink ‘Sedona’ coleus, both reliable workhorses. The star of the mid level is a new plant to me, perennial golden aralia, A. cordata ‘Sun King’. It grows in part to full shade and matures at 3′ by 3′. Lower down is the tuberous begonia ‘Nonstop Apricot’ and spilling out the front are purple-leafed sweet potato vine ‘Midnight Lace’ and orange million bells ‘Aloha Orange’.
The window boxes are a few feet away from the front door so I use many of the same plants and colors. However, my choices are limited to lower growing plants because I don’t want to block the kitchen windows. I also like to choose plants, like the coleus, that look beautiful from the back when viewed from inside the house. In addition to the purple sweet potato vine, million bells, coleus, and begonia found in the pot, I have added the chartreuse sweet potato vine ‘Emerald Lace’.
We enjoy this planting from inside and out.
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