The green garden
May 25, 2021
Most everyone can agree that a garden full of color can be quite charming. But not every location is hospitable to these colorful blooms.
What to do? Try adding a variety of greens and other ornamental plants like we have done on our 65-acre campus in Aurora, New York.
Our biggest patches of blooming green are just south of our Farmhouse, where tall trees tower overhead, making the area semi-shady. Hostas are perfectly suited for these spots, providing lush foliage and being extremely low maintenance. Plus, because they’re perennials, hostas come back year after year.
The hosta family includes more than 2,500 cultivars, so chances are you’ll find one or two you love. Colors range from a soft, creamy white to a green so deep it’s almost blue. Leaves, especially on mini hostas like “Pandora’s Box,” can be small and delicate or quite large like those on “Sum and Substance,” which can grow up to two feet across.
To retain leaf color, plant the darker-colored hostas in moderate shade and the lighter-colored ones where there’s some sun. Variegated hostas also need shady spots that have a little more sun.
Plant hostas in rich, organic soil with a slightly acidic pH. Dig the hole for the plant about a foot deep and wide enough to accommodate the spread of a full-sized plant so the roots have room to grow.
You can also add green annuals to container plants, which is something that we frequently do in our Courtyard fountain garden. Corinne Bowman, our estate manager, has several annuals that she likes to use in our containers every year that don’t flower but still add a pop of color.
This year, she’s planting:
- Alternanthera “Purple Prince”
- Alternanthera “Red Threads”
- Dusty Miller “Silver Dust”
- Sweet Potato Vine “Blackie”
- Coleus “Stained Glassworks Royalty”
- Perilla “Tricolor”
Finally, we also plant ornamental grasses that are dependable backdrops in our floral borders and serve as windbreaks in our often-harsh Upstate New York winters. These plants are extremely tough, making them perfect for spots that get a little more wear and tear like the areas near our Barn Sale tents. As with most plants, these love rich, well-drained soil.
Ornamental grasses are known for being low maintenance, but they might need occasional dividing in the spring to control large clumps or reinvigorate growth. Most varieties are cut back in the spring, so that the foliage is four to six inches tall. But some grasses are deciduous, so the new growth will come in quickly while the old growth dies back.