Sunday, October 7, 2012
Occasionally I get an email or comment asking me for plants for specific areas. Central Virginia (piedmont and plains east of the fall line) is my beat. Coastal plants are not my specialty, but I had an interesting question about lower-growing shade plants in a long, narrow bed in the coastal eastern shore. So I did some research
First, let's "chat" about the type of websites I find trustworthy and one sites about which I feel unsure. My first choice is to go to non-profit or governmental organizations, like the USDA, Ag Extension services, state environmental or natural resources departments; university web pages; associations for specific plants, like wildflowers or native plants and: master gardener and master naturalist programs. Though you can quibble about this, I do feel these types of sites are the best bet for objective, unbiased advice. Commercial sites can also provide information about plants and conditions, but caveat emptor. These sites have a vested interest in selling you plants. Reputable nurseries want you to be happy with the plants you buy to encourage repeat business. Others might not be so scrupulous. There are a few plant nurseries (mail order and local) I implicitly trust, due to past excellent service and product. Ask around, get recommendations, and read reviews. Keep track of the orders you get from these nurseries: the condition of the plants (root bound, healthy looking, smaller than expected) and how that plant does. Read between the lines of plant descriptions ("vigorous" can mean invasive, "delicate" can mean it will most likely die) and pay attention to the symbols used to indicate growth, habit, soil and setting.
So what advice did I give my friend? First, I told her that she has four conditions to deal with: shade, a narrow bed, bed bordered by concrete and coastal conditions. I suggested she contact the ag extension master gardener or mater naturalist program for her region. Then, I suggested she investigate these plants:
hostas, begonias, and huecheras (these come in neat foliage colors, yellow-lime to green to red to maroon, lovely shaped leaves) and all recommended for coastal shade gardens.