Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's New in the Garden

Every spring I choose a different selection of shade plants for the front porch planter. This year I chose (clockwise from front): asparagus fern (not a shade plant, but always does well in this location), Sonic White New Guinea impatiens, Colorblaze Marooned coleus, Chocolate Drop coleus and Sonic Lilac New Guinea impatiens. The man at the garden shop cautioned us against buying regular impatiens, saying they are plagued by a fungus called downy mildew. He said the New Guinea variety is safe. Have you had problems with impatiens? One article I read said basil can also be affected. I hope the little basil plant I bought doesn't get it!

I purchased a Kimberly Queen fern at the farmers' market, which looks perfect in a wicker basket I had. I placed it between the front door and the bench, a space that needed some color, height and shape. On the steps, a blue pot holds a caladium, a good shade plant that looks pretty in a container. Rounding out the front porch are a couple of hanging Boston ferns and a calibrachoa Superbells Grape Punch with pretty, two-toned purple flowers. 

The ferns in the front garden are coming back beautifully. They always look a bit rough after winter. I love this birdbath, and so do the birds! Regular visitors include robins, catbirds and blue jays. For the backyard, we bought a new birdbath at our favorite garden shop. It's smaller and lower to the ground, and will probably get more use from the dogs as a water bowl.

I hung the hummingbird feeder Memorial Day weekend, and we were delighted to see a visitor the same day, within hours! 

If you've never fed hummingbirds and are interested in doing so -- and I highly recommend it -- here are some tips. Forgo the packaged mixes and red dye, and instead use a feeder that has red on it, which will attract the birds. Some people believe that red dye may harm the little birds and there really is no need to use it as long as your feeder is red.

Making your own nectar is easy using a one to four ratio: 1/4 cup of white granulated sugar to 1 cup water (do not use any other kind of sugar, honey or artificial sweetener). We boil the water first to remove impurities and pour it over the sugar so it dissolves quickly. Be sure to let the mixture cool before filling the feeder. Change the nectar and clean the feeder frequently during hot weather since mold can form in just a couple of days.

Hummingbirds are amazing and beautiful little creatures. They're also entertaining, especially when there are two or more birds vying for space at a feeder. Hummingbirds are territorial and will chase each other off. I have seen photos in which many hummers are feeding at the same time, but we've never had that happen, have you? To learn more about hummingbirds, here are a few good sources: The Hummingbird SocietyWild Birds Unlimited, National Geographic Kids (video).


  1. As always, your planters look amazing. You've got a great eye for color combinations.

    My sister has several hummingbird feeders in her yard in the Hill Country of south central Texas. Under the canopy of live oaks six or seven at a time can be seen vying for a space at the nectar tubes. We like to sit in the benches under the trees and hear them. Their several wings sound like light sabers!

  2. Everything looks so pretty! I love your porch with the seating and all the pretty plants.

    We feed the hummers and the other birds. Love watching them. :)

  3. Love all the planters and bringing the hummers up close is so fun! They are enjoying our honeysuckle vine in bloom right now on one of our patio arbors too. The details on your bungalow are so great! Love the paint choices, the brick and the wood detail things that hang down (not sure of the name) add so much charm. What a happy loved porch, I know you will be enjoying it all summer!

  4. I don't think there's anything more classic than a Boston fern on a front porch. I was thrilled to find big ones at Home Depot for $9.95. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to make it last until December when I'll cut it up to use on the Christmas tree.

    My front door faces north and gets about one hour of morning sun so I did white caladium, with white New Guinea impatiens and some variegated ivy. I've wanted to do big asparagus ferns on my back porches for the past few years but I can't find any up here.

    I love your front porch!

    1. Thanks, Steve. The front of our home also faces north so shade plants are necessary. The hanging flowering plant with purple flowers gets late afternoon sun, which can be very hot, so I have to be careful to water it well. I love Boston ferns, but Dallas ferns are even nicer because they don't shed like Bostons. I haven't seen any in the past couple of years.

  5. All lovely, Claudia! Will you let us know how your New Guinea impatiens handle the shade? I hear they won't bloom as well. And I didn't know about the mildew / fungus problem affecting regular impatiens. That is a real shame as impatiens are truly the stars of shade gardens.
    PS - Love your glazed birdbath :)

  6. Looks fabulous!! Yes the impatient outbreak had all my friends in the Master Gardener Association in a frenzied state of panic. I envy your ferns! Mine are so wimpy

  7. All lovely indeed. I am a big fan of ferns as I have big shade beds. And love coleus for its colour. I have no luck with impatiens. They flower, die and then never reflower even with good food. I dunno. They just don't like me.

    Love the fern beside the door - !

    xo T.

  8. Lovely! I really like your large fern in the basket by the door.


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