The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shade Gardening versus Sunny Gardening.
Some Plants Are Created, Engineered, and Managed for Shade.

Palo Verde Trees love the desert,
as long as they can grow by a stream or watering device.

God has created variety in plants, so some can flourish in the desert - like the cacti and many varieties of beautiful plants. Citrus trees love the desert if they get enough water. We had several Lemon Trees and one Tangerine in Phoenix.  Large deciduous trees only survive where the grounds can be flooded by irrigation, but many desert trees are easy to grow and provide shade for birds and people to enjoy - the Mesquite and the Palo Verde tree.

Likewise, there are many plants that demand cold and thrive in the cold, but do poorly in the heat. Peas, spinach, and kale are so cold-loving that they can survive snow. I used to dig green kale out form under the snow in Midland.

After decades of gardening and reading about the subject, the sunny garden is filled easily - at least in my mind - with plants that thrive in sunshine all day:

  • Sunflowers
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes.
Some people consider Wild Strawberries a weed,
because they grow everywhere.
They are attractive, inobtrusive, loved
by insects and birds.

My favorite new ridiculous term is co-evolution, which explains how plants and insects went through the change over millennia so they could work together. The intricate beneficial relationships are explained by the "fact" that they co-evolved so both could do well and depend on each other. That is the equivalence of shooting a missile, without planning, toward an unthinking planet, and the missile passes by - just right - to get great photos. They co-evolved, so no high level math was needed, no Project Management certifications, no engineering, no thought. 

Blue Hawaii Hostas break the pattern
of green or green-yellow Hostas.
A large grouping of Hostas is impressive under a tree,
and their modest flowers attract Hummingbirds.


Be patient. I am getting to the subject - Shade Gardening.

When I was a young and foolish gardener, I wanted lots more sun and far fewer trees. Phoenix gave me what I wanted - and that was a bummer. I planted eight trees to create an oasis on that burning petri dish of pain called the Valley of the Sun.

Now I have a well scalped maple tree in front and frequently pruned trees in the back. I would rather have the rose garden in the front yard enjoy some afternoon shade and not wither in the heat of the August sun after noon. The backyard is not only shaded by four trees, but also by the mature trees of my neighbors behind me to the West. As you might have guessed, the shade we enjoy in the afternoon is welcome, as we "bid adieu to the day and watch the golden sun setting slowly in the West." (Quote from a series of travelogues shown at movie theaters, around the 1950s)

Many plants are created by God to thrive in the shade, and some of them tolerate a few hours of sunlight. The marks appear in gardening books: full sun, partial sun, and shade.

Wild Strawberries were my first surprise. I knew about them from Midland, where they often grew in the lawns, so I associated them with bright sunlight. But they grew across the West side of our home, deep in the shade. The key factor was running soaker-hoses along both sides of the house, to reach the fence gardens on north and south sides of the backyard, conveniently known as the Wright fence and the Gardener fence.

Wild Strawberries were among the first to blossom and fruit in the Spring, so they are valuable for pollinators and for birds. Therefore, the plants appear along the base of trees and anywhere birds perch. They need a little more water to thrive, and so they spread where birds rest and plants are watered.

Everyone loves Hummingbirds, but I am one of those who will not buy a feeder and fill it with syrup of some type, purchased or made in the kitchen. I not not condemning anyone - I just do not want the trouble and complications. I do want the little visitors, which were common in Phoenix and spotted around here. Bee Balms are good sunny plants for them, but so are Hostas.

I checked this with Norma Boeckler, who has gardens straight from a French painting - and then she paints and photographs them. Yes, her Hostas are patrolled by Hummingbirds, which love to sip and eat insects from the narrow flowers. 

Confidential note to gardeners who are married to city slickers. The other spouse is often not a gardener, which may be very good, since gardeners are hard-headed and argumentative. But listen to what the other person likes and provide that in abundance. Then it is a joint-project and not an alienating obsession. Thus eight rose bushes in the front became an entire yard full of roses, loved by everyone. And "I would like some Calladiums" became a shade feature under the maple and Crepe Myrtle that everyone loves.

We are developing a small Hosta garden next to the house, now mostly carpeted with cardboard, currently doing a good job of killing off the grass and weeds. The Hostas donated by Mr. Gardener have grown and bloomed already, encouraged by the soaker hose and partnering with the Wild Strawberries growing around them against the house. We also have some gold Hostas purchased for about $3 total from Direct Gardening. The new Hostas were tiny but immediately began to grow in the shade and almost catch up with the more mature transplants. The Hosta garden came about chiefly because Mrs. Ichabod loves Hosta as much as roses and Calladiums. 

Calladiums need the shade and
show off their colors best there.


Hostas fueled my plan to provide more Hummingbird plants, especially since I saw one Hummer cruising the Bee Balm in the sun (mints love sun). God provides the birds and plants. All we need to do is grow in abundance what the Hummingbirds love.

Almost Eden provides insights about gardening when I take Sassy through the nursery. Today she stared at me until I gave her breakfast at 7 AM, so we left for our walk. She wanted to explore and trot down Joye Street, so that meant passing by the fire station and returning through Almost Eden. We spotted Opie first and then Almost Eden himself, so we talked about Fig Trees and how easy they are to grow. Opie and Sassy decided to track the pitbull that visited the nursery yesterday and left his scent here and there.

One of my interests is building up the Wild Garden, which is heavily shaded. Almost Eden told me that a lot of berries grow wild in the shade, under trees, so they are engineered for shade while remaining productive. They naturalize from birds eating the seeds and planting the seeds under the perches, so they are gardeners who also use organic fertilizer.

I let Triple Crown Blackberries naturalize by the back fence, where they get some water from the aqueduct I established on and around the fence. But they have gone crazy near the house where  I planted them to replace the rampant weed growth. They get plenty of sun and water. Now I have rampant Blackberry growth in the same place where the weeds dominated. As many know, strong weeds are a signal that the same ground will produce food.

Our helper came by today, and we reduced the weeds by quite a bit. Cleanup seems overwhelming but soon a Dogpatch becomes a garden again. He invited me to see a strange, tall flower that bloomed beside his house, a block away. 

There was a perfect Rose of Sharon that grew on its own. Our helper grinned and said, "Pooped by a  bird?" The flower looked so good that I thought about getting some from Almost Eden, because they are also a shade growing flower, a plant loved by Hummingbirds.

Rose of Sharon is used for a few plants.
This one is from the Hibiscus family.