Neighborhood Beautification

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The Beautification Committee is responsible for maintaining the median entrances at Larmanda, Town North and Fenton. Volunteers from the neighborhood meet twice a year for cleanup days and planting. Each year one of the major meetings held by the neighborhood association is organized by the beautification committee. Typically a guest speaker from an area nursery comes to give helpful hints on lawns, flowers and shrubs.

For more information or if you would like to volunteer to be on this committee, contact Dottie Giesler at 214-349-7028 or email her at beautification@mpum.com.

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Planting a Low-Maintenance Shade Garden

By Christopher J. Miller

Planting a shade garden is more challenging than a sun garden. First, with the exception of tropical plants, most plants don’t bloom as profusely in the shade as in the sun. The reason is the sun provides the energy for bloom growth. But, after more than a decade of living in our neighborhood with its alkaline and clay soil, I have discovered ten great shade-loving plants for every garden. Let me give you three rules of thumb to ensure a beautiful landscape.

FOCUS ON LEAF COLOR AND TEXTURE

Shade gardens depend on contrast. When purchasing plants look for leaf color and texture, not the bloom. Don’t be swayed by tags featuring richly colored blooms. If the tag doesn’t show the foliage, there’s a good reason. It’s probably not very attractive. Remember, most plants bloom for about two weeks a year. You’ll have to live with the leaf shape and color year round.

PLANT CONTRASTING PLANT TEXTURES NEXT TO EACH OTHER

Next, always set contrasting plants next to each other. For example, the soft light green foliage of Southern Wood fern will pop in front of the dark green vertical lines of a Cast Iron plant. You would never want two or three items together that all have dark elliptical leaves. Why? No contrast!

PLANT IN ODD NUMBER DRIFTS

Remember to plant in drifts of odd numbers. You should rarely buy one of anything. Plant three or five or seven close plants together. Create a sweeping effect and plant in a random pattern. Don’t space plants evenly! If you’re unsure, remember Mother Nature. The best gardens imitate nature and most plants grow in stands because seeds don’t travel far from their parent. Find low maintenance, hardy plants and invest in a “drift” of color and texture. Following is my list of ten dependable, perennial, “growing well in the shade” plants:

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) – Giant rough foliage with tons of white flowers through Spring and early summer.

Aspidistra (Aspidistra eliator) – Many people say this plant is too easy. All I can say, it’s deep green, evergreen, doesn’t attract any type of bug and will never grow over your window ledge.

(Needle palm) Rhaphyllum Hystrix – This lush beautiful palm stays close to the ground and is one of the most cold hardy available. Although slow growing, it’s one of my favorite evergreen accent pieces. With this guy, you only need one.

Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) – Nearly evergreen with deep green unique low foliage that can’t be beat.

Leather Leaf Mahonia (Mahnia bealei) -Spikey plant that’s great tucked into a deep shady corner but avoid planting it near walk areas. Pest problems? Never. And great blue berries that attract Mockingbirds in the Spring.

Wood Fern (Dryopteris) – Soft wavy foliage that sometimes attracts caterpillars. But that’s okay because it sends up fresh growth every Spring. Drought sensitive, so plant this in wet ground.

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) – A medium sized under story tree with lush growth and fragrant winter blooms.

Variegated Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira variegata) – For light-green variegated foliage, this bush can’t be beat. Can get rather tall and needs lots of pruning.

Podocarpus (Podocarpus macrophyllus) – Very slow growing, but this tall evergreen reminds me of pine and adds a great Asian accent to any garden.

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) – These guys are much more hardy in Dallas than most people realize. A much better bet than gardenias or azaleas, with unique foliage that has beautiful red hues in Spring and Fall.

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) – One of the only mounding ornamental grasses that does well in Shade. The ornamental seed heads last throughout the Fall and into Winter and is sure to get noticed.

Rice Paper Plant – If you want a lush tropical look this is the plant to use. Enormous dark green leaves, but they do freeze to the ground in the winter.Okay, I can already hear the protests! “But these plants don’t bloom. I want color.” Use these items to create a “backbone” to your garden. Each one of my top ten will return year after year and perform well with little maintenance. If you desire bloom, use pots to place tropicals and semi-tropicals throughout the garden. They can be replanted every year and will add a splash of color. Looking for a list of my top ten tropicals? I’ll save that for another article.

 

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