Osmocote Advertisement

Dismayed in the Shade


“President Jimmy Carter once said that life is not fair. I’m not positive, but I don’t think he coined that phrase. I’m not positive about this either, but I think he was referring to gardeners. I’ll check LexisNexis when I have a spare decade.

The point is that not all gardeners are blessed with perfect growing conditions. (I haven’t gone out on a limb here, have I?) The types of soil, water and asphalt paving can all be challenges to the success of our gardens, our personal esteem and hence, our very existence. At least, that’s what I tell my therapist.

But nothing is more of a stick in the wheel spokes of horticulture than that Ol’ Debil Shade. Yep, shade is the deal breaker. It’s the one that separates the men from the yetis, the women from the, um, whatever they need to be separated from. Usually men sitting in front of a sporting event on TV.

(A quick digression. Why is it that I can type “biodiversity” and the writing program I use tells me that the word doesn’t exist. But if I type the plural of “yeti” it doesn’t blink. Based on that alone I fear for the future of the English language.)

It’s important to be able to identify the various levels of shade. The horticultural texts are always referring to “dappled shade.” Who are these people? Have they been spending their Sundays in the park with George? Are they looking at the world through dappled-shaded glasses? Real gardeners know that there is no such thing as “dappled shade.” In the real world, gardeners confront “3-flat shade,” “skyscraper canyon shade,” “can’t see my trowel in front of my face shade,” “forget about it shade,” “not even a stalagmite will grow here shade,” “dark as an advertising executive’s heart shade,” and “abandon hope all ye who enter here shade.” Not pretty choices, if you ask me.

As you can imagine, that puts a lot of pressure on the gardener to make sound plant choices. Heck, it puts a lot of pressure on plant growers to come up with varieties that can survive “can’t see my trowel in front of my face shade.” Why haven’t these people been awarded MacArthur Genius Grants? Perhaps it’s because the MacArthur people know that folks shouldn’t be trying to garden where the light level is lower than under a rock on the dark side of the moon.

There are special tools that are needed to work in ubershady gardens. Your best friend is your flashlight. However, some people prefer the natural ambiance of Tiki torches. Others set their burning bushes on fire, which has a poetic resonance with me, especially since we’ve discovered that burning bushes can be invasive. Speaking of resonance, you might want to try a sonar device. And I don’t say this just because I recently invested in a start-up company called Sonar Solutions for Shady Sites. On the other hand, if I can’t interest at least a few of you in one of these techno-horticultural gadgets, my gluten-powered lawnmower is going to get repossessed. I’m just sayin’.

Of course, there can be no gardening without actual plants. Actually, there can be, but I’m saving that for a day when I’ve run out of column ideas. And nothing says deep shade gardening like the much-maligned hosta. It used to be that hostas were hated because they were so plain. Now that there are more hosta varieties than there are actual hosta plants on the planet (I need to check LexisNexis about that) hostas are hated because they are not native to the U.S. You people are hard to please! What next? Hate hostas because they didn’t invite you to their hosta party in sixth grade? Geez.

Let’s just put it this way. A hosta will survive with less light shed on it than the workings of the average city council. Hey, I once grew a hosta at the bottom of a laundry hamper on an old T-shirt. Of course, I didn’t put it there. It just showed up. And now, every time I open the lid, it says, “Feed me.”

Hmm. Maybe there is a reason to be suspicious of hostas. I’ll check LexisNexis right after I feed Harry the Hosta another tube sock for lunch.

categories

popular

Article Thumbnail
Departments
From the Editor - Jul/Aug 2014

Gardeners are a fickle lot. Either we’re rhapsodizing gooey-eyed about the resplendent, transcendent wonder of whatever ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
I Can’t Draw, Don’t Ask Me

Do you sing in the shower? Um, I know that’s kind of personal and you don’t need to tell me what kind of soap you use but ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Take A Hint. Or Not.

One of the great things about being a columnist is that when you run out of ideas you can steal them from other people.


Article Thumbnail
Blog
Tool Time

If you grow vegetables, one of the most valuable tools around is a soil thermometer. That’s because many vegetable seeds ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
There Is No “I” in Ideas

This, as I have been told by the esteemed staff of Chicagoland Gardening magazine, is the Ideas Issue.


questions

I’d like to know the secret to growing a decent-sized pumpkin for jack-o-lanterns for the grandkids and for decorating. My experience in recent years is that they get about as big as a basketball and then begin to rot. What am I doing wrong?

I am interested in improving fall color in my yard. What shrubs turns red beside burning bush (Euonymus alatus)?

I plan on saving my amaryllis bulbs that I kept outside over summer, but I noticed red streaks on the inner side of the leaves. What caused that? Will I be able to save my bulbs?

ChicagolandGardening Advertisement