Monrovia PLANT SAVVY
August 2015
Sensational and soothing, shade gardens are like a cool cocktail on a hot summer day. From woodland to formal to this contemporary take from Los Angeles-based designer Billy Goodnick, great shade gardens rely less on flowers and more on tones of green and other leaf colors, finishes and forms. His mash-up of the wand-like fronds of foxtail fern and rosette-formed Aeonium canariensis with round-leafed leopard plant and diminutive creeping Jenny is a steal-me composition of bold and delicate textures. Unified by a lemon-lime color palette, this is a shady stunner.

What to plant now

Don’t live with bare spots until fall planting–these heat-lovers can go in the ground right now. Tuck Bronze Carpet stonecrop (water-wise!) into cracks and crannies. Clad walls and fences with hummingbird-magnet Balboa Sunset® Trumpet Creeper; once established, it blooms profusely with near neglect. Try Purple Queen® Bougainvillea for a tumbling, blooming groundcover.

Dry shade

You’ve told us finding plants that tolerate dry shade’s triple trouble of parched soil, root competition and lack of sunlight is a challenge. Happily, gorgeous plants such as the hosta and lamium here and many others including Lenten rose, Pink Tip Podocarpus and sweetbox thrive in these conditions. Find more in “Planting the Dry Shade Garden” by Graham Rice. Photo: Judy White and Graham Rice

Sweet rewards

Everbearing and day-neutral straw-berries are still fruiting; help them thrive in the heat. Water regularly (one-inch per week in most soil types, more often in pots); mulch to keep soil cooler which can encourage fruiting; feed in late summer with a balanced fertilizer; and, pick all ripe berries. “Fruit left on the plant becomes overripe, which promotes disease and insect problems,” advises a Monrovia craftsman.

Making arrangements

Filling your home with flowers cut from your own garden is a rite of August. If you need inspiration (and awesome how-to) for sumputous, painterly homegrown bouquets stroll on over to farmer-florist Erin Benzakein’s addictive blog on Floret. Made your own arrangement? Post to Instagram, tagged #mymonroviabloom.

Deal with it

Tis the season for rambunctious weeds. You probably have a trowel; here are four speciality tools recommended by our craftsmen: blackberry hoe (gnarly brambles), dandelion digger (broadleaf weeds), hula-ho (cuts a wide swath), Grandpa’s weeder (no bending over!).

Wrangling wisteria

Summer pruning wisteria’s long vigorous shoots encourages the development of short-flowering spurs that will carry the long racemes of bloom in spring. How-to here. Tip: Use sharp pruners as crushing or tearing stems can lead to die-back. New to this spectacular vine? Here are two to plant right now: Amethyst Falls (good for large containers) and Blue Moon (super hardy, reliable re-bloomer).