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Abide A While’s Container Garden Is Made in the Shade

Abide A While’s Container Garden Is Made in the Shade
May 2019

Plant a lush grouping that requires little effort and offers plenty of drama

Abide A While Garden Boutique’s Jenalee Thompson filled Anamese’s “Egg Planter” with perennials, annuals, and tropicals; shot on location at Belvedere Charleston Bed & Breakfast 

Who hasn’t roamed a nursery, ogling gorgeous bloom after adorable annual, checking plant tags in hopes of spying a “part sun” label? After all, most every gardener has a porch that only catches morning rays or a leafy backyard corner calling for an eye-catching planter.

“People are sometimes intimidated by the idea of creating a container for a shady location,” says Jenalee Thompson, foliage manager at Abide A While Garden Boutique in Mount Pleasant. “But if you take the time to play around, arranging different plants, you can absolutely find a combination you love.”

To demonstrate, Thompson designed a low-maintenance display that blends annuals, perennials, and tropicals—all in a versatile green-and-white palette. “The key is matching up plants that have the same light and water requirements,” she explains.

Thompson began by selecting her container—a 15-inch-tall clay vessel in an elegant (but not overly showy) bronze. From there, she picked her “wow” element: a variety of Alocasia, or elephant ear, that she adores for its striking texture.

The sizable container called for a larger plant—one “about two-thirds the height of the pot,” says Thompson. Fatsia, a slow-growing perennial, was just the ticket, boasting a tropical look that suits the Alocasia.

For blooms, she turned to annual Rieger begonias, complementing their creamy white hue with variegated creeping Charlie that cascades over the pot’s edge. The finishing touch was feathery plumosa ferns. “You can kind of pull the fronds where you want them,” she notes, “fluffing things together to make the display look like it’s been planted for awhile.”

And this arrangement has a bonus feature: “Cuttings from each of the plants look great popped into bud vases around the house,” says the designer. For year-round lushness, just bring the pot indoors for the winter. Or leave the fatsia in place and let each new season be an opportunity to experiment with fresh combinations of textures, leaf shapes, and shade-happy flowers.

Grow It!
■ Light: Shade, or morning sun only
■ Water: Give it a good soaking once a week.
■ Fertilizer: Incorporate Espoma Organic Bio-tone Starter when you plant. Follow up with other Espoma fertilizers as needed.
■ Maintenance: Clip back foliage if necessary and deadhead the begonias to bring on more blooms.

Plant Profiles - Take a closer look at the flora featured in Thompson’s container and learn where to find her picks in a garden center

A. Fatsia (Fatsia japonica)

Grows: 4 to 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide
Light: Shade
Lasting Beauty: A three-gallon fatsia will do well in a 15-inch-tall container for a couple years.
Nursery department: Perennials

B. Alocasia (Alocasia ‘Polly’)

Grows: 1 to 2 feet tall
Light: Medium, indirect
Worth Noting: Warmth and high humidity are vital for this elephant ear.
Nursery department: Tropicals

C. Rieger begonia (Begonia x hiemalis)

Grows: 10 to 12 inches tall
Light: Morning sun
Inside Advice: Also grow it as a houseplant, placing in bright, filtered light.
Nursery department: Annuals

D. Plumosa fern (Asparagus setaceus)

Grows: Can climb up to 8 feet, as it’s actually a vine
Light: Bright, filtered
Clip Away: The delicate foliage makes a lovely addition to floral arrangements.
Nursery department: Tropicals

E. Creeping Charlie (variegated) (Glechoma hederacea ‘variegata’)

Grows: 2 to 4 inches tall, trails 18 to 30 inches
Light: Full to part sun
Tip: Try it as a ground cover, too.
Nursery department: Annuals