01aeff103037526cb8fb7c666387c07336fe658db1The Coral Seas Bed

Last year, these four boxes erupted with cascades of pink petunias and lime sweet potato vine, and just about engulfed everything around them! We loved the effect, but new shade cloths over the patio this season demanded a different palette of plants. You’ll still see the tricolor blades of Cordyline banksii ‘Electric Flash’ still shooting from a few of the boxes. (Every Cordyline in the garden survived and has tripled in size.) We’ve still added some pink and lime back, but the real noteworthy plants here are not the standard blooming flowers, rather the variances of texture & foliage color, which will last (at least) until frost.

Some of the centerpieces here are the Passiflora jamesonii ‘Coral Seas,’ already scaling the restaurant walls. (We’re gonna need some bigger stakes!). We’re hoping this gorgeous deep coral-red Passionflower vine gives us more bloom and foliage interest (and wall coverage!) than last year’s Bougainvillea (none of which thrilled, or survived). Other features are the variegated yellow Brugmansia ‘Miner’s Claim’ and the Furcraea foetida. The Brugmansia (aka Angel’s Trumpet) will grow quickly this summer and sprout large white, hanging trumpets. These trumpets will emit a richly fragrant floral musk in the evenings, which we hope to be a bonus for outdoor diners (though we hope no one chooses to massage their temples with the leaves!). We’re fond of the marked variegation of this variety and love the way it will brighten the shady corners here.

Our friend Loree Bohl of the Danger Garden likes to call Furcraea “the coolest plant you’ve never heard of.” Commonly know as Mauritius Hemp, the plant is an Agave relative (a member of the Agavoideae subfamily) and has been used for its fibrous leaves. However, unlike many Agaves, most Furcraea are smooth leaved and require a bit of shade. We’re expecting this species to be hardy to about 20-25 degrees. It features bold, rigid blades and can function as a statement plant on its own, or act as a backbone for softer plants to weave through. Plus, compared with its cousins, it’s a much easier plant to have a “close encounter” with.

Also tucked into these boxes are Asplenium bulbiferum (aka Mother Fern, something we usually think of as a houseplant), Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender,’ Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost,’ and two colors of Lophospermum vine. We’ve selected some rather cool and unusual shade annuals here, hoping to give you some different things to consider when planting shade containers. Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ does double-duty, with spires of lavender blooms and dark, fuzzy foliage. It’s a great plant for taller containers like these boxes, where you can admire the deep plum color of the underside of the leaves. We’re hoping you’ll take note of Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ thriving here as well, in less light, and with companions to weave through. The effect of this plant when grown in shade is a looser, airier bloom—a delicate lace filling the voids. You might be surprised to see the Lophospermum thrive and flower in some shade as well. This vine will compete with the Ipomoea ‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Red’ (aka Sweet potato vine) planted here for “trailing honors.”

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