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Move Over, Hosta! Let These Perennials Shine In Your Shaded Garden Spots

Bright green, yellow tinged leaves of a Hosta plant fill a garden space.
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If you've got shaded or wetter areas in your garden, think beyond hostas and try some new plants, like goatsbeard or Sun King aralia!

Many flower gardeners plan out their growing spaces and even then, they realize some areas are challenging. What to plant in the part of your garden space that gets barely any sun and is quite frankly, kind of soggy? 

Some of the more traditional plants that gardeners reach for in these cases are black snakeroot and hosta. These plants remain great for garden spots that are in shade, partial shade and are wetter. But if you’re looking for plant choices that are really big, low maintenance and a bit different, these three stand-outs really fit the bill!

You can plant goatsbeard, yellow rocket, and Sun King aralia.

Goatsbeard gets its moniker due to it's cream-colored, feathery flowers that kind of look like a goat’s beard. This native perennial grows to about four feet tall and wide with dark green leaves. Once it's established somewhere, you don't want to move it. 

Another plant to consider is the ligularia, or yellow rocket. The stocks are yellow, rocket-shaped leaves and they bloom in early summer. This plant grows to three to four feet tall and wide, with big, fleshy leaves. It really needs moisture so it will be happiest planted near a stream or a wetter area.

Rounding out your options for big perennials that grow well in shade, part shade and wetter areas is the Japanese spikenard or auralia.

This plant boasts chartreuse-colored leaves, which really stand out. The auralia grows even larger than the other two, getting anywhere from four to five feet tall and wide in one growing season. It does flower, though they are quite small as its the leaves on the plant that really stand out. 

Q: My garlic is growing beautifully and I read somewhere that now is the time to add some fertilizer. Is this correct? The soil around the garlic's foliage is still covered with straw from last fall when I planted the cloves. Should I sprinkle fertilizer right on top? — Matilda, in South Burlington

You can still fertilize your garlic now. Remove the straw and use an inorganic granular fertilizer, like the 5-5-5 kind. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil, then water it well and add the straw back on top. You should be able to harvest your garlic in about a month.

Q: My boxwood shrubs have what appears to be boxwood psyllids everywhere. They are tiny green bugs that leave a sticky white residue. What can I do to get rid of or even just reduce them? — Kim, in Burlington

The boxwood psyllid looks like an aphid. Luckily, any damage it may cause is mostly cosmetic. If leaf curl and damage looks like its getting a little out of control, you certainly can spray it with just a jet stream of water from your hose and a nozzle. Try to wash off the leaves and knock the psyllids off the plant.

If you need to use an insecticide, start with some of the less toxic ones like insecticidal soap or Neem oil. You shouldn’t have to worry about the psyllids getting into the window boxes as it is specific to the boxwood plant.

Q: Voles! How do you deter them!? They've been eating any seedlings put in the ground, basically overnight! — Laurie in Rutland

Be sure that it truly is mice and voles that are causing the damage because this time of year, little seedlings can be attacked by a lot of things including slugs, snails and cutworms.

If you’re positive it’s mice and voles, then place castor oil liquid or pellets around the plant. The mice and voles don't like the smell and they'll go elsewhere.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

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