Tag Archives: plants for shade containers

Inside The Making Of A Massive Mossed Hanging Basket…

imageOk, this might not be the moss hanging basket for your front porch…in fact, its proportions are massive, at least 30″ across and almost as deep. This basket belongs to a customer who hangs it in in a shady garden area.

imageThis year, she wanted an all white and green foliage basket filled top to bottom with shade loving plants. What a fun project! The basket itself is a heavy duty plastic coated metal frame with openings that plants can be inserted into. Many folks use sphagnum moss or coco liner for these type of plantings, and it works well. However I prefer to use fresh green sheet moss and layer the plantings from the bottom up.

Of course deciding on the plant material came first. I chose plants for their form, leaf color and shape – and, of course, to grow in a very shady spot. I took a walk through the greenhouse and nursery looking for interesting shade plants that would also be small enough to insert into the framework of the basket.

Carex 'Evergold'

Carex ‘Evergold’

I wanted trailing and mounding plants with the exception of the very top of the basket. I started with the variegated carex ‘Evergold’, one of my favorite shade plants. I added some small tassel ferns, Polystichum polyblepharum, for their beautiful deep green color – what a great contrast to the carex! I’m off to a great start…

Of course some ivy – a pretty variegated form worked well with my first two choices. I’d already decided on blue crisp ferns for the very top, and to compliment their blue color, I chose the blue/green pilea ‘Aquamarine’ – all the different foliage colors, textures and leaf forms were looking very pretty together – and not a flower in sight! Next, I added a variegated Swedish ivy – a great addition to shade plantings. It works really nicely as a counterpoint to the carex…and some tiny leaf creeping charlie rounded out my choices. It should meander through the entire planting, adding its dark green and very textured leaves to the composition.image

Now it’s time to plant. This type of container takes time and patience – and a lot of sheet moss, fertilizer and potting soil!

I began by laying a thick layer of moss on the bottom of the basket and up the sides about 6″. Next I added a layer of potting soil, mixed in Osmocote, and started inserting the first layer of plants, alternating to highlight their differences in leaf shapes and color. The Ivy had long runners that I pinned into the moss with florist wire – it will root where pinned and then begin to trail.

Foliage textures...

Foliage textures…


After the first layer was inserted, I watered the plants in, pieced moss around the basket again about 6″ up, firmed the first layer of plants in place, and added more potting soil and fertilizer.




The basket fits in nicely with the shade garden...

The basket fits in nicely with the shade garden…

After 5 layers of plants, I was ready to plant the top! Blue crisp fern or bear’s paw fern, polypodium aureum ‘Mandianum’
is a beautiful fern whose fronds will easily reach 3′. This will definitely be a showstopper! I placed it in the center and added the remaining plants, firmed them in and watered everything one last time. Done!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Shade Containers…No Impatiens? No Problem!

Because of the threat of downy mildew on impatiens, this year has seen all of us having to rethink what to plant in our shady beds and planters. In an earlier post  I explained what downy mildew is and offered some alternatives. After planting these pots (located in a very shady spot in front of Chez Fonfon downtown), I thought they offered a good example of a planting that utilizes different foliage and blooming options.

imageOwners Frank and Pardis Stitt prefer white and green for the front of this  French cafe, located next to their acclaimed restaurant Highlands in downtown Birmingham. These are fairly large, tan colored  cast stone planters  with nice clean lines.  A mix of contrasting green and variegated foliage with a touch of white add light to this shady spot,  and the stone wall adds a pleasing backdrop to the planting.

The photos shown here were taken right after planting, so you can imagine how much they will grow up, out and over the planters. By the end of the season they should be quite lush…and the folks at Chez Fonfon do a great job maintaining them.

The cast iron plant, aspidistra, stays in these planters year-round and is the backbone of this planting. Occasionally in the spring  it needs to be pulled out and thinned; at the same time any damaged leaves from winter are cut off. Once that is done, the planters are topped off with fresh potting soil, Osmocote is mixed in,  and they’re ready to plant.image

I started with the ‘Aaron’ caladiums first. (These will work in full sun as well!) The white center on the leaf really brightens this planting and is the direct opposite of the Algerian ivy leaf with its green center and white outline…foliage is so fun to work with! The tiny needlepoint like ivy is a big contrast – a much smaller and darker green leaf than the first two. Difficult to see, but, right up against the aspidistra, I added a blue-green grass-like juncus – it picks up the gray-green color in the Algerian ivy.



Next, the blooms – white New Guinea impatiens (These and the Sunpatiens are NOT affected by the downy mildew disease.) and some Euphorbia ‘Silver Fog’ to brighten this spot even more. The euphorbia is difficult to see in these photos, but it is a very nice filler for sunny spots too – I’m hoping it will get just enough light to bloom well and add its airy texture to this composition.


Last, a bit of the tiny, low growing baby tears – a lighter green to brighten the very lowest level of the planting, next to the dark green ivy. Eventually this will get engulfed by the rest, but until then it will be another lighter green in the mix…

So…no impatiens? No problem!  Want to see another example? Take a look at this massive moss hanging basket – it’s planted all for shade too!