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Landscaping Q & A

April 26, 2010

Thank you to all who have participated in the blogger Q & A on our Facebook page. You asked some great questions, and Shelia has your answers.

What’s the best kind of plants/flowers to grow in a mostly shaded garden?                        Jessica

As you noted in your question, the amount of shade affects your choices, as well as the moisture level of the soil. Having said that, I have a few plants you may want to look at as possibilities.

Columbine is native here in our area and self-sows readily. Trim any leaves if they become damaged by leaf-miners and allow the new growth to act as a ground cover for the remainder of the season.

Tiarella and heuchera are also groundcovers that are blooming now, with slightly different leaf shapes and colors. These will spread from the roots, but will be slower to fill a space than the columbine.

You’ve probably already thought of using ferns. Japanese Painted Lady is a nice choice, with slightly blue foliage with burgundy accents.

Astilbe will bloom later in the year, but still will not provide summer color.

Hosta doesn’t have to be boring, either. Find a good source and you’ll find plenty of varieties to choose from. Keep in mind that deer love hosta, so that will be a consideration for some gardeners.

A personal favorite of mine is the shrub mahonia. It is slow-growing and blooms with yellow flowers in February here in our area. Currently it is showing blue berries that will feed my mockingbirds in the next month. It also works as a barrier shrub because of its prickly, holly-like foliage.

An alternative to the big leaf hydrangea would be the oak-leaf variety.

The oak-leaf grows fairly slowly, but on a woodier stem that sheds its bark (like the crape myrtles), and has wonderful fall foliage color after the flowerheads have faded. Both are deciduous, but the oak-leaf provides more four-season interest, in my opinion.

Now that I’ve shared my biases, the best is what works and looks great for you.

I have a large Japanese quince shrub which doesn’t seem to mind the multitude of weeds growing around its base, but delights in thwarting all of my attempts to plant there. Do you have any suggestions for a pushy groundcover or low perennial that might be tolerant of the shade and soil conditions among the roots of quince, and could also hold its own against the weeds? – Dan

I have a couple of suggestions, some of which you may have already tried.

Ajuga and pachysandra seem to be fairly aggressive, although you may not have enough moisture under your shrub for the pachysandra to do well. We have also tried Chrysogonum, commonly called Green and Gold, as a native groundcover in the Habitat Garden at Busch Gardens. It has a solid-green rounded leaf and yellow flowers more like a strawberry would put out. It is spreading but not very quickly.

You might also want to look at mondo grass as an option. It spreads but not too fast, looks the same year-round, and would be easy to weed between plants until it filled in. You might also be able to use the newspaper note below for help.

What are the bushes with the yellow flowers that are growing along the fence at the Italy parking lot? – Lynne

That vine is Carolina Jessamine (jasmine). The flowers are great. I think we have more blooms than ever this spring. This plant is native to the Southeastern U.S. and is the state flower in South Carolina. It doesn’t bloom for the whole season, and the vine is pretty aggressive to climb fences or trees. Some areas of the park, we cut with hedge trimmers and some by hand, but it all needs to be monitored.

Could I put newspapers down on dirt and then put the mulch over it to help prevent weeds in my garden area? I heard it helps stops weeds and its okay because the paper is biodegradable and its eco-friendly.Christopher

Thank you for asking this question. I have to answer this as a gardener and not as a Busch Gardens employee, because obviously this is not something we practice here in the park.

Sort your newspapers and eliminate any slick paper or ads. Color is ok as long as it’s on regular newsprint. I use about six sheets for normal coverage and overlap as needed. Then, mulch over that but you’ll only need enough to keep the paper from showing.

You are also correct in saying that the newspaper breaks down over time. It helps keep the new weeds in the mulch layer so they’re amazingly easy to pull out, and helps retain water while allowing water to pass through to the plants you want to keep.

If you have a weed problem or an area you want to kill off for the next season, use a thicker layer of paper and leave it for a few months before starting your new bed. Just a reminder, the seeds that are there will wait around to germinate when conditions get better, years, if need be. So you’ll have to continue your weed-prevention program in some fashion when your new space is planted.

I am a State Certified Horticulturist and a Master Gardener and I have experience working in and managing Garden Centers. I have always dreamed of working for Busch Gardens in any capacity regarding to horticulture. How would I find out what I have to do to obtain that goal? – Cheryl

I’m very glad to hear from you. With your credentials, you’d be an asset to any employer in this field. And like you, I had my Master Gardener when I came to Busch, and wanted in for a while before it happened.

At this point, we don’t have any openings in Landscaping. We have folks who’ve been here more than twenty years, helping us earn “Most Beautiful Park” for the 20th year in a row. For future reference, there is a job board online that you can check for openings throughout the park, including seasonal employment.

I hope you’ll continue to visit the discussion page and offer your suggestions, as well.

Horticulturist at Busch Gardens

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Denise permalink
    June 28, 2010 10:17 am

    What is the vine that grows over top the seating area in Grogans Grill?

  2. September 18, 2010 1:19 pm

    My family visited Busch Gardens Sept 15th, 2010. On our way to watch the Criter’s show, I noticed a flowering plant I would like to know the name. The gentleman at the store front said I believe “Watering Can” My husband thinks it is a Venus Fly Trap. The bloom scupped down and held water with a lid attached to the bloom. The gentleman told me insects fly in drown and the flower eats the insects.

    Please let me know the name and if I can order a potted plant from Busch Garden.

    Thanks, Wendy from Georgia

    • September 21, 2010 9:21 am

      Are you talking about Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida? We are Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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