I’m sure some of you are wondering how Marianne’s visit went. Well, she came, saw, conquered and went off again, to explore Cornwall. I felt bereft when she left, but had had a wonderful two days of constant talk. And constant reiteration of ‘that would make a great Rant Post’…..

One thing I discovered almost immediately was that Marianne is making a garden in much shade. This made me aware of just how little shade we have. As did recently wandering around with an impulse purchase in hand searching for its desired ‘shady and boggy site.’ We actually have neither.

And I think I have recently been on record pouring scorn on the mantra ‘Right Plant Right Place’ on the basis that gardeners are not the kind of idiots who blithely plant things in the wrong places. Except, I now realise, I may be just that kind of idiot.

Hosta Walk at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Hostas in full sun.

I have been growing hostas in the sun for many years now. I understand they are supposed to like shade. The Royal Horticultural Society, which many people would be inclined to believe knows its stuff, says, ‘These shade-loving plants are primarily grown for their beautiful foliage.’ And my fellow ranter, Elizabeth, definitely grows them in shade.  (Sorry about more hosta thoughts here: I wrote this before reading Elizabeth’s post)

Well, hostas may love shade but they get very little of it at Veddw. Somehow they are still thriving. So I look them up and, surprise, surprise, some people say they like shade and some people think they like sun.

Hostas at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

More hosta in sun.

See what the great horticultural master (in the UK, Graham Stuart Thomas) has to say in ‘Perennial Garden Plants’: 

A group of noble, soundly perennial plants, thriving in damp or fairly dry soil, in dense or partial shade or full sun.’ 

Graham Stuart Thomas’s books were my bibles for many of my beginning years, so it seems that I have forgotten the wisdom which actually informed my hosta planting. I was maybe not so stupid after all.

Hosta Krossa Regal at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Hosta Krossa Regal – maybe the hedge gives a little shade here.

What does the follow on guru, Piet Oudolf,  have to say? ‘Humus rich, moist but well drained soils in light shade suits the plants best’. Aha, you think! Light shade it is. But then he continues, ‘As long as the soil does not dry out, hostas will tolerate full sun.. Some species even prefer sunshine.’ How’s that for definitive?

He usefully goes on to say that ‘Whenever the plants are in the wrong place (too wet, too dark or too fertile) their leaves grow too large and thin and then snails reduce them to sieves.’ So that’s why! Too wet, too dark, too fertile. Easy then.

I probably shouldn’t quote more (copyright!) but it’s hard to resist this useful wisdom (buy the book and benefit from it all) – ‘For that matter hostas create their own environment. The older plants have such dense foliage that not a ray of sunshine can reach the surface of the soil, thus preventing the soil from drying out quickly.

Our Ben believes that weeds around a garden plant may possibly have the same effect (see bensbotanics on Instagram

Any excuse……

Hosta Krossa Regal at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Love this hosta – Krossa Regal. Star plant.

So what do the other plants that we tend to think of as liking shade – ferns – actually need? I have those growing in full sun too, of course, though to be fair to me, we do have woodland with many many ferns too.

I planted some ferns in accidental full sun – they grow opposite a full sized Magnolia at the edge of our drive. Of course the Magnolia offers no shade at all, which I might have observed if I’d been a bit brighter. I think I worked out this scheme in winter.

ferns at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Well, I guess it is a near miss?

My fern guru, Martin Rickard, damning me, says of these ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris  Ostrich Fern) ‘Plant in shade otherwise sun may burn the fronds by midsummer’.

Well, I could take hope in the ‘may’ and, indeed, the website FernGardening  tells me Matteuccia struthiopteris will grow in sun. Perhaps you have to not mind burnt fronds.

Mattecuccia struthiopteris at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Burnt fronds

I cut my burnt ones out and watered the ferns. Does water help? Well, Matteuccia struthiopteris is not one of those that Martin Rickard identifies as ‘happy in dryish conditions’. Whereas Johnson’s Nursery  reassuringly tells me “The most common issues arise from lack of (or too much) water.” BUT they say “capable of tolerating full sun”.

So what am I to conclude with all this slightly contradictory information? What about my own experience? All my sunny hostas and ferns are somehow surviving in droughts and hot sun, with occasional rescue watering. Well, I can maybe tell Marianne to grow loads of both hostas and ferns, since no-one seems to suggest that they hate shade. But not though if she has droughts?

In truth I can recommend nothing, but I can suggest that Right Plant Right Place may be dreadfully confusing. And that if you just know that what you want in a certain spot is something which will probably hate that spot – well, try it anyway.

Ostrich Fern and Virginia Creeper at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Worth the risk, and a little cutting out and watering for this?

And how about a fern hedge?

Dryopteris as hedge at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Dryopteris can definitely cope with sun.

But what are these ferns playing at??

Chimney with ferns copyright Anne Wareham