At my last house, the place for the plants was north-facing and got full sun all day every day, even in winter. The plants that survived this onslaught were all succulents, unsurprisingly - evolved to thrive on sunlight and cope with irregular watering, they do brilliantly in pots. My wee succulent garden was doing really well.
I moved at the beginning of summer, and placed my plants around the door. It's an awkward corner in that it's overhung by the balcony above and doesn't get sun till the late afternoon, when it blasts in there for a couple of hours and then disappears again. It's quite light, but not sunny.
After 6 months in that spot, the succulents were looking a bit sad. Even the pelargonium was stringy and spindly and the black aeonium*, which is supposed to look like this:
Instead looked like this (in the back corner):
I took that photo last weekend after rearranging them to bring the pelargonium out into better light, but it's been playing on my mind that all the succulents need better spots and that would leave a big gap in that shady back corner. Also, I think in this large space the whole thing needed more height variation. What to do, what to do?
Well, I've been saving up for plants for a little while and doing some research on shade-lovers, so this weekend I made a pilgrimage to Twigland in Johnsonville. Anyone in Wellington who gives a crap about gardening will know that this is The Place To Go for all your plant needs, ever. Also, it was a place that Mum and I went to a lot - enabling each other's gardening habit was one of our bonding things. I hadn't been there since she died and it was a bit weird without her, but it also somehow made me feel as if I'm honouring her memory by going back and carrying on with it. I will never forget the time her obnoxious neighbour told her she should only have pink and purple in her garden so their gardens would match, so we went to Twigland and bought all the yellow and orange plants we could find...
Anyway, I figured that in New Zealand conditions, maybe natives were a good idea - and I know that bamboo can cope with low light. So, several hours and *coffcoffallmyplantsavings* later, here's my new doorway pot garden:
The succulents have all been moved further out into the light, that plant on the far left is my comfrey which I also hope will do better out there. It shares its pot with sandersonias and ranunculus so hopefully in spring there'll be pretty flowers there. I have my bamboo, and that fern that's on the stand thing is a silver fern - it doesn't get more Kiwi than that:
There's also another fern and a couple of cyclamen and some lily of the valley. With any luck they will do much better in this configuration and I'm well pleased with how it looks. Yes, there are figurines - the Porno Gnome is another Horokiwi refugee and the gargoyle was Mum's - I bought it with her after a long hunt to find one Just So. I can't not keep it, if you know what I mean.
I also added some shade-loving heuchera to the balcony:
And a marjoram and a new, larger mint now the caterpillar season is over. Oh, and a daphne for the other raised bin garden, cos they smell nice.
So, um, yeah. I'm an addict - but I think I'm learning some stuff. My first 6 months of apartment pot gardening hasn't been hugely successful, but I'm slowly getting the hang of where to put things and what to plant for better chances of survival. My next mission is to learn how to keep them all protected from the particularly voracious bugs and powdery mildew that live in the city, without using nasty sprays. Wish me luck!
* I rescued this plant from the Horokiwi Hacienda, where it had been sitting in a pot too small for it, on the northwest side, for god knows how long. It was bonsai-size and black as the ace of spades. Since I've had it it's grown to about three feet tall (it was recently pruned) and been repotted twice.
And just to add to this somewhat inaccurate picture of settled domesticity I'm painting, last night I made the best vegetarian lasagne ever. The Youth of Today scarfed it and had more even though it had eggplant in it! O.o It was the best because it had four countem four different cheeses in it. But seriously, I feel as if I'm getting on top of this cooking lark. The question then becomes, what new skill am I going to learn this year?