A few years ago we lost a 50-year-old crabapple tree. This was not a dwarf but a big old tree that was home to a group of mature shade plants. Plants that were too happy and healthy — and too big — to move, even if there was a spot for them elsewhere in the garden. We replaced the crab with a multi-trunk Pagoda dogwood that is already a significant presence. What it isn't, however, is a significant source of shade for most of the plants around it.
Last year, my Kirengeshoma palmata started to fry in the hot, sunny and dry days of July. The leaves burned, and the flower buds dried up. Watering it helped, but wasn't enough to keep it from turning into a poor copy of itself. This month — with half the usual July rainfall — it looked like the Kirengeshoma was going to suffer the same fate.
At four feet high and about five feet across, Kirengeshoma is more shrub than perennial. Though the canopy of the new dogwood is teasingly touching the plant's edges, it's not enough to keep the Kirengeshoma lush and lovely. So I created my own shade at the critical moment. I decided if a big umbrella could protect me from sunburn, it could do the same for the plant.
I unearthed this umbrella, of unknown origin, from the basement. Made of heavily waxed paper, it lets some light through but deflects the harsh noontime rays of the sun. I stuck the handle in a big ceramic jar to keep it in place — and, voila! Instant sunshade. I've protected the plant on and off for almost a month. This last week has brought cooler temperatures, clouds and, yesterday, even some rain. The Kirengeshoma is covered with fat buds about to open. Soon I'll be able to close up my sun screen, sit back, and enjoy the show.