For years i have tried to pretend that shade does not exist - well, not in the garden. While we did have shade at our last home, my MIL had planted the property in shrubbery and i just chose to let it stay the way it was and never really learned anything about shade-loving plants. This yard has a very definite shady area under and surrounding our elm tree and it's a significant part of the garden.
When we first dug the garden, i just threw in some Solomon's Seal (varigated), ajuga, and lireope and left it to fend for itself. Over time some Obedience Plant and native asters also moved in, but it was basically a nice jungle for years. And then came education.
|Before I started ... that's all Solomon's Seal - about 20 x 20|
One of my favorite classes so far was Perennials, and i learned lots! Like how to grow shade loving plants. Last winter a plan was hatched, plant sources were searched and prices compared, decisions made ... and in March i started clearing out Solomon's Seal. (A note: that was not easy. It has really thick rhizomes and, left undisturbed for years, they were tough!) I also pulled out about half of the existing Obedience plant (Phystotrygia) and about half of the native asters. It took me a couple of weeks to clear it all out, but finally I was ready for the new plants.
|All cleaned out and ready to start planting. The round "thing" is the bowl of an old birdbath that I left out for water for the butterflies.|
Some plants came by mail, but most i was able to get locally: Acanthus 'Whitewater', Aruncus 'Kneifii', Columbine Mountain Rue, Hosta 'White Feather', Brunnera 'Jack Frost', Sarcococca, and heuchera of many colors all made their way into my car and then into the ground.
|Flag mark either plants to go in (green and white) or irrigation heads (orange). See the new use for the bird bath?|
Six months later and most plants are doing well. The brunnera has disappeared, but i think that is normal. It did bloom early and looked good. The hosta has disappeared, too. Am not counting on it coming back, altho it may. I put it in the very darkest spot, but it still got a little bit of sun in the mornings. The goatsbeard died immediately. This is a mystery, because it is supposed to do well here, and the Acanthus is also struggling. I am hopeful that both of these will do better after a winter in the ground.
|There should be goatsbeard where those two white flags are!|
On the plus side, tho, the mountain rue loved its location, and the huchera all doubled in size. I chose a wide variety of colors - green, lime, caramel, black and red - all chosen from the trial results at Mt. Cuba Research Center in Maryland. This is resource that i encountered last spring. They trial perennials for the mid-Atlantic and publish gorgeous full-color reports on what does well here. Late in the summer, I add two Hucherella and a Tiarella to the mix.
At the moment the entire garden looks good. I will need to pull out more of the phystostygia and asters, because they are nearly invasive. As the other plants get bigger, it will be easier to keep these sneaky creepers at bay.
I still need to replace the goatsbeard with something that can take a bit of morning sun. I may put in a couple Hakone grasses to bring some gold in as background and for movement.
Won't really know if this garden will be a long term success until we've been thru at least one winter and another summer, but i love it and hope it survives!