Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shade Gardening

Hosta bordering the right of a brick walk under
walnut trees.
There are many variables that must be considered in addition to the classification of “grows well in shade.” Variables such as moisture, depth of shade, competition from roots, and soil composition to name a few.

A few hints for shade gardens:

Grasses: Ornamental grass seldom grows well in shade. Currently, I’m trying Japanese forest grass “Aureola” billed for woodland garden shade.

Ground covers that grow in the shade are likely to be invasive. (More on invasive in another article.) Make sure you love it, it won’t interfere with other more precious plants, and the seeds won’t carry to where you don’t want another batch.

Vinca and Ivy can‘t be easily contained or killed. Lily of the Valley, dead nettle “Red Nancy”, and archangel “Variegatum” are less a challenge.

Perennials: Comfrey is extremely hardy but comes up everywhere. Virginia Creeper will climb up and over anything .

Well behaved shade perennials: Ajuga , Virginia Bluebells, Chameleon Plant, hosta, Jack-in-the Pulpit, Leopard plant “The Rocket”, Loosestrife “Alexander”, violets, sweet woodruff, and ferns.

Perennials for partial shade: Amsonia “Blue Star”, columbine, some cranesbills, and Dame’s Rocket.

Annuals for partial shade are many. They’re generally in brighter colors than shade perennials. They include: Impatiens, coleus, viola, old fashioned climbing petunias, pansy, and sweet alyssum.

Bulbs: If your shade is from deciduous trees, it’s a great opportunity to plant spring flowering bulbs. Plant other perennials that will fill in around them to let the leaves die naturally.

Other ideas: A bare space may host wood mulch, a small water feature, bird feeder, garden ornament, bench, a little collection of shells or a few pretty field rocks.

The trick with shade garden spaces is to enjoy and understand the beauty of the subtle and subdued. As Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.”

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