Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > August 2014 > GARDEN TALK with DOUG - MADE IN THE SHADE


                I speak from experience on this topic of shade gardening.  I live in a wooded area so most of my garden beds are full of plants that do well and thrive with only filtering sunlight.  And, to be honest, I have gone through many trial and errors with some plants as I “experiment” to see if some plants will survive.  You may need to do the same as you try to figure out what plants will do well in your shaded landscape.  Don’t be afraid of failure or be discouraged.  It is all about learning what plants will do best with your location and soil.  But, I am sharing some of my experiences in hopes that it will help you determine what plants do well for you and ultimately reduce some of your losses and minimize your frustrations.  No one ever said that shade gardening is easy.
                Shade gardens require some special care.  First, for me, my plants are competing with the trees for water and nutrients.  Trees with shallow roots like willows and maples do not lend themselves to shade gardens.  My suggestion for this situation is to create a large bed of mulch under these trees.  The mulch really helps to define your landscape lines and creates a clean, attractive look under these type of trees.  If you want plants under maple or willow trees consider doing some attractive container gardening.   Another tip to share with you is to remove some of the lower branches of the trees which will allow for better air circulation and visibility for your “understory” plantings.
                Most, if not all, shade plants like moist, well-drained soil.  Tillage is not recommended because of damage to the tree roots.  Adding organic matter, such as our Orgainic Planting Mix or Leaf Gro, is highly recommended.  Or, better yet, your own compost made of composted leaves from your trees.
                The main evergreen plants in my shade beds are varying varieties of boxwoods.  I find them to do extremely well with little maintenance.  I use English, Vardar Valley, Justin Brouwers, Green Pillow, and Graham Blandy in various locations.  In addition to these boxwoods I have a couple camellias, azalea, a yew, and a couple laurels and aucuba gold dust for screening.  I can’t stress enough the need to learn the growing habits of all the plants and plant them in the right spot.  One of the biggest landscape faux pas is putting plants in the wrong location and realizing it after five years and having to dig up and remove plants that are growing nicely but have outgrown ithe location prematurely.
                Once you have chosen and planted your evergreens comes the fun of adding hardy perennials to enhance these shade gardens.  Here are a few of my favorite shade loving perennials:  ferns - especially the Autumn Brilliance and Ostrich,  hostas -  especially the ones with variegated or chartreuse leaves that help brighten up the shade, hellebores - because of the blooming time in the winter through spring, heuchuras – like hostas, add a lot of color to the shade gardens, Lily of the valley – because of the early spring white bloom and making a good ground cover, and lamium, especially White Nancy, because of the bloom, the variegated foliage, and the ground cover it creates, Astilbes with their showy flowers in July, and lastly the Virginia Blue Bells which are show stoppers.  There are many more shade loving perennials but these are just a few of my favorites that I have had good success.
                Now is a good time to be thinking about your own shade gardens.  If you are planning a shade garden, be sure to come see us and our vast selection of perennials.  You won’t be disappointed.
Posted: 8/30/2014 by Doug Hensel | with 0 comment(s)
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