My shady yard, help with ideas, please?
I'll include more pictures below.
This is my southern Vermont yard. It's facing north, gets very little morning sun from the front due to a huge hill across the street and the fact that I am in a deep valley. In the mid-day, it gets ZERO direct sun, it is totally shaded all midday as the sun just stays on the other side of the house, it's 2 story, so the building blocks all the sun midday. In the evening, it gets sun to filtered sun where the bushes do not cover it entirely in their own shade, from after 4pm til about 7 pm when the sun goes behind the other side of the valley. Even then, the bed close to the house barely gets any sun. I am in zone 4, but I generally have ice and snowbanks covering everything til mid-March, so it's a shorter growing season for me than others in the same zone. The only thing I have flowering so far is a wild bleeding heart and it is in the very back where there's the most sun, nothing is anywhere near blooming on this shady side, the lilies are only about 4-10 inches so far (depending on how much I trampled them when I dug out the knotweed).
Currently I have some big bushes/trees, and some perennials in the beds I am defining this year. Many have been moved twice in a year's time, and are struggling to come back, slowly. In the photos, I've ID'ed the bushes/trees to my best knowledge, and could use help ID'ing them. In the beds are lily of the valley, daylillies, ferns, bleeding hearts. The daylillies are the only ones showing so far on this shady side of the house. I do have some plans, and would love ideas or at least, tell me if they are BAD ideas for my space.
I'd like to define the lawn better, add more grass seed, including some clover, bluegrass, and fescue. Other grass suggestions would be helpful. It is very thatched and I do not have access to a dethatcher or roller or aireator. If I can do it by hand, I will. I do not know where to END the lawn, or how. I'll include a photo of my possible ideas for where to end the lawn. The entire time I have lived here, much of this has been barren DIRT, hard packed, nothing grows on it. It's under a very old hydrangea, and the roots of that are very shallow, so it is very hard to plant anything under it. I can add a layer of soil/peat/whatever, but I don't want to harm the ancient hydrangea in doing so (it is ancient, so tips on how to keep it alive longer are appreciated too).
I'm thinking in the front part, I'd like to establish a low growing groundcover over where this bare dirt is now, and just merge it to grass at some semi-logical point, which I have not determined just yet. However, I could just put mulch on top of the bare dirt, if it's likely no groundcover will grow there. I was thinking for the groundcover part, like under the hydrangea, where the burberry bushes will be dug out (waiting for the landscape company guy to chainsaw the tops off so the thorns don't get me during the digging out), around the forsythias, and under the oil spout/cablebox perhaps wintergreen, wintercreeper (taller than I'd really like), aubrieta, viola, catmint, catnip. Any combination of those (I honestly was going to plant them ALL and see which one did the best). Do any of those sound logical for mostly shade? I read somewhere that the color the hydrangea blooms tells the soil ph, and mine blooms pink/white, so that means my soil is alkaline. I do not know if this is true, but it's probably likely.
Then, for the part nearer the house, I was thinking a combination of caladium, coleus, helleborus, trillium, ferns, and violas. I don't want hostas, I already have them in the front and there's already too many. I can't think of any other shade loving plants that will survive my winters (not sure even all of those will for sure). I don't plan to remove the existing liles or lily of the valley, rather, I want to supplement them, and add cool colors (pinks, blues, purples). I don't care how high it grows, though I'd prefer it be between 10 inches and 30 inches tall, no taller. I sure would like to get something flashy like lupines or columbines, but I think it's not enough sun, is it?