Is your yard shadier than mine?

Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)August 8, 2012

Hello, Everyone

I am ecstatic to have found this forum.

I am new to gardening as of this June. I live in Seymour, CT, which is zone 6.

If I was with my husband when he bought this house, I would have voted "nay" on this purchase.

It has been most difficult gardening or...trying to garden.

1. The majority of my yard is dry shade. Most cannot image that my yard is as shaded as I describe. So, I have included a satellite picture of my property. The roof of my house is the lighter one toward the center and a little to the left. These trees are 50 and 60 ft maples and oaks. What cannot be seen are the evergreens, dogwoods, and other smaller trees planted in the under story.

2. Trees and shrubs have been crammed together. We had to remove various plants including trees, and shrubs because overcrowding and diseased/unhealthy plants. Also, we trimmed off lower branches of trees that we can reach with a pole saw. We haven't even scratch the surface.

3. Every time I mow the back, I mow dirt and pebbles. I have to convince my husband that grass will never grow in deep shade. However, he is unconvinced since he lumps little tufts here and there of crab grass including moss, various clovers, and other weeds I can't name as "lawn".

4. All I have are hostas everywhere. It's been an adventure trying to find some colorful perennials. I'm trying out Japanese ferns, Ghost ferns, bleeding hearts, Ajuga, creeping jenny, Hellebore. In the spring, I will add a hydrangea. Hopefully, they all take and I can upload some pictures next year.

Thanks for listening to me whine about my shaded yard.

-Tina

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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

So, where did you move from?

As much as anything else, it sounds like you aren't from around here, are you?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 2:50PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Tina, you are right, that is a very shaded yard! I have shade, but not even half as much as that. Well, you have privacy, that's for sure...lol.

Your list of plants that you are trying, are exactly what I would recommend and I am using in my own shade, successfully. Except the ajuga and creeping jenny. I couldn't get ajuga to grow, which sounds crazy I know. I still don't know why. And creeping jenny is a spreader that I avoid. In your situation, maybe it would not spread as much, not sure.

I'm also using Epimedium a lot, which I find bulletproof even in my deepest shade. Lamium in areas where there are natural boundaries. Some native Tiarella cordifolia for the spring. Solomon's Seal doesn't seem to mind the dark corners either. Viola labradorica. That's all I can think of at the moment.

Welcome to the forum!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 2:59PM
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Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)

Thanks for the welcome.

mad_gallica, I lived in Southeast Asia; Queens, NY; Bridgeport CT; El Paso, TX; Waipahu, HI; Wahiawa, HI

So, I have lived in quite a few different places. I don't think I'm quite done yet....there's a few more places I would like to experience. And, when I leave, I best be able to carry off these plants that I put down. :-)

prairiemoon2, I'm glad you can understand my dilemma. Thanks for the great suggestions. I'm not sure why I bypassed the Epimedium. Looking at the other threads, I see that they come in many different flavors. I visited many nurseries that were well organized and cannot recall seeing them there.

The Epimedium species are beautiful but pricey. I'll shop around maybe a local nursery will have them on sale.

I like Solomon's Seal. I bypassed it because I needed to fill a large space. There always seemed to be only a few sprigs in a pot that was the same price as a larger and fluffier plant.

Oh, the Viola labradorica! I picked up and looked at it today when I was at the Walmart garden center. And, it was half price! However, it was out in the sun and had no labels or identification so I put it back.

Thanks again,
Tina

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:08PM
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gardenweed_z6a

I did a shade study when I first moved to my Z6 north-central CT home 6-7 years ago and was able to pinpoint areas of full shade. That allowed me to pursue shade-tolerant perennials including:

bleeding heart
toad lily
Jacobs ladder
Japanese sedge
hosta
hellebore
coral bells
columbine
lady's mantle
Virginia bluebells
black snakeroot
astilbe
brunnera
lungwort
painters palette persicaria

The list above isn't complete but those are all thriving where they get little to no supplemental water. That said, however, they aren't competing with maple tree roots for moisture and only a few were grow from seed. The Japanese sedge is a short ornamental grass that's tough as nails. It's variegated green & white. You're more than welcome to some divisions in exchange for postage. It's quite prolific--my original single plant has yielded nearly two dozen divisions the past couple years.

You may want to rethink the hydrangea--hydra is Greek for water and the ones I have growing here really suffer during extended dry periods.

Good luck and if you have questions, ask away.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 7:38AM
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asarum(z6 Boston)

I have dry shade under maple trees. I think you will find success with the Ghost and Japanese ferns as I have had. In addition, another fern that does unexpectedly well is maidenhair fern. I always see it with labels saying that is is moisture lover, and would never have tried it if I hadn't seen it growing in a dry shade area in Leo Blanchette's nursery. It comes back every year and is growing slowly.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 12:32PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Hey! What happened to my post from yesterday?! Okay, here we go again. What I said (more or less) was:

Hi Tina! Welcome to the forum! I'm in Shelton (hi neighbor!) and I would venture to guess that my yard is as shady as yours. I thought I would upload a satellite photo of my yard as you did, but it was taken in winter, lol, so no trees or leaf cover to get the full effect like your photo!

I love, love, love my shade! Yes, at times I do wish I had more sun to grow certain plants, as what sun I have is around the edges of my yard. But overall, on these hot summer days (which seem to be getting hotter every year) I love having the shade. It makes an amazing difference in temperature in my yard and in my house. My neighbors love the sun and have a wide-open, sunny yard complete with pool, and when I walk over there I can feel the temperature rise dramatically.

It's also much better working in the garden in the shade than it is working in the garden in the sun!

I can't help with the grass issue, as my "lawn" is a mix of everything but grass, lol, including a wonderful expanse of haircap moss, but for the gardens, take advantage of all those trees and use those leaves! Shred 'em and spread 'em in your beds, and your soil will be very much improved.

I hope you can learn to love your shade. There is nothing as peaceful or restful as a beautiful shade garden. Too bad you couldn't get to see George's spectacular garden - you'd be planting more trees, lol! Well, okay, maybe not quite, but you'd see what I mean about shade gardens.

By the way, I'm Bridgeport born and raised! Are you, by any chance?

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 2:27PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Welcome to the forum!
Certain azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias could thrive at the 'edge' of the shady areas and could provide some color. The camellias have both spring and fall blooming types. The fact that they stay green year round provides some winter interest. Although it doesn't produce showy flowers, Aucuba japonica is another broadleaf evergreen shrub that is available in many varieties, mostly speckled or variegated green and cream or gold. Good luck in your new home.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 5:03PM
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terrene(5b MA)

My yard isn't as shady as yours, but it used to be. The previous owner removed trees from the front yard (1 1/2 days of treework) just before I bought it. I've had tree work done 3 times, about 2 1/2 days worth total.

I basically removed trees that were over crowded, thinned out the Pines, and removed 4 large Norway maples and about a million smaller ones. Also had strategic limbs removed, i.e. a large maple limb that was hanging over the utility wires.

There are still a lot of large trees. Now I have a lot of partial sun. I've learned that many perennials and even grasses and understory plants that grow pretty well with 3 or 4 hours of sun. However, I still struggle to find places to grow veggies and sun-loving annuals. :-/

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 8:00PM
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Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)

gardenweed_z6a, thanks for the list and offer! I went fern crazy and don't have the room for the beautiful Japanese sedge. Can I take a rain check? I may need it if plants don't come back next year.

asarum, good to hear that the ferns have a good chance of working out.

diggerdee, hey, neighbor! I wasn't born in BPT but did most of my school years there. Grew up on the East side where they put up jersey barriers through out the streets....sad times. We lived in a 4 family house and had a patch of dirt. But, boy, did my mom grow things in that patch! Hopefully, she passed some of that "green thumb" gene to me. :-)

Bill, thanks for the welcome. Ooooo, the Aucuba japonica gold dust could really brighten up the place!

terrene, wow, that's a lot of work. We just had to remove an evergreen bush that died a couple of weeks ago. Now, there's a dogwood that has to go. I don't like having to nor do I want to remove all trees and shrubs but this dogwood is turning brown and fungus is growing on the lower trunk. No air circulation. Like diggerdee said, it sure is a lot cooler with the trees around.

There's such great information in this forum.

Thanks everyone!
-Tina

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)

gardenweed_z6a, thanks for the list and offer! I went fern crazy and don't have the room for the beautiful Japanese sedge. Can I take a rain check? I may need it if plants don't come back next year.

asarum, good to hear that the ferns have a good chance of working out.

diggerdee, hey, neighbor! I wasn't born in BPT but did most of my school years there. Grew up on the East side where they put up jersey barriers through out the streets....sad times. We lived in a 4 family house and had a patch of dirt. But, boy, did my mom grow things in that patch! Hopefully, she passed some of that "green thumb" gene to me. :-)

Bill, thanks for the welcome. Ooooo, the Aucuba japonica gold dust could really brighten up the place!

terrene, wow, that's a lot of work. We just had to remove an evergreen bush that died a couple of weeks ago. Now, there's a dogwood that has to go. I don't like having to nor do I want to remove all trees and shrubs but this dogwood is turning brown and fungus is growing on the lower trunk. No air circulation. Like diggerdee said, it sure is a lot cooler with the trees around.

There's such great information in this forum.

Thanks everyone!
-Tina

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 10:34PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Yup, Tina, I know just where you mean. I grew up a few blocks away, near the old GE building that was just torn down. Did you go to Harding?

We also had a patch of dirt - not much grass, lol, just mostly dirt - in the front yard of our rowhouse. But like your mom, my mom really crammed in a lot of beauties in that small patch.

Dee

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:37PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi Tina, You are right, you rarely see a lot of epimediums at the nursery. I order mine from a Massachusetts company that specializes in them called Garden Vision Epimediums. See the link below to a story about the person who started the company that you might find interesting. He is no longer there, but his ex-wife is running the company now.

I first became interested in epimedium when I helped my Mom establish a new garden under a large Copper Beech tree about 20 years ago, I guess. Wow, time flies...lol. Later I took some divisions home to my own garden, then 3 years later, divided again. I left a pot of it without watering for over a month and was sure it was dead and threw it on the compost pile, roots side up. In the fall, leaves were on top of it. Next spring, it was growing in the compost pile and I rescued it. They've been my favorite ever since.

They are on the expensive side, but I see them as an investment, since they are so trouble free and grow where little else will. I budget to order two every year to increase my collection, and they do have some less expensive ones.

Here's one of my favorites, 'Bandit'.....

Here is a link that might be useful: Epimedium Man

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 4:11AM
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Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)

Good morning, Dee and prairiemoon2

Dee, yes, I went to Harding. I'm assuming you did too since you lived right down the street from there.

By the time I was in high school, we lived off of William St, just pass Barnum school. This was just under 2 miles so a school bus wasn't provided. A city bus didn't run that route or that early. My sister and I had to walk. I didn't mind the walk but with our winter it just wasn't fun.

prairiemoon2, Ooo Aaah! Your 'Bandit' is just beautiful. So many blooms. I am frothing with jealousy.

When I was looking for plants, I was at a few respected nurseries and none of them offered me the epimedium. I must have looked "down and broken" from all the garden work. So, they figured I couldn't afford it. Lol

BTW, thanks for the advice on the creeping jenny. I found out this morning that it is actually listed as invasive by the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group at http://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/list.html?id=88
My question is 'Why are nurseries selling them?'

I'll keep a close eye on it. If it looks like it's 'creeping' into other plants and areas, I'm ripping it up and replacing it with......epimedium, yaaaay! ;-)

Thanks,
Tina

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 7:33AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Tina, I've found that there are many plants that are invasive or aggressive that are still sold. With the creeping jenny, I think some people use them to nice effect in containers, so maybe that's the reason.

I did buy that 'Bandit' from Garden Vision. And I forgot to say that you can buy epimedium that clump and some that spread. Most of mine are clumpers, because I am quite cautious about a plant getting away from me, after having a bad experience with one. But last year, I decided it was silly not to get a spreader that I needed for under a Maple that has been hard to plant under. Especially an epimedium that is a 'friendly' spreader to me. So I have one, but just bought it this year, so no report on it.

So funny that you and Dee lived in the same area....such a small world!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 8:08AM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

My goodness, Tina, you certainly have traveled and have lived in a wide variety of climates! Welcome to the NE forum and to the neighborhood (I live further up 95 in West Haven). My first house was in deeeeep shade, so I've experienced your "problems." And, although I love the full sun we have now, Dee makes great points about the benefit of shade, especially how the trees help to keep the house cooler. For those of us with sunny yards, this has been one hot summer with so many things, inside and outside, suffering!

I think your biggest problem will be the dryness underneath those trees and the root competition. Just curious ---- have you ever counted the trees in your yard? From the photograph, I think you'd be the shade winner on this forum. When I lived in shade, the variegated Solomon's Seal was very prolific and it didn't need much care. And boy, did it spread! The same for Creeping Jenny, which is almost impossible to get rid of once it takes hold. That Epimedium 'Bandit' is beautiful ---- I'd love it in my yard --- if I could find a shady enough spot.

Good luck with your new gardens.

Molie

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 3:01PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

"...My question is 'Why are nurseries selling them?'..."

Yes, that is a question many of us ask about many plants, unfortunately.

Of course, it always seems to be some of the most beautiful plants that are invasive. I do have some golden creeping jenny, which is supposed to be less aggressive, and it is in a small patch of ground about five feet by 2.5 feet, surrounded by the patio, a sidewalk, and the driveway, and I still keep an eye on it! Such a beautiful ground cover, though...

There is a geranium that supposedly does well in dry shade... maccorhizum?? maculatum?? I think maccorhizum and maybe someone can help me out with the name. And if you are looking for a groundcover, it seems myrtle grows everywhere and anywhere! I've never actually planted it, and frankly pull it out by the handfuls every year, so maybe it's not a good thing to recommend, but perhaps something for you to research.

I see you responded on the swap thread - do some research and then ask for things at the swap. You never know what people are giving away!

Dee
Proud Harding grad, Class of... eh, never mind... don't want to date myself...I'm old enough without others knowing how old I really am.... :)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 4:54PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Oops, meant vinca. Vinca. Don't know where the heck myrtle came from....

Dee

P.S. Also meant to say that when I first moved in, I tried to count my trees. Gave up at somewhere between 40 & 50. That included a lot of the smaller, understory scrub trees, but still a lot of trees to this city girl!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 8:39PM
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