Planning a partial shade garden

brandles(7 NE OK)March 10, 2010


I am a novice when it comes to gardening. It has been a dream of mine to have a beautiful garden since I was a little girl. Now I am all grown up and own a home and want to plan a "secret garden" for my daughter who is 4. I hope to inspire the same feelings I have for flowers in her.

While I have these great aspirations I realize that I need to be practical in my plant choices. We have a busy lifestyle and the garden may be neglected at times. With that in mind, as well as my desire to conserve the environment, what plants do you recommend for our garden?

The following is a list of some of my favorite flowers/plants. Are they viable choices?









By the way, the area I have in mind for the garden is on the northwest side of my house. It gets a lot of shade from the shadow of the house in the morning and the shadow of the fence in the evening. I realize I will have to choose plants that can tolerate a lot of shade.

Thank you, I'm looking forward to your input. :)

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Full sun can be considered as at least 6 hours per day. If you plant out from the house some, maybe you can get that. I would watch the sun to decide how much sun you are getting in different spots.

Hydrangea and hosta will do great in shade. The rest should get the 6 hours to flower well.

Google shade plants and you will find lots, you also might search for partial shade plants.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 4:32AM
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Welcome Brandles! You sound like a nice mom. I think the book "The Secret Garden" has inspired many people over the years, including me. I loved that book. My kids have seen the movie but it doesn't capture the mystery of the garden as well as the book does.

Right now your house is casting a longer shadow on the north side of your house than it will in the summer because of the position of the sun.
On the northwest corner of your house, your plants may get some hot sun for awhile in the afternoon so you have to be careful about planting shade plants. Of those that you listed, I think hosta is the only one that would have trouble with hot sun. Their leaves will burn, but they might do just fine if you position them where the other plants will shade them. I'm not the hosta expert but some tolerate more sun than others. Guacamole is a good one and fragrant too.

I don't have experience with all of the plants you mentioned. None at all with peonies. My mother has iris in a spot that doesn't get much sun and I don't think they bloom. Mine, on the west side of my shed bloom well. My mother also has bigleaf hydrangeas on the north side of her house and they still bloom well there. I don't think they get any direct sun at all. My hydrangeas are on the east side of my house and get lots of morning sun. They wilt when it gets hot even though they're shaded in the afternoon. It doesn't kill them though and I do think they bloom better if they get some sun.

I've tried annual Geraniums a couple times on the west side of my house and they don't do well for me. They don't grow and usually look better when I first plant them than they do at the end of summer. Maybe it's just my brown thumb though.

Another one to add, if you want some low-growing flowers in a few hours of hot afternoon sun, is annual vinca.

The only other advice I can think of right now is to be choosy with your roses. Some are more disease resistant than others.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 10:46AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Do you have tree roots to deal with? Do you have guttering on your house? How wide is the area between the fence and the house. The reason I'm asking is drips from the barn help me grow exbury azalea which is a nice shrub that blooms in late spring. It grows slowly and wants some shade but reaches for the sun. I would let it dry out if it weren't for the extra run off from the roof. It grows on the NW side of my barn. I also have a pink rose but it is far enough away from the building to get sun. A rose needs sun. Clematis is pretty but it gets a wilt and dies back. It does come back from this. I am going to bump old pictures of the NW side of my barn if I can find those pictures.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 1:56PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

This faces NW but there is tree shade too on the west. The orange is Exbury azalea. The bloom is brief in the spring but it is dependable every year. You can see the rose is 4 or 5 feet from the barn and reaches for the sun. Day lilies bloom in June and dwarf summersweet comes later. Shrubs take years to grow but daylilies are quick.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 2:49PM
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The Knockout roses are supposed to be the most blackspot resistant roses ever developed. I bought several David Austin roses that were said to be resistant, but they weren't at all in my garden. Neither was Carefree Wonder. The Knockouts aren't fragrant, but they are pretty, and they bloom all summer.

Rudbeckia (Blackeyed Susan) and Echinacia (Purple Coneflower) are both tough as nails plants that can take neglect and selfseed. They can take partial shade and still bloom. If dead headed early will rebloom.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 9:03PM
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How big of a space is it?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 2:29PM
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brandles(7 NE OK)

Thanks for your recommendations, keep them coming! I have started, though I'm not confident that I have done enough homework or planning. A friend offered some Irises, day lilies, and peonies from her own garden. A gift I could not refuse! I think a good portion of my garden area will get at least 6 hours of sun. It is the hot afternoon sun. I was pulling up dandelions yesterday and got a taste of how much heat radiates from the brick on my home. Should I take that into consideration with my plant choices? Another problem I have realized is that my soil is heavy clay. When it rains it is very slow to drain, my yard is still wet from the last time it rained. I'm hoping my transplants make it! I will repost with the measurements of my space and a picture to give a better idea of what I'm working with. Thanks again for your help :)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 5:26PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Impatients will be showing up in garden centers. They bloom longer than most annuals, are inexpensive and not hard to grow. They want shade and moisture when it is dry. A comment on my picture. I am aware that orange and pink clash. When I get a plant, I stick it somewhere. Sometimes the combinations are lucky; sometimes they clash. I guess I could move the rose, but where would I put it?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 12:02AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Shade garden under a walnut tree. I like the red and burgundy colored impatients. They come in pinks, orange, salmon and lavender as well. My dogs like to sit on them. Impatients grow where hot dogs lie.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 12:59AM
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Helen, those impatiens are simple gorgeous. I have grown them but they take a lot of water and I am not so good about watering. I grew some doubles one year. They looked like tiny roses.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 5:26AM
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Brandles - Your choices sound good so far. It definitely make a difference that it's on the west side where there's more heat.
How big is the area that you're planting in?

I have a clematis against the west side of my house (brick) and it does ok. They like their roots shaded but can take full sun just fine. I can't say for sure that clematis always does well against brick. It might depend on how hot your brick gets.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 10:16AM
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brandles(7 NE OK)

Okay, so I left some questions unanswered here and I thought I would give you an update. My husband wasn't really as keen on putting in a "secret garden" as I was. Our backyard is a blank slate and he wanted to focus his attention elsewhere. (ie. patio buildout) I can appreciate that so I did some research and found that no matter where we start we are probably going to have to do some soil ammendment before we can start planting anything. First I made a layout of our yard as it is. I drew up a plan for flower beds and trees. He liked it but still wasn't convinced that it was worthwhile right now. So we've come to an agreement that when we get started on our patio we will discuss our drainage issues and soil quality with a landscaper. I guess it's a start. I didn't realize starting a garden would require anything like this! I thought I could dig a hole, drop the plant in, and voila beautiful secret garden. :) Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:32PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

You can do that with cheap annuals now like the impatients; or you can scratch in some seeds. I am still not clear on how much shade you have. You and your child could plant some sun flower seeds or zinnias if you have sun. I can still remember picking out a tuberous begonia at a greenhouse when I was a child. My mother would buy bedding plants for 35 cents a dozen in San Diego. I took bouquets of orange and yellow big marigolds to school for my second grade teacher. If I can remember that, it made an impression because I have a Medicare card. If they don't do well you'll know that you need amendments. Garden centers are full of 4 and 6 packs for about $2. You could also buy some very big pots and have little container gardens. Little pots have to be watered often and are a pain unless you fiddle in your garden every day. Containers need a good soil less mix not the cheap stuff. You could start some perennials from seed; it will take them a year or more to bloom. It depends or whether you want to work in your garden as a hobby and enjoy the process or hire people to create a beautiful area for you with not much labor on your part. Several of us here like the process but I for one don't have a show place. I get my exercise and entertain myself; I plant pink roses next to orange azaleas. If you get it landscaped do it in the fall. My friend's son built a new house and the landscaper put in a ton of young trees in midsummer that had to be watered all summer; many died. He got his job done and they were container plants, but he left busy people a chore. Mid summer is hard on new plants.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 5:54PM
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brandles(7 NE OK)

Here are some pictures of my space. The area is about 200 square feet. We are busy but I enjoy the work. I have to be honest though, there's not much time on week days to work in the garden so I really need plants that can take some neglect. My husband and I would be willing to do the work that doesn't take a lot of skill to do. Thanks for the tip on the trees, we will be planting trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: Empty Secret Garden

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:00PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I think you have quite a bit of sun. Your house is beautiful and the fence will be good protection for something that you will plant in the future. The area is bigger than I had imagined. You do have a blank slate; if you are busy I think you are correct in focusing on one area at a time. If you have the urge to plant something you could do a container garden for your new patio. In the area in your picture you have Bermuda I think. That grass is hard to fight. When you get trees they will shade it and you can plant your hostas under them. You still could make a little bed and plant some annuals if you want to involve your child. I wouldn't do a very big area. You could grow a hyacinth bean on a trellis - don't eat the beans. In Joplin they have a garden tour usually in June. I think you should visit gardens and find out more about what you like. You can copy ideas from magazines too. Be patient. After you get your trees in you can make beds around them. It takes years to grow shrubs but you have a nice new house and one of these days, you will have the garden that you want. There is a book I have that you might like.

Here is a link that might be useful: Theme Garden book

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 12:09AM
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I can see why you were thinking of a secret garden. It's already enclosed on three sides. What a perfect spot! It would be nice to have an arch or something as an entrance with a row of shrubs on each side to make the forth side. I like to use Google's image feature to look through pictures for ideas. Here's what comes up when I put in Garden Arch.

Here is a link that might be useful: Google Images - Garden Arch

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 11:26AM
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brandles(7 NE OK)

The first story window is actually looking out from my daughter's bedroom. I don't think there could be a more perfect use for that area. I want to enclose the space like Christie suggested. I love the idea of the arch, I think I'd like to incorporate a gate. I can't wait to get the landscaper here to discuss the drainage so I can actually get creative and make plans. Do you think I should ammend the soil and put the planting off until the fall and next spring? Thanks for the book Helen. I took a quick look at the children's garden section and it gave me some great ideas. We are going to visit the Tulsa Garden Center soon. I just love that place. :) We travel periodically to my hometown Pittsburg, KS. I can probably combine a trip to the garden tour with a visit to family. That would be nice.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 12:09PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

You can plant plants that come in containers all year, but plants do better if planted in spring or fall. June, July and August are hard on new plants and you have to be careful to keep them watered. You can plant now if you have a plan. It is a good idea to research things like small trees and shrubs because nurseries and places like Lowe's sell things that may not grow in your area. Some trees have bug problems, or drop seeds ect. You want the best for your spot because it will be there a while. If other houses in your area have already been landscaped for a few years you might stop and ask people about their yards.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 11:24AM
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