Shade Garden Layout

landofoz_07(5 or 6)February 23, 2007

I'm putting in a shade garden under an 'understory' apricot tree. The area is a semi-circle with an 13-14 foot side to it. (if that makes sense) Here is what I planned on planting (in order from back of garden to front):

Solomon's Seal

Bleeding Heart

Japanese Painted Fern

Hostas/Wild Ginger/Lily of the Valley/Heuchera/Black Bowles Viola

The purpose of this garden is to cover dirt that won't grow anything (I am ammending it). I want the Japanese painted fern and the bleeding heart to be my "accents" for the garden. Am I accomplishing this with these plants? Would you add or subtract any others?

I'm fairly new to flower gardening and this is my first year realizing that some plants don't like shade. lol. Please let me know your thoughts.

Thanks so much!


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Mayapple compliments bleeding heart very nicely and does well in shade. I purchased the 2 together after seeing them growing together at a local perennial farm.

Just a thought!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 3:37PM
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Do you know the bleeding heart will die back after it is done blooming? The amount of shade/moisture will determine how long it is around. My japanese painted fern stays pretty close to the ground. I am not sure it is an "accent". Would autumn fern grow in your zone? Astilbe planted near the bleeding heart will take over as an accent when the bleeding heart dies back. The ginger, lillies of the Valley will compete for space, and spread rapidly. You will want to keep them away from the hosta. I LOVE my solomon's seal. I have four varieties. I would suggest the verigated. You may want to think about adding some columbine for color. Your spot will fill up quickly.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 1:06PM
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landofoz_07(5 or 6)

Yeah, I knew about bleeding heart dying off. I think that is about the only negative thing about that plant. I had hoped that the great solomon's seal (up to 6ft tall) would help to cover the area that the bleeding heart leaves behind. What do you think? I don't think I'm going to put any lily of the valley's in this garden. I've read that they can be very invasive and the other plants will have to deal with enough root competition from the tree.

Oh man, I love those autumn ferns. Did you really have to point those out to me? lol Now there is ANOTHER plant that I'm going to have to buy. Plus, that would go beautifully with the caramel heuchera that I fell in love with and was trying to talk myself out of buying.

I am growing columbines, I don't know why I didn't list them. I've got about a dozen different varieties plus a few varieties of snapdragon that I may/may not put over there. Also, I'm growing some coleus from seed in the house, for this area.

Thanks for your help! Let me know what you think about it with these changes. I also put a link down there to the visual layout of my garden, I haven't taken out the lily of the valley's yet, so pretend that they aren't there. lol


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 1:58PM
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Don't forget to include something for autumn interest, maybe a tricyrtis? One of the fall anemones would probably be too vigorous for a small area. Aster divaricatus tucked into the middle would flop nicely onto plants past their blooming season. For me it starts blooming in August and continues through fall. How about a few autumn crocus?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 1:55PM
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In your investigations on Lilly of the Valley did you see some suggest sinking larger planters and planting the lillies in them. This keeps them from creeping, they say. I have a fern leaf bleeding heart that does not die back. It blooms all summer, off and on. It is not as vigorous for me as for the friend who gave it to me, but we are different zones. I am closer to 3 she is solid 4. My toad lillies bloom in the fall. The seed heads on solomons seal and Jack-in-the pulpits are nice in the fall too.
My autumn fern did not make it here. It would have been so nice if it had. Your plan looks good. Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 3:32PM
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landofoz_07(5 or 6)

Arcy, yup, I'd heard of sinking the pot. Unfortunately someone buried a whole brick-BBQ no more than 8 inches under the soil. I'd rather not do any digging in that area.

As far as winter interest goes, shouldn't the coleus, ferns, and hostas still be hanging around and looking good? Or do these get "ragged" by the end of the summer? Although a fall bloomer would be nice... I really like the toad lily. You people are just feeding my plant-addiction. lol



    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 6:14PM
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I think the reason nothing is growing in that area is that you only have 8 inches of soil above a brick barbeque. Did I read that correctly? If I did, eight inches of soil would be enough for the roots of some of the plants you're talking about, but not for all of them. And I would think that kind of barrier so close to the surface could cause drainage problems. If I understood you correctly about the barbeque, you might want to plant a shade ground cover and do your other gardening in containers. I would recommend a raised bed, but I don't know how that would affect your apricot tree - would depend on the location of this bed to the tree's feeder roots.

I hope I'm not raining on your parade, because the plants you have chosen sound lovely. You have good design instincts. Good luck with this bed - and post some pictures of it if you ever get the chance.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:39PM
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landofoz_07(5 or 6)

My soil is mostly sand, so water just pours right through. I can't put in a raised bed because of the tree roots. The extension agent recommended only 2 inches, max of topsoil/compost, and heavy, heavy mulching. Plus I'm using soaker hoses. Now I'm left wondering, what plants aren't going to work there? I don't know how close to the tree the stinkin' bricks go, didn't want to go poking around too aggressively...


    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 9:38PM
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I am zone 3/4 so your fall is very different than mine. I will bow out on that discussion. Sounds like, like it or not you got some diggin to do. I really would not suggest you try and ignore the brick deal. In a year or two you will be digging it AND all your plants out to get rid of it. First rule of gardening is get the soil and hardscape right first. Saves time and aggravation later. SORRY!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 4:11PM
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I think it's either garden in containers or dig up those bricks. I'm not sure how successful container gardening would be in zone 5 or 6. When I first read your post I thought you were in zone 7, where you can leave most anything in a container over winter. I'm not sure you can do that in zone 5.

If you want a perennial bed, you're going to have to dig. Even then, if the soil is sand that water runs through, you're going to have to rethink the plants. Astilbe and solomon's seal need moist soil. Even with soaker hoses you won't keep the astilbe happy.

I'd plant ground cover and put in some seating or a bird bath and let it go at that.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 12:40PM
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landofoz_07(5 or 6)

Sugarhill, I love the idea of just some groundcovers and a birdbath. Unfortunately, the area is near the alley and the neighbors across the alley keep getting their truck stolen. I imagine that something as small (and cute) as a birdbath would leave my premises very quickly. Never to be seen again.

The dirt in this area is terrible which is why I was planning on adding a couple inches of compost too it. I'm not sure that anything would grow there without it. I did a *little* poking around and the bricks are a few feet out from the tree (like 5 feet away from the trunk). Still, I think I'll buy some easy groundcovers and see what develops.

Also, the neighbor to the north (who gets the other half of the tree) is moving. So now I'm going to have to contend with new neighbors and the house is a ... ahem... cheaply-rented, dilapidated (to put it very kindly) home that probably won't attract the most ideal neighbors. I'd hate to have to harm someone for mowing over an expensive new garden! :D lol

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! I really appreciate the help.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 11:13AM
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I garden on a very sandy site, where there is less than an inch of topsoil, so everything has to be created from scratch. That's not too bad for some sun-loving plants, many of which are adapted to prairie or high desert conditions. It's terrible for shade plants, on the whole, although there are some good dry shade plants around.

At the back of my shed, in deciduous woods, there was a large area that had been blighted by being once used as a dump for the remains of a greenhouse. Impossible to clear up, very hard to dig and weed because of all the brick, metal and glass buried there.

Last year, I decided to build a shade rock garden, suitable mainly for unusual natives and Asiatic species. This might be the sort of thing needed.

Around the area, I dug a 12" x 12" trench, for planting small bulbs and perennials at ground level. I covered the whole area, including the trench, with landscape fabric, to prevent glass shards and perennial weeds from working their way up.

I then built up each level in irregular terraces, using large stones gathered from my own and neighbours' yards. The fit between adjacent stones is snug enough to prevent soil erosion without being so tight as to cause flooding. There's a path curving round almost the whole area, so it's terraced on three sides, with the inaccessible 30 ft. of edge as the highest point, for large perennials and blocks of relatively mundane spring bulbs.

I don't have a full planting list to hand, but I do have my preliminary list, which might be useful. All the plants will take deciduous shade, part shade, or full shade.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:11PM
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ANDROMEDA polifolia `Chuo Red`
ANDROMEDA polifolia `Kiri-Kaming`
ANDROMEDA polifolia `Nana Alba`
Bog Rosemary: low, modestly spreading member of the Ericaceae, evergreen, 8 x 24, part shade, moist, peaty soil

ERICA tetralix `Swedish Yellow`
Cross-leaved heath, 6 x 18, yellow, gold and reddish tips, late rose-pink flowers

EMPETRUM nigrum var. hermaphroditum
Crowberry, 3 x 12, pink flowers, black berries, peat bed

KERRIA japonica "Golden Guinea"
4-5 ft x 4-5 ft, large single yellow flowers in spring, with some repeats

I planted a variegated Kerria too, among the plain ones.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:13PM
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Flowering perennials

ANEMONE flaccida
Spreading, white flowers, spotted leaves
ANEMONE keiskeiana
Summer dormant, white flowers, mottled foliage
ANEMONE nemorosa `Bracteata`
Double white flowers, with green and white bracts
ANEMONE pseudoaltaica
NE Asia, white or blue, spreading, well-drained, humus, shade
ANEMONE ranunculoides `Flore Pleno`
Double yellow flowers
ANEMONE seemannii
Creeping hybrid of A. nemerosa and A. ranunculoides, large cream/sulphur flowers
ANEMONE stolonifera
Japan, white, dissected leaves, creeping

AQUILEGIA desertorum
Arizona columbine, 18" x 15", red and yellow
Red Spur columbine, 24" x 18", bright red

BEGONIA grandis `Alba`
BEGONIA grandis 'Heron's Pirouette'
BEGONIA grandis ssp. evansiana 'Wildwood Purity
18 x 18, hardy if mulched; the last slightly larger

CARDIANDRA alternifolia
Japan, small hydrangea relative, 18 x 24, late pink flowers

CORYDALIS malkensis
Caucasus, white, early, humus, partial shade, moist
CORYDALIS ochroleuca
Italy, Greece; ferny leaves, long-flowering, yellowish white
SE Russia, sky-blue to white, partial shade, not too dry
CORYDALIS paczoskii
Ukraine, mauve, humus, moist, shade
Caucasus, white, partial shade, humus

EPIMEDIUM acuminatum
12 x 18, marbled foliage, purple when new, with lilac sepals and lavender petals
EPIMEDIUM pubigerum
12-24 x 12-24, yellowish flowers
EPIMEDIUM sutchuenense
Spreading; white sepals, red petals, mottled foliage
EPIMEDIUM x omeiense 'Akane'
12", purple red flowers with yellow spurs
[additional epimediums from elsewhere in the garden]

ERINUS alpinus `Albus`
ERINUS alpinus `Carmineus`
Fairy foxglove, Alps, 4 x 4, flowers May, reseeds into crevices.

Dogtooth violet, clumping, white and yellow flowers, mottled foliage

KEISKEIA japonica var. hondoensis
White flowers, 24-36", late summer

PINELLIA cordata ÂYamazakiÂ
PINELLIA pedatisecta
PINELLIA tripartite
China, 9 x 9 aroids

POLLIA japonica
Stoloniferous, 18 Â 24 x indef., ginger-like foliage with heads of many small white flowers, then black berries

PRIMULA daoensis
Rhaetian Alps, 4 x 6, rosy pink, moist, humus, part shade
PRIMULA kisoana ÂAlbaÂ
Spreading, 4" scalloped hairy leaves, white flowers, shade
PRIMULA kisoana var. shikokiana
Pink flowers, loose woodsy soil

THALICTRUM filamentosum var. tenerum
NE Asia, 12", white, July, humus, shade

Shining Meadow Rue, 48-60 x 12, fragrant, yellow

NE Turkey, 24 x 36, fuzzy foliage, blue purple panicles in spring

TRAUTVETTERIA carolinensis
Native to both US coasts, 15 x 24 foliage, white flowers to 5 ft., moist, shaded
Short, white, like Thal.fil., moist, well-drained, shade

TRICYRTIS formosana
24-36 x 18
TRICYRTIS perfoliata
18 x 10, yellow
24", mat-forming

TRIOSTEMON himalayanum
Zhongdien Plateau, 30 x 36, light shade, greenish-yellow flowers, red fruit

VIOLA ÂPartly CloudyÂ
Variegated form of unknown species, East Coast, a Darrell Probst selection
VIOLA odorata ÂAlba PlenaÂ
Fragrant, fully double, spreads by runners

YPSILANDRA thibetica
Evergreen rosettes to 5 x 5, white spikes in late winter to 8", part shade, humus

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:15PM
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Foliage perennials

ATHYRIUM otophorum
East Asia, Painted Lady Fern, 24 x 36
ATHYRIUM filix-femina `Minutissimum`
Miniature Lady Fern, 8"

US, shade or part shade, 36 x 36
Japan, part shade, 24 x 36
Sichuan, part shade, 36 x 24
Related to Podophyllum, white flowers, blue fruit

36-48", moist acid soil
DRYOPTERIS tokyoensis
Limegreen pinwheels of horizontally arching fronds to 3
DRYOPTERIS x complexa Robust
Lush arching fronds to 5

HOSTA capitata
12", linear, yellowish leaves
HOSTA sp. aff. Shikokiana
12 x 6, medium green
HOSTA sp. aff. sieboldiana var. glabra
Clumping, medium-sized, bright green
HOSTA ventricosa
24 x 36
HOSTA venusta
18 x 10
HOSTA "One Mans Treasure"
[The species hostas are planted as specimens. The horticultural hosta is mass planted in front of a large, pale, streaked rock. Miniature hostas from elsewhere in the garden may be added as accents.]

OSMUNDA regalis 'Purpurascens'
Purple stems, 4 ft x 8 ft, moisture-retentive soil

PETASITES japonicus 'Variegatus'
[I have planted one of these monsters for summer shade, in the back corner of the rockery. In the wood behind, I have to take out some dead trees, so I have planted several of the non-variegated Petasites.]

PHEGOPTERIS hexagonoptera
Southern Beech Fern, short runners, 12-24"

SARUMA henryi
Upright Wild Chinese Ginger, 12-24 x 36, yellow flowers, shade, woodsy soil

SMILACINA formosana
36 x 36
SMILACINA japonica
15 X 12
SMILACINA purpurea
36 X 24, purplish leaves and stems
"False Solomons Seal"

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:17PM
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Groundcover perennials

ACHLYS japonica
Japan, spreading by underground stems, shade, moist, humus, white flowers

ARENARIA balearica
Sandwort, 1 x 12, white flowers in June

BELLIUM minutum
Miniature mat daisy, 2 x 15, tiny white daisies, spring into summer

CALCEOLARIA falklandica
South America, 6 x 12, yellow pouched and spotted flowers

CHIASTOPHYLLUM oppositifolium
Caucasus, succulent, 6 x 24, arching stems of golden flowers

CYMBALARIA aequitriloba
Mini Kenilworth ivy, rampant spreader, ivy-shaped leaves to 1", purple-pink `snapdragon` flowers in summer

12 x 18, aromatic, deeply cut foliage, purple-blue flowers in summer

HYDROPHYLLUM tenuipes Apparition
Waterleaf, Pacific NorthWest, selection with varying leaf colour, summer dormant, to 12", lavender flowers

MITELLA japonica 'Variegata'
8 x 8, bright green splashed with yellow white

SPEIRANTHA convallarioides
China, low rosettes of leaves, white fragrant flowers in spring to 8"

TRIGONOTIS cavaleriei
Sichuan, stoloniferous, glossy foliage, blue branched cymes to 8"

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:18PM
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mass plantings of 50 or more marked with a bullet point; these have been planted mainly in drifts, either running downhill or traversing at a single level.

ALLIUM paradoxum var. normale
* 8"-12", partial shade, white bells ALLIUM triquetrum
18", partial shade, moist, white bells with green veins

COLCHICUM autumnale album
3", small, prolific
COLCHICUM autumnale var. alboplenum
4", double white

* CROCUS ancyrensis "Golden Bunch"
3", yellow, semi-shade, very early
CROCUS imperati "DeJager"
4", yellow with red exterior, rose interior, very early
CROCUS minimus
3", complex colouration, early
CROCUS susianus
2", orange with bronze, very early
* CROCUS "Blue Pearl
* CROCUS "Cream Beauty"
* CROCUS "Goldilocks"
* CROCUS "Purity"
* CROCUS "Ruby Giant"

* FRITILLARIA assyriaca
14", filtered shade, purplish exterior, golden interior
FRITILLARIA camschatcensis
9"-18", moist, shade, purple to black
* FRITILLARIA meleagris alba
8", light shade, moist, cool, white form of the checkerboard
12", semi-shade, greenish with purple edges
FRITILLARIA thunbergii
E.Asia, 2 ft, ivory/green checkered, moist, humus, part shade

* NARCISSUS "Baby Moon"
Pale yellow jonquilla, floriferous and fragrant, late-flowering.
* NARCISSUS bulbocodium "Golden Bells"
golden-yellow, multi-flowering species miniature.
* NARCISSUS canaliculatus:
multi-flowering, white and golden-yellow, scented species miniature.
NARCISSUS gayi "Princeps"
bicolored English daffodil of the 19th century, 12" 14"
* NARCISSUS "Jack Snipe"
white with a bright yellow trumpet, cyclamineus.
* NARCISSUS "Jetfire"
canary-yellow with a pale orange crown, cyclamineus.
NARCISSUS obvallaris
Tenby daffodil, 8" 10", yellow
14", clumping, white, fragrant, triandrus.
NARCISSUS poeticus var. physaloides
Mediterranean, 8"-12", fragrant
NARCISSUS poeticus recurvus
Alpine species, 12" 14", fragrant
NARCISSUS pseudonarcissus
the English species, 12", yellow, early
NARCISSUS pseudonarcissus ssp. moschatus
Pyrenees, 12", milky white, part shade, moist
* NARCISSUS "Tete a Tete"
buttercup-yellow with a darker trumpet, cyclamineus.
17th-century yellow double, very early

12", semi-shade, white with green veins

TULIPA sylvestris
Florentine tulip, 8" 14", yellow, violet-scented

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:22PM
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I should add that the highest parts are about 4 ft. from ground level (i.e. 5 ft. from the bottom of the trench) and I mulched with an inch or more of hardwood mulch before the arrival of the first frost.

I am hoping that all will have survived the first winter -- a delicate matter for some of the more tender plants, such as the begonias.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:33PM
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