Beginnings of Eden MAYBE ????????

Bruce02March 30, 2005

I have been reading alot of forums but the memebers here seem so helpful. I just started to lay out a area for a shade garden. The area is on the side of the house about 25 feet wide by 70 feet . The area faces North and opened ended to the west. My plans are to build a fence that seperates the side of the house from the back , it will also be used to increase the amount of shade. The yard is shaded most of the day but exposed to the sun around 4 pm . The new fence will help out quite a bit from the hard Sacramento sun. My plant wish list is as follow .I am not technical so sorry about the generic names. Japanese maples , ferns . moss, hosta, azealea , and maybe a dogwood not sure what variety yet. Any idea or comments would be greatly appreciated.

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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Our CA summer west-facing sun can be very intense and will fry many of the older varieties of Japanese maples. I'd spring for the money for the newer hybrids that can take more sun yet still don't mind the shade. I have bought two 'Emperor 1' trees that were from Monrovia -- one is in a north bed with very bright shade, just a bit of overhead sun in summer. One is in a totally sunny, very windy site. Both look absolutely superb all summer long with no leaf burn. They grow fast, and have a lovely layered, vase-like shape, highly recommended!

If you have very bright shade but absolutely no direct sun, there is no prettier JMaple than 'Aureum', or 'Full Moon Maple'. The chartreuse leaf color is glorious in the shade. It's actually a full-sized tree but grows so slowly it will pretty much fit anywhere. Very expensive since it only puts on 4-6" per year.

The classic mugo pine will take hot setting sun, and shade the plants around it. Another plant for your fence that will enjoy that short blast of sun/mostly shade, is the cestrum, a rangy shrub that is an incredible hummer magnet. The pink and red varieties are almost ever-blooming; prune or tie up leaning branches (after a few years they'll thicken up and remain more upright), but give it enough width (about 4-5') because it sends out lots of layered branches.

Vibernum tinus 'Spring Bouquet' is also good in those conditions, and with good soil and water shoots up to 6' very fast indeed. There's a wonderful buckthorn, variegated Rhamnus, whose white-edged foliage just shines against a dark wood fence and can take western exposure.

I guess I'm not a hosta fan because I haven't much use for admittedly beautiful foliage that disappears half the year. I love ferns, and Microlepia strigosa has grown huge in both a wet shade AND dry shade bed, which impressed me.

Don't dogwoods need more sun to flower well? They sure are beautiful, though. That variegated dogwood in Wayside Nurseries catalog always gives me instant plant lust!

After seeing Encore azaleas for sale for three years in catalogs, they have AT LAST shown up on the West Coast! About time, too! They are reblooming evergreen azaleas and if you get them, please let me know how your experience goes. I couldn't buy the ones I saw because they were way too big for the bed I have, and they didn't show the color designation on the container, which irritated me. So I think I'll wait another season and order them from Park instead.

Callas unless you really dislike them, although if they are happy they can be bullies and overrun everything.

Hydrangeas like shade but need enough sun to bloom well, so you can grow these too. Now they have developed reblooming hydrangeas ('Endless Summer' is one, there are others) although I've been totally unsuccessful at finding these at local nurseries, a la the Encore azaleas. They don't take much care, just a quick pruning in late winter, and the blooms last forever on the plant, which is great.

If you are dying for a rose, there are actually quite a few roses that do well in partial shade, 'Cecile Brunner' being the most famous. I have also found that groundcover and shrub or bedding roses are bred to be incredibly tough and floriferous, and will survive much more shade than you ever thought possible. I have six different kinds and the hardiest in shade are the Jackson & Perkins "Blanket" series.

In your area you can grow Caladiums, which don't grow well until it gets over 65 degrees--I envy you! There are so many beautiful varieties of them, as colorful as flowers.

Many people don't realize that 'Tropicanna' canna lily actually needs some shade. It's pretty vigorous so one pot will eventually lead to giving free rhizomes away to passersby. But those new leaves are so gorgeously colorful! Just make sure you put it near plantings that won't clash with its orange flower spikes.

Brunnera 'Jack Frost' has finally come down in price and surprised me with its vigor. And the spikes of cornflower-blue flowers are just gorgeous against the creamy white leaves.

Star jasmine is the standard shady groundcover, but it's very rampant so needs to be given lots of space. Good for a dry shade corner, though, and the fragrance is divine. It will climb if you put it in a pillar or box trellis.

Hellebores are the traditional accompaniment to ferns, as their leaves and flowers have a wonderful textural contrast to ferns. They're evergreen and pest-free, and the flowers last for months on the plant. One of my hellebores keeps its blooms for eight months of the year, every year. Pretty amazing.

Helichrysums do surprisingly well in shade. They will all spread out so give them room, but are easy to prune back because the branches don't set runners. I like the variegated one (shown in photo 13, link below, climbing up some bearded iris on the right) and the chartreuse 'Limelight'.

Aucuba, particularly the variegated 'Gold Dust', grows fast and tall but keep it in the shade as the leaves will burn otherwise. It's hard to find tall shade plants so it's a good one to keep in mind.

For groundcovers I've been very displeased with vinca (plus it's impossible to get rid of) although V. major 'Illuminations' is at least pretty. The others have leaves so dark they kind of disappear. I prefer lamiums, some of which have lovelier flowers and better manners. Lamium maculatum 'Anne Greenaway' and 'Beacon Silver'
are wonderful little plants and much better behaved than the rampantly invasive yellow flowering Yellow Archangel 'Florentinum' (Lamium galeobdolon).

And don't forget begonias, plectranthus (related to coleus but perennial), bacopa, clivia, pieris, fragaria (wild strawberry), strobilanthes (Persian Shield), polemoniums, impatiens, lysimachias, tanacetums, stacchys (lambs ear) and heucheras/tiarellas. There are also non-invasive oxalis varieties, one of my favorite is Oxalis siliquosa 'Sunset Velvet'. It looks superb against dark or silvery leaves!

You'll see in my photos a lot of sword-like leaves of an unknown purple bearded iris I was given (about 200 rhizomes!!). I planted them in the shade beds figuring that even if they didn't bloom, I liked the upright foliage for contrast. Turns out they are a very tough old variety of some sort, and bloom several times a year even in shade. No real scent, but they're so beautiful and prolific I don't mind.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to photo 13 (also see photo 15)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 2:53PM
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margiemae(z10 CA Sunset 1)

What great pictures, jkom51! Your garden pictures are very inspiring and after looking at your north side garden, I'll be considering putting in interesting varieties of foliage plants in my shaded areas. I loved seeing the "before" and "after" pics. Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 12:39AM
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Wow, jkom51 -- your photos have given me hope! We just built a house and have a large empty yard to landscape. It is so intimidating to tackle, as it is my first garden, but I'm having a ton of fun with it. The plants I have put in are all so tiny and I was figuring it would take everything many years to look half-decent. I loved seeing your before and after photos and am so pleased to see how absolutely wonderful your garden looks after a short growing period.

Your post was also extremely informative, and very timely as I have a lot of planning to do! Thanks for the great post.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 3:58PM
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Here is the start of a new red wood fence to shelter my future shade garden. Spending alot of time on it, doing alot of sanding for a fence but it is not to big .

Here is a link that might be useful: redwood fence

    Bookmark   May 19, 2005 at 4:23PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Beautiful design! That will be a really gorgeous fence to show off your future plantings!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2005 at 9:10PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Wow! I would love to do something like that. I have a generic 6' spruce fence and it bugs me, really detracts from the plantings. Nice work.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 10:10AM
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