My shade garden is pure darkness, what can i do?

susanf242March 27, 2004

with the neighbors tallhome so close by, and the tree (I think it is maple) right there. we have dirt in this area behind our house. My SIl gave some fully mature burning bushes to us but they do not turn red, but are green in the summer. This area is very small (our driveway borders it on one side and the houe on the other) but we look at it all the time since the kids play by the garage and all we see is dirt and burning bushes. It is so dry here, I water about every other or third day in our michigan summers but still it is not enough. We also have some ferns and astilbes and hostas. Nothing looks great due to slug damage and the dryness.

I feel I should put some type of really attractive patio to cover the dirt, and then concentrate on having a few nice plants here (instead of many scraggly ones). That way the whole area is much more attractive.

This shade garden is truly shaded with maybe 30 mi of sun in various places throughout the day. Should we move the burning bushes, if so, what else should we put here? A friend mentioned rhododendrons since it is a NE facing corner of the home but I thought these were finicky plants?

I may wirt more later since my junipers in the front of this very shaded home seem dead but since they are not totally brown yet, the jury is still out.


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desperationfalls(z5 MA)

One idea comes to mind--a friend of mine got sick of
the way her 5 kids and construction job husband kept
tramping down the dirt in her garden (total shade)--
so she put down gravel (small stone) and placed slates
as stepping stones and then put in large containers
filled with GOOD SOIL and coleus and impatiens and
blue hostas and some ivy and tuberous begonias and
the tallish Gartenbonmeister(sp?) Fuschias--some
containers 18 inches, some 12 inches, but all large
pots and her shaded area looks just MAGNIFICENT--
very low maintenance--great soil, (mixed with that
moisture retaining stuff she got at the gardening
center--so she doesn't have to go crazy with the
watering, but just gives all the pots a good soak
every now and then)--there is one pot with a
large blue hosta, and then ivy and white
impatiens and white begonias--stunning in shade!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 7:12PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

Planting burning bushes in the shade is akin to plant forsythia at a summer cottage. The burning bushes don't turn red and you miss the forsythia bloom. Might as well get rid of the burning bushes. Rhododendrons are not fussy if they are planted in a good location, not cultivated around and well-mulched. since you have shade they might be a good alternative. I am surprised you have to water so much. You probably get as much rain as we do and I hardly ever water - only if we go weeks and weeks without rain. Do you water deeply or just sprinkle?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 8:38PM
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I *think* I am watering pretty good, maybe the tree is taking it all or the plants are getting *burned* by the concrete of the driveway and house foundation??

I like the idea of the stones, but wonder if they would get kicked around alot by the kids?? I have read the driveways filled with little stones are one of the highest maintenance driveways there are.

Thank you so much, I guess we will be moving those burning bushes. I have also thought of removing some limbs on the tree to see if that helps with the shade issue.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2004 at 6:24PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

To "burn" burning bushes need to be planted where they will receive lots of sun. Otherwise they just stay green.

Is your soil sandy? Compost might aid in water retention.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2004 at 10:12AM
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RiverBed(z6 NJ)

I think DF had a great idea. It sounds just beautiful. You could use pavers instead of rocks if you wants. Why not, make a nice patio out of it that you can sit and enjoy your children from. You can use it to serve lunch to your children on those hot summer days or do crafts with them. You wouldn't have to worry about sun burn. Btw, I potted some of my hostas and one in particular is next to two that I have in the ground and it is the only one out of the three that slugs have "not" munched on.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2004 at 12:54PM
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Just my opinion but I think container growing in various size pots would add the color and look nice - pick a theme and go with it. In larger pots mixed up the plants for interest. Depending on the size of the stone they should be find as a base. I used to have the small pea stone driveway when we moved here - never again it tore up my kitchen floor. But larger stones are fine and attractive. We us larger stone we find while digging but also pick up some seashells at the beach. I also use patio bricks for larger pots to go on and smaller taller ones as stands to add height and interest.

As for Rhods -they make a make a wonderful scrub - we have had four in our front yard since we move here in '89. They are lavendar and are one of the last colors of Rhods to bloom - they are blooming now and the Irises near the driveway in the road are blooming - very pretty. You might have your soil checked - it may need to be admended. Do you have a place in your yard away from the house to make compost? Also for slugs I have used coffee grinds- but a neighbor told me of a slug preventor that is organic but the name escapes me.

Also how old are your children? Since they play near this spot they may enjoy helping you plant. We often "recycle" stuff and put it in our garden- it makes it interesting. Put in a bench, some birdhouses, etc. Make it a "family" project garden.

Good Luck

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 11:30AM
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I have the type of garden you speak of. It is under oak, hickory and various other trees, and in the woods. I dug three foot wide curving trenches and filled them with pea gravel to give things some definition, then I used the soil heaps as the beginning of raised beds. These I outlined with broken up sidewalk concrete for retention to give a bit of a stone wall look (here in this part of IN there is hardly any stone, totally different from the Connecticut I grew up in!)

The work was pretty hard, and my back is suffering, but the result is very pleasing. I've planted alot of hosta, in between which I have planted begonias for touches of color against the variegated hosta leaves, which do better in dry shade than do impatiens (we have very dry Augusts). I have one azalea that has somehow survived, and caladium seems to like it. I've got alot of bulbs, especially daffodils. I do alot of soil amending each year with ground-up leaves that I get from mowing over and mulching them in the fall.. I also have alot of potted impatiens, which do better for me there.

The pea gravel has worked out fairly well. I rake it with a wire rake to clean it up of leaves and other stuff that shakes down, it cleans up pretty nicely. But young children might kick it around--my kids are teenagers. We put down pavers and that helps keep things in place, but is murder on the knees when you're planting.

What was a sea of mud is now a very calming refuge. I bought a birdbath of cast iron, and it has a nice effect there. It's really lovely in the noon and the difference between my yard and my friends' in hot weather is marked. We have a deck and a bistro table with two chairs...nice to sit out there with a glass of wine and a candle. Sometimes raccoons go wandering by!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2004 at 10:55PM
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ILoveBelgianMalinois ToPieces(z7, Wash DC)

according to michael dirr, e. alatas needs "sun although performs well in heavy shade and still develops good fall color." enuf said?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2004 at 3:55AM
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