ideas to make my garden look nicer? (photos)

misobentoMay 22, 2011

When we moved in, the front yard was all ostrich ferns...millions of them. I have started to replace them, but it still looks blah. Any creative people out there that can give me some ideas? I would love a cottage shade garden or something that looks thrown together. I am feeling slightly "ok" with the side that has the bike, but the other side definitely needs help. Pictures are from the front and from above taken on the porch looking down.

I understand the plants are not at their mature height yet, but I would still like some advice or creative ideas.

It's high shade with occasional dappled sunlight late in the day. Zone 5.


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Cold and shady is a challenge isnt it? If you want something larger Rhododendrons are nice. Shade type Coleus will add great color, as will columbine, (but for a shorter period). I think ferns are great but like them densely planted in groups

I think it mostly needs time. Here are a few pic I took today of my shade garden. I'm in zone 4 WI.

Helebores, Sweet-woodruff, wild violets and ferns

Primrose Japonica about to bloom, ladys mantle, ginger and more ferns

Ligularia, Dwarf Bleeding heart, Virginia Blebells & more ferns

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 9:15PM
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Pretty! I do like ferns, but they were extremely dense when we moved in. What I didn't like was when the ferns would die back in the heat of the summer, the whole yard looked scraggly. The larger bushes in the back are rhododendron that I planted last year. I also added astilbe and lady's mantel. I like the idea of the bluebells and the columbine.

What is the plant in the lower right of the first picture? It looks like a giant woodruff leaf? Neat foliage...

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 9:42PM
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Those are the hellebores - they are amongst the first to bloom in my garden :)

I personally love my shade garden. Right now I have a lot of things in bloom but my favs are: astilbes, astrantia, dicentra, jacob`s ladder, and for annuals: begonias & impatiens

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:39PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

By this time next year, your beds should be packed full if you add nothing else. I love variegated and unusual foliage in the shade because if you do it well, flowers are unnecessary although they are cool during their brief appearances. Varieg. Pulmonaria, Brunnera are favorites of mine, in addition to the great suggestions already. Some other hostas with bright yellowish leaves would also add interest. You might like some lady's mantle. The leaves each hold a drop of water after it rains. Myosotis (forget-me-nots) make little "glowing blue" flowers.

I think you will be glad later if you remove most of the ostrich ferns, especially those near the front. Those get too tall to be in front of many of the other plants. And they spread and can crowd/shade other plants out, as you know from the "millions" already.

I fear your shrubs are too close to that fence/guardrail. Not sure the expected mature size of that particular bush where you are. You need to know to find out how far away they need to be from the fence, but I'm sure it's farther than what they are. It looks like about 12 inches. And is that a water meter near the steps? Don't forget a meter-reading person needs to be able to check it however-often they do that.

I think you're off to a great start! Might suggest making the whole thing deeper into the yard if that's an option for you & your lifestyle, and just moving your existing plants around a bit - shrubs away from the fence, don't waste plants too close to the shrubs since they will be UNDER the shrubs soon, taller plants closer to the fence, shorter ones closer to the front. When doing this, for example, I wouldn't consider the bloom height for placing hostas, just the foliage height. The blooms are only there temorarily. However, if two things are going to bloom at the same time, you don't want shorter flowers hidden by taller ones. Or you notice an area that's a BLOB of all the same boring medium green. This is the kind of detail that keeps folks tweaking and improving existing gardens every year.

mandolls, love that bottom pic! Nice!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 3:12PM
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You know a little garden art is not a bad way to accent your plants. You can get colorful things, tall things, whimsical things ... all will add interest while your plants settle in.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 6:34PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Some nice suggestions already. I do agree with grouping the ferns. Maybe gather them by the left porch support to soften it up a little. That will also tidy the bed and make it less busy. Depending on the ultimate size of the shrubs against the porch a large leaf hosta like montana 'Aureomarginata' might work between and in front of them. It would allow planting underneath it, but again, that depends on how big those shrubs will get.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 10:46PM
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I just came back from a work trip so it is nice to see all the ideas listed! :)

As for the shrubs, they are rhododendron the trunk is approximately 2 feet from the wall. They shouldn't grow more than 4 feet high, or about what the top of the railing is. The label said slow growing and I think also in zone 5, they may not get super big. I thought about them maybe being too close too, but I would be too worried to move them now as they have been in that area for about a year. They are so sensitive that if you look at them the wrong way, the start to die :/

I love the idea of moving the ferns in the front. You are right that they block the other plants, plus they have started to grow into the other plants, so I don't want anything else choked out.

I went and bought two virginia bluebells today so I am looking forward to adding those...provided the rain lets up sometime in the foreseeable future.

There will definitely be garden art when I add a few more things.

This is a photo of the house when we bought it. The vines were rotting the porch (to the point of where it will need to be replaced in a few years) and you can see the "million" ferns in the front.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Scrolled back up to refresh my memory & had the thought that creeping phlox along the "naked" side of the sidewalk would be cute. Anyway, wow, incredible improvement in such a short time! It's gone from creepy to inviting. What kind of vine was that?

Glad it doesn't sound like the shrubs will try to overpower the fence.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 1:54PM
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Purpleinopp, I laughed out loud when you called it creepy!

Thanks for all the fun ideas everyone! I have added a few more things to the garden this weekend: wild columbine, jacobs ladder, wild geranium, hellebores and virginia blue bells. I also moved the ferns all the way to the back as suggested, to clump them together. I am not finished yet (then again is a garden ever finished???), but now want to see how things start to fill out ;)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 11:21PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Looking good. Be careful not to add too many small leafed things. A big leafed Hosta would go good and if it outgrows its space it can always be divided.

Now this is a 20 year old montana Aureomarginata so it would take a while before its too big but it allows for smaller things below it (which I need to hide my weeds lol)


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:06AM
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Agree with Tsuga Junkie :)

I try to mix up my foliage as much as possible (ferns next to hellebores, next to carex next to bleeding hearts next to hostas next to astilbe) LOL My bed is never boring...even though it's mostly green. The light from the trees means the shadows are playing on the textures. Right now though I have purple ajuga flowring with the last of the forget me nots, dorconium, centaurea montana and some a few weeks the astilbe and astrantia will be up playing with the alchemilla and geraniums :)

BUT you're doing really well to start with!!! That will fill in so beautifully in the next few years....

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 6:31PM
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