Posts Tagged ‘shade gardening’
Have you ever noticed how poorly some plants do beneath trees and tall shrubs? Tree roots can easily zap away moisture and nutrients leaving anything under planted looking weary & tired.
Rather than fight with it, select from a group of care-free plants that can take dry shade conditions and have minimal requirements when it comes to nutrients & moisture.
I particularly love Hellebores for this. When I planted seven of these early spring flowering ground covers last fall I thought I’m not sure if they are all going to make it. I dug pretty hard to get in between a few tree roots and there wasn’t a lot of soil for me to work with. I added some topsoil, mulched and watered well and to my amazement they all made it through next spring.
I do like planting spring flowering plants such as Hellebore in the fall. Plants still grow in the fall because soil temperature and moisture levels are usually at a level that promotes rapid root growth needed to sustain plants through the first critical year in the landscape. So by spring I’ll have larger more established plants and more blooms to enjoy that first year.
Hellebores is a terrific solution if you have dry shade in your perennial garden. In addition to the beautiful spring flowers, hellebore is the perfect deer resistant shade plant with evergreen foliage which provides year round interest.
Need a fast spreading drought proof groundcover that will grow beneath trees?
Ajuga or Bugleweed is easy to grow and virtually maintenance free perennial groundcover for hard to grow places. I’m particularly fond of Chocolate Chip Ajuga (‘Valfredda’) where it can easily cover an 18” area in just one season. It is one of my favorite ground covers beneath trees where other groundcover struggle and it looks great year-round!
Ajuga is a deer proof evergreen groundcover with vibrant foliage and showy purple flowers in spring. Low growing mats are only 3” tall. Hardy to Zone 4-9, It thrives in both sun and shade.
Growing anything under trees can be difficult. First of all, trees create a “rain shadow” where it is always drier beneath a tree. Secondly, some trees such as maples, poplars and willow have heavy feeder roots that rest near the surface, making it virtually impossible to grow, let alone even dig a hole for planting.
Ajuga is ideal with its shallow roots that grow within just a few inches of the ground. It competes effectively between tree roots and drier conditions while spreading quickly by way of runners. Runners are easily removed if it gets beyond its bounds.
Ajuga is not a groundcover for everybody or to be placed in a mixed perennial border.
Ajuga is one of the best groundcovers for weed control. Weeds find it tough to sprout through their thick root system.
- Avoid “Ajuga lawn” by planting away from turf or you’ll have a co-mingling of lawn & Ajuga.
- Don’t plant anything nearby unless you are using beneath shrubs or trees.
- Thick root system makes Ajuga ideal for erosion control
- Ideal between pavers
- Excellent for large areas where you want to have a quick spread
- Ideal under shallow rooted trees where nothing else will grow
Climbing Hydrangea or Hydrangea anomala petiolaris is one of the few hardy flowering vines that will tolerate shade.
This colossal climbing vine requires sturdy support (such as a tree) and thrives in part shade conditions. A fast growing deciduous vine, climbing Hydrangeas will grow 30 feet tall or more. It is hardy from Zones 4-9.
This climber clings by tentacles (like ivy) on any surface. It’s easy to train up a tree. Once planted, simply lay the stems near the tree and it will stick like super glue. You never have to do anything to them except an occasional prune to keep them within bounds.
Attractive green heart-shaped glossy foliage is accented with showy white fragrant lace-cap type blooms in early summer.
If grown as a ground cover it can cover up to 200 square feet once established.
Give Hydrangea fertile, moist, well drained soil.
Climbing Hydrangea can take a couple of years to establish itself in the landscape, so it requires a bit of patience. After 2 years or so, they really take off. I can tell you it is definitely worth the wait as it offers the most stunning vertical beauty for any shade garden.
Boxwood or Buxus is an evergreen shrub that plays an integral role in garden design. Generally associated with colonial times, many people are finding beautiful ways to integrate this evergreen shrub with modern or contemporary designs. Boxwood keeps a garden orderly with its irregularly mound of glossy foliage which can easily be transformed with hedge shears.
There are many different types of Boxwood, but many professional landscapers nationwide favor Green Velvet Buxus because of its ultra-hardy, dark green foliage & vigorous growth habit. Green Velvet was bred in southern Ontario and cold hardy to Zone 5 winters, yet it is well suited for the south, due to its tolerance of warmer climates & high humidity.
Growing up to 4 feet tall, it maintains its glossy green leaves even in the winter. Boxwood has many uses in the landscape. Here are a few on how it can be used.
- Define, separate or enclose areas of the garden
- Foundation planting
- Low Growing Hedge Plant
- Creates a formal framework in a garden
- Outline a flowers border, walk or terrace
- Large containers or planter boxes
Planting & Growing
Boxwood or Buxus is ideal growing site is partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.
Plant the hole twice as wide by only as deep as the root-ball. Boxwood should only be planted in well drained soil. They grow n soils ranging from slightly acid to slightly alkaline (ph5 to 7.5).
Boxwood’s are shallow rooted plants and benefit from 2-3 inches or mulch. Newly planted boxwood’s must be watered well during the first growing season as necessary to keep the soil from drying out around the roots. Avoid digging around boxwood’s as their roots are shallow.
To grow boxwood into a seamless low growing hedge, plant 12” apart. Branches will intertwine as they grow. Boxwood can be pruned into any shape. Branches grow quickly in late spring and early summer.
If you don’t plan to keep your boxwood short, space 24 inches apart in the garden where it will retain its upright, rounded shape you’d expect from a boxwood with little or not pruning
It is best not to fertilize the first year of planting. The second year, apply a balanced fertilizer . Apply in early spring before new growth begins. Avoid placing any fertilizer within 6 inches from the plant stem. Avoid any late summer fertilization.
Shearing & Pruning
Boxwood should be sheared after each flush of growth during the first two years to encourage branch development. After 2 years, they should only be sheared to maintain a desired form or height. Annually, remove dead and damaged branches.
If your goal is to create & maintain a garden that would look good 12 months of the year – make sure you include versatile Boxwood Shrub.
View Boxwood Video
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When it comes to my favorite shade plant, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost ’ PP13,859 easily comes to the top of my list. Few shade perennials have such interesting silver foliage through the season. This clump forming plant is a versatile deer proof groundcover that is widely adaptable to numerous shade garden designs such as woodland settings, near ponds – even containers.
I can’t think of a more beautiful plant to be named Perennial Plant of the Year in 2012 than Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’.
The foliage resembles crackled porcelain. In the shade garden it creates a shimmering silver contrast against other companion plants.
Here are a few Garden Design Tips to make Brunnera work for you your shade landscape.
Container Gardening. This is an easy shade container plant! I like using big pots when it comes to containers. Keep pots consistently moist. In the event plants wilt or the foliage begins looking tatty, simply trim off old foliage and new fresh foliage will emerge later.
Transition or Filler Plant. Brunnera is a delightful shade plant in garden design to transition or fill in between two large shrubs or perennials. This gives a wonderful flow to the garden.
Dark Foliage Plants. You can really make dark-leaf Heucheras, Red Coleus or other dark foliage plants pop with color when combined with silver Brunnera. Dark and light foliage plants pair well in garden design.
Leaf Shape Combinations. The heart-shape foliage of Brunnera contrasts with narrow leaf forms of shade Ornamental Grasses such as of Hakonechloa or Carex. I love combining Brunnera with with soft, airy-texture of Ferns.
Have Sun? Plant on the east side of the house, near a large boulder or large plant . Anywhere you can find shade from the afternoon sun.
Brunnera is such a terrific shade plant. I sincerely hope you included it in your garden design plans if you haven’t done so already!
Brunnera Jack Frost – Where to Buy