Think Spring! Shade loving plants.

February 3, 2012 at 10:05 AM Leave a comment

Made for the shade: Beautiful gardens that don’t depend on sunshine
By Sean Conway, Tribune Media Services
Tue May 24 2011 11:16 AM
Strolling through my woodland garden recently, a guest asked how I managed to get so many different kinds of plants to grow in the shade. I explained that these plants all preferred the shade, and in fact they needed shade to thrive. She looked amazed. “I thought I couldn’t grow anything in the shade!” she exclaimed.

Unfortunately, many people make the same mistake. They believe it is futile to garden anywhere but in full sun. But some of the nicest gardens I have ever seen were shade gardens. You’ll find lots of interesting options among shade-loving plants if you take the time to find them.

There are some tricks to cultivating a beautiful shade garden. The first is to maximize the light you have. My woodland garden is near my house. It is surrounded by mature trees that I had no interest in removing since they provided privacy, as well as respite from the summer sun and a sound barrier from road noise.

To maximize the light for plantings beneath without sacrificing the trees, I simply limbed the trees up a bit. Removing lower limbs allows a tremendous amount of light to reach the ground. “High shade” is the term used for this scenario, and experienced shade gardeners will tell you it is the best kind of light for growing a variety of plants.

Next, look at what type of trees you have creating the shade. Trees such as Norway maples have a large network of surface roots that compete with smaller plants for water and nutrients. Maples can cause dense shade, and the combination of dry soil and the lack of light keeps most plants from thriving under them.

After limbing up maples to solve the light problem, try adding areas of mounded soil above the tree’s roots and planting in the fresh soil. This gives shade plants time to establish themselves without competing with the tree.

Most shade plants enjoy good, humus-rich soil and adequate moisture. Mulching helps retain moisture and will help plants get through a hot, dry summer.

Some shade plants, however, such as epimedium (which can be found in an amazing number of varieties) are very tolerant of dry shade, even under maples.

Here are a few favorite shade plants:

Epimedium is an incredibly tough plant. It comes in myriad sizes, leaf shapes and flower colors. Some are evergreen, and most will spread slowly to form nice clumps. Many can tolerate dry shade.

Ferns can be found in a startling array of shapes and colors. Some, such as the Japanese painted fern, have beautiful silver and red fronds, while others, such as the maidenhair, are tall and delicate. Some ferns are even evergreen, providing interest when everything else is dormant.

Tiarella, sometimes called foamflower, is a woodland perennial that spreads out low across the ground to form mats of attractive heart-shaped leaves of chartreuse green. In midspring, the clump sends up multitudes of frothy white flowers with a hint of pink. After it finishes blooming, attractive seed pods remain.

Rodgersia: These tough perennials have palmate leaves that extend to 2 feet wide. Bold and dramatic, they are often the first plants noticed in the shade garden. If you can, track down the bronze-leaved variety. It has copper-colored leaves, and is a real showstopper in any shade garden.

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Entry filed under: Green Information.

Goings on at the Garfield Park Conservatory 2011 Garden Walk Pictures are finally posted.

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