Documents: Myke Aware:

Gardening in the Shade: [Part 2 of 3]

A dry mini-woodland under White Pines
by Susan Johnston
by Susan Johnston

email: librarian@icangarden.com

Susan and her husband, Randy, garden on a 1/4 acre lot in a Zone 5b/6a garden in Oakville, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto.

The garden is just being created as all previous garden areas were destroyed as the result of major renovations to the house in 1999.

The garden is heavy on shade due to mature White Pines, a Green Ash and an adolescent red oak, so a primary focus of gardening efforts is an extensive shade/woodland/native plant garden.

(We are very proud to have Susan as our Librarian on the ICanGarden.com website)


August 29, 2010

Our backyard is made up of two distinctly different areas. The wet area under White Pines (the pines are on the property behind us ) will be discussed in a separate article and a quite dry area which is also shaded by two pines on our property as well as ones on the property behind us. As discussed in Part 1 of this series of articles, soaker hoses are a key to growing things in the dry shade under the pines on the north side of the property. While we are working at making the soil more moisture retentive by improving the organic matter content, the soaker hoses will likely be necessary for a long time to come. With their help though, many plants will grow in the conditions under the pines. The ‘dry side’ garden has quite a large collection of plants, although it’s going to take a few more years before it begins to look less bare under the trees.

The illustration below is my attempt to show the basic structure of the dry side of the garden (apologies for the quality of the illustration - it’s the best I can manage with a combination of hand drawings, Paint and scanner!)



The area shown is about 45’ wide and 25’ deep. The overlapping circles are the canopies of the two pines that are on our property. I’ve not shown the ones beside us to the north and behind us but all of the garden is under pine canopy….The path leading towards the garden shed goes to the compost heap behind the shed. We moved the compost heap there this spring; the path is through the former compost heap. I’ve planted mainly hydrangeas and a few other shrubs into the remains of the old compost heap and underplanted with Wild Ginger on the east side and Beacon Silver Lamium on the west side of the path. The shrubs along the back fence are rhododendrons and Pieris. Along the west side the shrubs are mainly False Spirea and a Peegee hydrangea. The large shrub at the front edge of the west pine is Summersweet. After I created this image, I’ve planted a ‘Diablo’ Ninebark behind and to the left of the Summersweet as this side of the garden needed more shrubs. There are a greater variety of shrubs under the easternmost pine as there is more sun there. The blueberry bed is quite small and predoninately highbush blueberries with a few lowbush (they need more acidity than I can really properly supply but the highbush are OK with less acid conditions…) There are also a couple of dwarf rhododendrons and lots of narcissuses in that bed. The Ash tree is a very large, mature tree, probably planted by the original owners of the house in the early 1960s. The oak looks like it’s maybe 15 years old or so. The portion of a circle on the right side of the picture represents the oak’s size at maturity. At the moment, you would not see the oak canopy in this view but I like to remind myself of it’s future impact.!

The composite photograph below shows the same area looking from about where the N arrow is on the diagram above, looking towards the shed, in early May 2001. The need for more shrubs is glaringly obvious! The path towards the shed in the diagram doesn’t exist in this picture and a number of the shrubs in the table below were planted after the picture below was taken. Eventually the neighbor’s garden shed will be less visible!

photo2woodlandcomposite2001.jpg (122188 bytes)

My attempt to take a composite picture didn’t work too well this year so the two sides of the center path are separate in the pictures below. The number and variety of perennials and spring bulbs is higher and things have filled in more this year but it’s still a few years away from maturing enough so that there is less bare ground! The table of plants above looks like a lot of plants but they need to cover a fair bit of territory

photo3woodlandcompositeMay2002.jpg (113911 bytes)


I’m a plantaholic! I’m a sucker for anything new or interesting! I’m warmly welcomed at my favorite garden centre because the owner knows I’m always going to buy lots of plants and she can usually sell me the less common things without too much difficulty! I try to keep a record of what I buy, where I plant it and how well it’s done. I’m not a meticulous record keeper though so I sometimes lose track and occasionally find surprises in the garden that I don’t remember planting. Some of the surprises appear on their own such as the odd leaves that appeared in one spot last year - they look like some kind or arum but no one who has seem them knows for sure what it is. They’re an interesting addition and don’t seem to be something invasive so we left them to see what happens. There were a few trilliums on the property when we arrived and we now have a thriving colony.

Hydrangeas are doing well here with the help of the soaker hoses on the dry side and they’re a great late-season color boost so I keep adding more. I don’t like the ‘mophead’ ball shaped ones or the blue or pink ones (which I think look better in a mixed perennial border than in a woodland) so my hydrangeas have been all white, paniculata types. This spring though, I’ve added a few lace-cap types to see if they’re really hardy here and one of them is blue. The blue one is likely to be the least hardy so we’ll see how it does…. I regret not planting a climbing hydrangea on the somewhat ugly garden shed. The long time to first flowering (up to 5 years) deterred me in 2000; if I had planted it then, it wouldn’t be too far away from flowering now. This spring I planted Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight' as an alternative that’s supposed to grow a little bit quicker. 

Brunnera macrophylla is another of my favorite plants. It is covered in clouds of forget-me-not -like flowers in May and, after the flowers fade, the leaves keep getting bigger all summer until it looks something like a hosta by late summer. The type I have has silvery spots on the leaves and the leaves turn a purply-burgungy in the fall. ‘Minnow’ mini-daffodils together with grape hyacinths, blue anemones and white trilliums made a wonderful combination along the center path this spring. Japanese anemones add wonderful late summer color. Hardy cyclamens provide unexpected pretty pink flowers when they pop up in September. This year I planted some Dodecathon (Shooting Star) near them to add spring cyclamen-like flowers in the same area. Pieris japonica is doing better on my rhododendrom bank than the rhododendrons are! It has pretty, evergreen foliage and wonderful white lily-of-the-valley-like flowers in April and early May. Violets, violas, wild ginger and bunchberries make interesting groundcovers. The violets and violas seed themselves around in a charming manner and are easy to pull out if they go where they aren’t welcome (just avoid any rhizomatous types of violets….)

Perennial geraniums are an invaluable plant that I have growing along the outer edges of the woodland garden. I like blues and the bright magenta pinks. Some varieties have long bloom season and there are so many varieties out there with differing bloom times that you can find something that will bloom at whatever time you need it. I plan to add more geraniums after I take some time and sort out exactly when I need more flowers and then look for a variety that will flower at the right time. Woodland plants are primarily spring bloomer so summer color can be hard to find. Hydrangeas, Japanese Anemones and cimicifugas are an essential plant for late summer and fall color; geraniums are one of the best for mid summer color. In the sunnier spots, mallows and Sidalcea also provide some summer color.

Hellebores are also on my list of plants I need more of. I have the Christmas Rose and Lenten Rose types - my Christmas Rose started blooming March 19th this year and bloomed for about 6 weeks. The Lenten Rose started about 3 weeks later. I want some Helleborus foetidus to go with them. I just added a Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius) in May. My current hellebores are growing very well in a quite dry spot. I particularly like the evergreen foliage and the early flowers that appear just when you need a sign that winter really will end! I think I’m on my way to starting a hellebore collection…

The table below lists the plants I grow in the dry side of the garden. I’ve probably missed a few…. I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the hardiness ratings - they are from various Canadian garden catalogs so hopefully they aren’t too far off if any of them are wrong…. The comments column describes the relevant feature of the plant - i.e. the reason I wanted it in the garden, and/or growth habit. 


 

Botanical Name

Common Name

Plant type

Hardiness(lowest zone)[1]

Comments

1.    

 

Tulips

Narcissus & Daffodils (both  ‘mini’ and standard types)

Scilla

Snowdrops

Anemones

Grape Hyacinths

spring blooming bulbs

various

all are types that naturalize; blue anemones and grape hyacinths each make wonderful companions to ‘Minnow’  mini daffodils; planted in drifts along paths

2.     

Acer palmatum

?Bloodgood?

Japanese Maple

understory tree

5

seedling from stray seed key from neighbor’s tree...

 

3.    

Adlumia fungosa

Allegheny Vine

biennial vine

4

climbing relative of Corydalis

4.    

Amelanchier alnifolia

‘Honeywood’

Honeywood Saskatoonberry

shrub

2

spring flowers; berries for the birds

5.    

Anemone japonica  'Andrea Atkinson' + 2 unknown varieties

Japanese Anemone

prennial

5

spreading but wonderful late summer flowers

6.    

Anemone tomentosa 'Robustima'

 

Hardy Grape Leaf Anemone

perennial

5

can be invasive but are well behaved so far in a quite dry area…

7.    

Aquilegia canadensis

Columbine

perennial

3

self seeds in the  front of the woodland

8.    

Aronia melanocarpa

Autumn Magic’

Autumn Magic Chokeberry

shrub

3

spring flowers; berries for the birds; fall color

9.    

Arum(?)

?

perennial

?

mysterious leaves appeared spring 2001

10. 

Asarum canadense

Wild Ginger

perennial groundcover

4

inconspicuous flowers but pretty leaves

11. 

Aster

variety unknown

 

perennial

3

will be replaced with White Wood Aster this year as current variety doesn’t bloom well.

12. 

Astilbe

Astilbe - varieties unknown

perennial

3

white flowered variety

13. 

Bletilla striata

 

Hardy orchid

perennial

5-6

flowers not very showy

14. 

Brunnera macrophylla

Brunnera

perennial

3

wonderful forget-me-not like flowers in spring; big leaves through summer

15. 

Campanula carpatica - 'Blue Clips', 'White Clips'

Carpathian Bluebells

 

perennial

4

low edging type capanulas

16. 

Cimicifuga simplex

Kamchatka Bugbane

perennial

3-4?

Flowers in October

17. 

Cimicifuga racemosa

Snakeroot

 

perennial

3

late summer flowers

18. 

Cimicifuga racemosa 'Atropurpurea'

p>Snakeroot

perennial

3

late summer flowers; purple leaves

19.  

Clethra alnifolia

 

Summersweet (white)

 

shrub

5

late summer, sweet-smelling flowers

20. 

Cornus canadensis

Bunchberries

perennial groundcover

1

pretty white flowers in late spring/early summer; red berries in late summer

21. 

Cyclamen hederifolium

Hardy Cyclamen

fall blooming bulb

5

very pretty fall flowers and interesting leaves into early summer when they go dormant

22. 

Dodecatheon

Shooting star

perennial

  

planted with the hardy cyclamens to provide cyclamen-like flowers in spring

23. 

Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’

Epimedium

groundcover

5

white flowers in spring, pretty foliage

24. 

Euonymus alata 'compactum'

Dwarf burningbush

shrub

3

for fall color

25. 

Galium odoratum

Sweet Woodruff

perennial groundcover

3

fast spreader late spring white flowers; very invasive but grows in deep shade and very dry conditions; easy to rip out in spring

26. 

Gaultheria procumbens

Wintergreen

evergreen groundcover

4

difficult to establish

27. 

Geranium

'Brookside'

Cranesbill

perennial

3

blue flowers most of the summer

28. 

Geranium macrorhizum 'Bevan's Variety'

Cranesbill

perennial

3

vivid magenta flowers

29. 

Geranium s. ‘New Hampshire Purple'

Cranesbill

perennial

3-4?

magenta flowers

30. 

Helleborus argutifolius

Corsican Hellebore

evergreen perennial

5

green flowers in March/April

31. 

Helleborus niger

 

Christmas Rose

evergreen perennial

5

blooms white in mid-March; one of the first flowers to bloom

32. 

Helleborus orientalis

Lenten Rose

evergreen perennial

5

bloom later than Christmas Rose in pretty shades of raspberry-pink

33. 

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Brussels Lace’

hydrangea

shrub

3

panicles of white flowers in August with a lace-cap look

34. 

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’

Pee Gee Hydrangea

shrub

3

white panicles of flowers in august

35. 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Floribunda'

 

 

hydrangea

shrub

4?

beautiful panicles of white flowers in August

36. 

Hydrangea paniculata ‘White Moth’

hydrangea

shrub

4

white flowers in August, turning green as they age

37. 

Hydrangea serrata

'Blue Bird'

 

lace-cap hydrangea

shrub

6

blue lace-cap flowers

38. 

Hydrangea serrata

'Golden Sunlight'

lace-cap hydrangea

shrub

5

August white lace-cap flowers; golden foliage

39. 

Hosta

Hostas - unknown variety

perennial

2

small edging type with deep purple flowers plus sever with blue-green foliage (variety unknow)

40. 

Itea virginica 'Henry's garnet'

 

Hybrid Sweetspire

shrub

6

white summer flowers

41.  

Lamium maculatum

'Beacon Silver'

 

‘Beacon Silver Lamium

perennial groundcover

3

almost evergreen; fast spreader; grows in deep shade and very dry conditions; very pretty silvery luminous foliage

42. 

Malva moschata

Musk Mallow

perennial

4?

summer flowers; seeds itself around

43. 

Malva sylvestris 'Brave Heart'

Tree Mallow

 

perennial

3

edge of woodland

44. 

Myosotis sylvatica

Forget-me-nots

self-seeding biennial

4

will grow anywhere!

45. 

Persicaria affinis "Dimity'

 

Knotweed

 

perennial grouncover

3

can be invasive but, so far, is behaving well

46. 

Persicaria polymorpha

 

White Fleeceflower

perennial grouncover

4?

can be invasive but, so far, is behaving well

47. 

Phlox divaricata - 'Sweet Lilac', 'White Perfume'

 

Woodland Phlox

perennial

4

spring flowers

48. 

Phlox stonifera 'Bruce's White', 'Pink Ridge'

 

Creeping Phlox

perennial groundcover

3

a creeping phlox for shade

49.  

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’

Diabolo Ninebark

shrub

2

dark burgundy foliage, small flowers in July

50. 

Pieris japonica

Japanese Pieris

evergreen shrub

5

white flowers in early spring

51. 

Polemonium caeruleum

Jacob's Ladder

perennial

4

ferny foliage; blue flowers

52. 

Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’

Solomon’s Seal

perennial

4

spring flowers, variegated leaves

53. 

Polystichum acrostichoides

Christmas Fern

perennial, groundcover, evergreen

4

can take  heavy, fairly dry shade

54. 

Polystichum tsus-simense

 

Korean Rock Fern

perennial evergreen fern

6?

barely hardy

55. 

Potentilla fruiticosa 'Abbotswood white'

 

potentilla

shrub

3

needs more light to do well

56. 

Pulmonaria

Uknown varity and 'Opal'

 

Lungwort

perennial

4

early spring flowers and pretty, silvery spotted leaves; prone to mildew in late summer

57. 

Rheum rhabarbarum 'Macdonald'

Rhubarb

perennial

2

grows in sunny edge of woodland; planted both for edible rhubarb and as decorative leaves.

58. 

Rhododendron 'Album Elegans'

Evergreen rhododendron

evergreen shrub

5

white flowers

59. 

Rhododendron Catawbiense :Grandiflorum',

 'Roseum Elegans'

Evergreen rhododendron

evergreen shrub

5

Granduflorum - lavender flowers

Roseum - rosy lavender flowers

60. 

Rhododendron x  'Fraseri'

 

deciduous rhododendron

shrub

3?

a cross with native Rhododendron canadense

61. 

Rhododendron  prinophyllum x 'Ramapo'

 

dwarf rhododendron

broadleafed evergreen shrub

5?

in blueberry bed at front of woodland

62. 

Rhodotypos scandens

Black Jetbead

 

shrub

4?

white flowers in summer followed by glossy black berries

63.  

Rogersia aesculfolia

Fingerleaf Rogersia

perennial

4

large leaves and white flowers

64.  

Rubus odoratus

Flowering Raspberry

shrub

3-4?

July flowers; a member of the rose family

65. 

Sambucus canadensis

 

American Elder

shrub

3

summer flowers, berries for the birds

66. 

Sanguinaria canadensis

 

Bloodroot

 

perennial

4?

early spring flowers; interesting leaves

67.  

Sanguisorba obtusa

Burnet - variety unknown

 

perennial

5

pretty silvery-blue foliage with very oval leaves and small bottle-brush flowers in late summer

68. 

Sedum spectabile 'Brilliant'

Sedum

perennial

3

does surprisingly well in light, dry shade

69. 

Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight'

Japanese Hydrangea Vine

woody climbing vine

5

similar in appearance to climbing hydrangea

70. 

Sidalcea malvaeflora 'Elsie Heugh'

Prairie Mallow

perennial

5

pink mid-summer flowers

71. 

Sorbaire sorbifolia

False Spirea

shrub

2

suckers freely; needs pruning to control spread; ferny foliage, summer flowers

72. 

Spirea 'Shirobana'

spirea

shrub

4

a little too dry to make this happy

73. 

Tradescantia

 

Spiderwort

 

perennial

4

blue flowers in summer

74. 

Thalictrum aguilegifolium

Meadow Rue

perennial

5

late spring/early summer flowers

75. 

Thalictrum kiusianum

Dwarf Meadow Rue

perennial

5

late spring/early summer flowers

76. 

Tricyrtis

 

Toad Lily

perennial

5

late summer flowers

77. 

Trillium grandiflorum

Trilliums - white

perennial

3

spreading fast

78.  

Vaccinium - 'Patriot', Blue Jay', North Country', 'Northland'

 

Blueberries, highbush and lowbush

 

shrubs

2 -   lowbush

4 - highbush

berries, spring flowers and fall color

79. 

Vinca minor

Periwinkle

 

evergreen groundcover

4

pretty blue flowers in spring

80.  

Viola cornuta

Violas

 

5

deep purple color ?’Black Magic’?

81.  

Weigela florida 'variegata'

 

variegated weigela

shrub

5?

does surprisingly well

[1] Hardiness information may not be completely accurate - source is various garden catalogs.

A woodland garden is clearly a long-term project and I’m an impatient gardener so I’ll keep packing in more plants.  It’s a fascinating process though and gardening in shade is now, by far, my favorite type of gardening.  The garden on the other side of the shed is quite damp and is turning out to be easier to work with and things grow much faster.  The plants growing there are quite different and the subject of a separate article.

 

 


 

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