Monday, May 22, 2017

A Shady Progression

The past few weeks have seen the normal spring rush of planting, reworking garden beds, preparing for our garden club plant sale, and attending end-of-the-school-year events for me.  It is so great to be outside in the beautiful spring weather.  While the vegetable garden always demands and receives  some attention in spring, lately my main gardening focus and delight has been on the shade garden.

working in the shade garden - spring 2017
My shade garden is at the Northwest corner of the house.  It has an awkward corner shape and transitions from deep shade right next to the house to sun near the edges, with pockets of hot afternoon sun that sometimes poses a challenge for plantings.  It also is where all of the ugly utility boxes are mounted.  It is a work in progress (isn't it always?), but it has come a long way in the last three years, and I enjoy looking back and seeing its progression from barren nothingness.

spring 2014
This is the only 'before' photo I could find of this area, from the spring of 2014.   This corner slopes downwards and to the left. This photo is from when we put in drainage to redirect water that was leaking into our unfinished basement from the gutter spout.  A couple large boulders on the left hold up soil.

fall 2014
In the fall of 2014, Mr. Red House and I built a low retaining wall to help with the slope.  With the addition of more soil, my shade garden was born.

That fall and the next spring we put in a few tiny trees - two Japanese maples, a weeping Canadian Hemlock, and a little Carolina Silverbell - and started putting in plants, including Japanese anemone.  Stepping stones were added to make a clear path to all the utility boxes.  Native ferns happily pop up by themselves near the house, which we enjoy.

In 2016 we added a few more plants.  I used the sunny edges of the wall to grow Ground Cherries (which the chipmunks promptly ate for their water content during our drought).  The Japanese anemone and ferns started getting a little out of control, and there wasn't enough access to the utility boxes without wading through plants.  The shade garden really needed some work.

This spring I pulled out some of the plants, moved some around, and added more much-needed stepping stones to the utility area. The shade garden now has a lovely progression of flowers throughout the spring beginning with early spring bulbs and including a number of miniature daffodils that are planted along the edge of the retaining wall.

the miniature daffodil 'Mite'
In later spring blooms the brilliant pink of the Rhododendron 'Weston's Aglo', a small-leaved rhododendron hybridized by the nearby Weston Nurseries.

The pink is mimicked throughout the garden by Old-fashioned Bleeding Heart, a favorite of mine ever since seeing it growing up in my grandmother's garden...

Old-fashioned Bleeding Heart
...and then continued by the dark pink Azaleas.

The bright pinks are softened by touches of white from Summer Snowflakes and hostas... well as the blooms of the now much-larger Carolina Silverbell.

Carolina Silverbell tree
Another favorite of mine, the Foamflower, blooms in a little cloud of softer pink. 

birdbath with foamflower blooming on the right
Other spring blooms in the shade garden include epimediums, ajuga, lungwort, lanium, and brunnera.   Later will bloom white clematis, cotoneaster, heuchera, hostas, ligularia, iris, Japanese anemone, and grey-headed coneflowers that I have planted along the sunny edges of the garden.

purple heuchera leaves contrast with that of a weeping Japanese maple
This spring I also acquired a few special native woodland plants - trillium, bloodroot, and trout lily - that I tucked under the growing trees and look forward to seeing in bloom next year.  The shade garden is filling out!

There are still some plants to move and things to do, but I love the progress on my shade garden so far...

...and happily I'm not the only one.


  1. Hi Indie,
    It really is fun and satisfying to look back and see the progression of new gardens. You put a lot of thought and sweat into this spot and it's beautiful.
    When you mentioned loving Bleeding Hearts since seeing them in your grandmother's garden it made me think of how our love flowers is formed by our childhood experiences. My love of Hydrangeas stems from sitting under one with my grandmother....
    Thanks for sharing. That was fun!

    1. I have a different, more delicate type of Bleeding Heart, but the Old-fashioned one is still my favorite! So lovely that you can trace your love of a flower back to your grandmother, too.

  2. Bravo! The shade garden is looking great.

    And you're making me feel guilty for postponing a stepping-stone project.

    (I've actually never tried installing stepping stones before. Was it hard work? Did you install a base layer of sand or just dig out some dirt and heave in the stones?)

    1. Ha, no, I just loosened the dirt and heaved in the stones. I've done a base layer of sand for projects that have to be more level, like the retaining wall and a small patio we built at our last house. Way too much work to do that for stepping stones, where I don't care as much if they are level or not!

  3. I really enjoyed seeing the progression of your shade garden! It is fun to see how a garden changes over the years. You have some beautiful plants, and the birdbath looks great! Nice to sees that wildlife appreciates your efforts!

    1. Thanks! I just love seeing all the wildlife it attracts. The bees especially love that area. It fairly hums with bumblebees when certain things are in bloom.

  4. You and Mr. Redhouse did a fine job on that retaining wall and your shade garden looks fab-O. That foam flower caught my eye so I looked it up. Says it grows in Zone 9 but maybe they don't mean THIS Zone 9 because I've never seen it in the nurseries.

    1. That's too bad, as it's a gorgeous plant in person. Maybe zone 9 is pushing it, heat wise.

  5. You have a lovely shade garden, with beautiful plants. Seeing the garden change over the years via pictures is amazing. Let's see in a couple years how it will look :-)

    1. Thank you! I love looking back and seeing how much it has progressed, since when I'm in the garden I usually just see how much work I feel I have to go to get things how I want. It will probably look totally different in a couple years. :)

  6. Great work. Love the Carolina Silverbell tree.

  7. the wall and the plants filling in - well done!

  8. Dear Indie!
    In your photos you showed my beloved season, spring.
    You made a wonderful garden.
    Best wishes:)


Thank you for your comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...