Sunday, September 7, 2008

How Many Times Can I Rearrange the Shade Garden?

The shade garden by my front walk has been bothering me ever since the last time I rearranged it. There were too many gaps, especially in winter. This is a bed that has to look good twelve months of the year, because it's at the front of the house and I walk right past it on the way to and from the front door. Lately, every time I've walked past, I said, "I need to do something about this bed."

The main problem was that the gumpo azaleas are shorter than the hellebores, and you couldn't see them, so I pulled all of the azaleas to the edge of the bed, moved the birdbath, leaving the hellebores further back. Behind them are the taller bear-claw hellebores, then a camellia which hasn't done well anywhere else in the yard, so I'm trying it here.Because I consolidated the hellebores which were scattered all over the bed, I now have a big empty space that I need to fill. I'd like to try some new plants, and I'm open to suggestions for what might look good here. I'd like something that is drought tolerant, and that can handle the dry shade beneath dogwoods. (It's full/partial shade except winter and early spring.) Here's a list of some plants I'm considering. If you've had experience, good or bad, with these, please let me know...or if you have other suggestions. Mostly I want short plants, 1-2 feet tall. Thanks in advance!

Spotted Dead Nettle
Epimedium (Barrenwort)
Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla)
Euphorbia 'Helena'
Winter Daphne


Gail said...


Hello...I recommend Heuchera villossa purple varieties. Where you live they will be evergreen. They have wonderful leaf shape and the villosas are native to the SE USA. There are epimediums that can take dry shade and will be evergreen or not.

Good luck!
clay and limestone

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It sounds like you have some good plants in mind. I just love the epimedium arubrum. I don't know if it would be evergreen for you.

Carolyn gail said...

Until you get it right Bobbyearl :) My favorite would be Pulmonaria, commonly called lungwort. Not only does it have beautiful blooms but the foliage is effective all season. It grows 8-12 inches tall.

Whatever you do, don't plant dead nettle or that's all you'll have in that area and then you'll have to rip it out...and...yep, rearrange the shade garden again.

Anonymous said...

I 2nd the lungwort idea - it really adds to my shade garden where hosta, astilbe and ferns all fill in the gaps as well.

Dave said...

I'd have to second the heuchera idea from Gail. They are very tolerant of everything they've had thrown at them this year. Including not being watered very much.

Wrenna said...

I'd be tempted to put annuals there. I really like pansies and violas in shade gardens, and they look so cute peeking out from underneath big hosta leaves. Ok, I have plebian tastes. I'll admit it.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Thanks, Gail. I've got some Heucheras, but don't know what kind. I love them, and would like to expand my holdings.

Thanks Lisa, I'll check into that. From what I've read, Epimediums can handle clay soil, so they might be good for my garden.

Thanks, Carolyn. I have a lungwort, and you're right--it's a great plant. I wouldn't mind a few more. Thanks for the caution about the nettle. It's a small garden, so maybe I don't want something that aggressive.

Nothing wrong with annuals, Wrenns. We often put pansies there in winter and impatiens in summer!

Meg said...

Hi David, My dry shade garden in Durham has killed many plants, including several beautiful Pulmonarias and Heucheras. Weeds won't even grow there. But these plants will: Epimedium, Solomon's plume, native Columbine, White wood aster, Hellebore, Ajuga.

Cindy said...

Dry shade? I grow persicaria, helicrysum 'limelight', sword fern, nandina, yarrow, daylily and geraniums in dry shade in Southern California. I water maybe twice a month during the long, dry summer here.

John said...


I recently grew hostas from seed for my shade garden. I have alot of shade on my property, so I can appreciate your blog...

Anonymous said...

I have lots of shade, and lots of Cast Iron plants. You just can't kill those guys, and I like the large spiked leaf they have. I also have had success with Holly Ferns - yes, I've ignored them and not watered them and they hang in there; they are quite hardy, really. Good luck!

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Anonymous said...

Good Morning David

How about Plumbago or Ceratostigma?
6-12 inches in height, cobalt blue flowers in the fall and bright red foliage afterwards. It grows in a clump and can be divided.

Happy Planting

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