Shrubs & perennials to go under conifers

Discussion in 'Garden Design and Plant Suggestions' started by Olafhenny, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. Olafhenny

    Olafhenny Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi all:
    I have the task of landscaping an 8' x 50' patch which is fully curb enclosed and dominated by three fairly large pine trees. The objective is to make this area low maintenance and suppress weed growth. Periwinkle will do that trick, but I am looking for some suggestions for shrubs or perennials between 2 and 6 feet high, which will grow under pines and break up the monotony of the periwinkle.
    The problem is, that most woodland plants like a fair amount of humidity and while I have installed underground irrigation, the air can get pretty hot and dry here in summer.

    So far I am considering some ferns, hosta and astilbes. Does anybody have any experience with sages under conifers, such as russian sage or lavender? I would also appreciate advice from somebody with familiarity with 'daphne x burkwoodii' ‘carol mackie’ or 'witch alder' (fothergilla) in conifer settings.

    Thank you,
    Olaf
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Birds drop Oregon grape, hollies and various cotoneasters in such places here. Especially if the area is mulched and watered enough of these may come up to produce a small thicket. You may need to use similarly tough shrubs in your situation, I think most of the plants you have listed will have problems. As always, it depends on the specific circumstances. If the conifers are limbed up high, say 30' or more there is more flexibility than if they are not. And if they are pines as in Pinus sp. then they will be dropping needles, cones and resin on everything underneath; the large needles of pines tend to build up on top of smaller plants beneath.

    There is also the problem of weevils really going for susceptible plants located beneath low-branching conifers (and building overhangs). Even the Oregon grape may sometimes be tattered by them in such places. If this is possible in the situation being discussed I would definitely select plants they do not bother.
     
  3. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

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    Epimediums and ferns and hardy geraniums (particularly macrorrhizum) work for me. Campanulas too. How about osmanthus, ninebark, and viburnum shrubs too?
     
  4. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    I sucessfully grow Ligularia Othello under a pine tree but it does need to be kept well watered or it wilts in direct afternoon sun. Elaeagnus ebbigii does great in dry shade and its regular silver or variegated forms would contrast nicely with vinca. It would likely need a good pruning once a year to keep it at about 4'-6'. I couldn't find it in Penticton but some places in greater Vancouver have it. I don't think the Daphne would stand a chance in that location. Astilbe wont take dry conditions. You will have to really keep an eye on the vinca. If it is dense enough to choke out weeds it will also tend to overwhelm any 'non-thuggish' perennials. If Hellebores arte hardy enough they might be a good choice.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2008
  5. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

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    Azaleas would like the conditions under pines I should think...
     
  6. Olafhenny

    Olafhenny Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks, Ron, I have some Oregon grape in my yard, where it is crowding the new cimicifuga. I have to cut them back anyway, so I will transplant some instead. This was a good suggestion, which I had not thought of. Also cotoneaster sound great. I did not know, that they might grow under pine trees, although I have a creeping variety growing very nicely under a mature pyramid cedar.

    The pines have a diameter of 11 to 12 inches one meter above ground and the lowest branches are about 6 feet up, so they are not too obtrusive.

    Best and thanks,
    Olaf
     
  7. Olafhenny

    Olafhenny Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Debby:
    Thanks for the suggestions. Ferns are already on my list, if I can find some, which can withstand the dry summer air. I have no experience with hardy geraniums, but whatever I plant has to compete with and win against periwinkle. In my yard they grow to a height of 14 inches, where challenged and up to 24 inches high on cedar bushes and then turn back down towards the ground. One which had climbed 20 inches high has already made it back to earth :)
    Therefore, whatever I plant has to reach at least 24 inches before the second spring. I have looked up various osmanthi, but against all of them is that caveat, that they do not like to be in exposed locations and my pine patch is surrounded by pavement. I cannot find any confirmation, that viburnum can make it under conifers. Do you have actually any experience with that?

    Your recommendation of ninebark sounds like a winner, especially since it comes in various colours and on a different forum somebody in Ottawa somebody stated, that they were actually growing them successfully in a pine grove.

    So, thanks again for your suggestions,
    Olaf
     
  8. Olafhenny

    Olafhenny Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks dt-van, I had a Ligularia Przewalskii growing in an area with complete shade until mid-afternoon, then full sun. It shriveled up every afternoon, just to recuperate overnight. I finally found a spot for it, where it only gets 1/2 hour of sun and it is doing famously.

    I will certainly look into the eleanthus, as I like the colour contrast.
    Thanks,
    Olaf
     
  9. Olafhenny

    Olafhenny Active Member 10 Years

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    Yes, Debby they indeed would. But here in the dry belt broad leaved evergreens have to be watered throughout the winter, whenever ground frost permits, because they transpire the stuff all winter long. I did that with my rhododendrons and azaleas for the first time last winter and finally had all of them come up healthy in spring. The pine patch, I am trying to landscape now, is at the front entrance of our bare-land strata complex about 400 metres from my home, the automatic sprinkler will be turned off in early October and I am not going to lug water cans that far. :(
    Best,
    Olaf
     
  10. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    There was a typo in my earlier posting. The correct name is Elaeagnus ebbigii.
    Deciduous Azaleas would be nice under pines and need less winter water. Will they grow in Penticton?
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Might be possible to integrate Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae with the vinca, might even bloom at same time I suppose. Hypericum calycinum has made a nice furnishing beneath Thuja plicata in a Seattle parking strip, where the shelter provided by the trees seems to reduce winter leaf injury. However, foliage rust of this plant has become widespread.
     
  12. Greenwitch2

    Greenwitch2 Member

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    Bumping this thread up. I am in Ontario, Mississauga, and need ideas for planting under pines. I am considering Jacobs Ladder, Astilbe, hostas. I am happy to read I can plant hardy Geraniums. What else? What should I consider regarding ferns. Its a fairly dry spot. I am considering placing some sort of netting above the garden and between these two great trees (one pine and one spruce) to inhibit some of the needles dropping and choking out the plants. Has anyone done this before?
     
  13. mmdeaton

    mmdeaton Member

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    Native columbine works great for me in a similar situation (hemlock and cedar, not pines), although at 1600 feet and over 100 inches of rain a year, my climate is not Penticton's. I would opt for anything other then periwinkle, since it can be invasive in some areas and is not native to the NW. I let wild strawberries have their way, along with oxalis and salal. My favorite shrubs are ninebark and mock orange (philadelphus). For fool-proof perennials, I use Mountain Bluette. It is not native, but it is easy to control if you trim it back sharply after the spring bloom; you get another bloom by late summer and the plant stay tidy looking.
     

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