Suggestions for improving this Shade Bed ?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by dt-van, May 8, 2020.

  1. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    This bed is very shady and the left side in particular needs a redesign. In fall 2018 I removed a large Hosta 'Guacamole' due to virus infection and needed to replace it with something else. As a stopgap measure I put a large Bergenia there, but it is not thriving and is too low and floppy looking. Other plants currently in the bed are Phlox 'David' at the top left near the bergenia, Dryopteris erythrosora, (Autumn fern), Brunnera 'Jack Frost', Hosta 'Praying Hands' (just emerging), a pale blue Pulmonaria, Lady's Mantle, Haquetia epipactis and a bunch of greenish-bronze leafed Angelica (I think). The angelica has spread to a clump with many delicate-looking stems about 12" to 16" tall, but they have never flowered or made anything that looked like a sturdy mature plant - do they need better light, better drainage, a new home?

    I'm wondering whether to try Zingiber mioga 'White Arrow' or Ligularia 'Osiris Cafe Noir'. Does anyone in Vancouver have experience with either of these plants? They are kind of pricey and I don't want to spend the money if they are finicky and unlikely to succeed. I have Ligularia 'Othello' growing under a pine tree nearby and it has done OK for years despite extreme root competition. The new location is a bit more shady, but with much better soil conditions.

    The centre shrub is lonerca nitida 'Baggsen's Gold', its green colour gives an indication of how shady this area is. To the right of the Lonicera is a yellow Epimedium which seems to do well even in deep shade. The coppery leaved plants at the front are Saxifraga fortunei 'Rubrifolia' which has done really well in shade and wet soil.

    I am planning to relocate the Pulmonaria on the left and will probably put it in front of the Lonicera. I'm open to suggestions for rearranging other plants in the bed also. The bergenia can be given away.
    I was initially hoping to hide more of the fence with a taller plant, but it is so shady that nothing does well at the very back. I'd normally look for an upright Hosta, but that's out for at least a few more years because of the virus. Maybe I just need to put medium height things to distract from the fence and leave a mulched empty space behind them. Any advice would be welcome.
     

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  2. Heathen

    Heathen Member

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    In my opinion, which I will qualify by saying I'm not a designer, you have a nice selection of plants already, and you could get a bigger impact by getting more of what you already have. E.g. a few more autumn ferns throughout, repeating clumps of Brunnera. Monty Don on Gardener's World quoted a famous designer one show, who said "no garden needs more than seven plants." An impossible rule to follow! Ha. Anyway, that being said, a taller variety of Mahonia would help cover up your fence and probably lure hummingbirds to your yard too :)
     
  3. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    I'm sure it is possible to have a very attractive garden with only 7 varieties of plant, but it certainly doesn't interest me. There are beautiful, understated, interior designs that use only simple lines and everything in tones of white, or beige, and equal beautiful ones busy with rich colours and textures. I go for a more "theme and variation" effect, with lots of individual varieties, but with a continuity of form and colour provided by having certain plants like - brunnera, ferns, hosta, pulmonaria, and ginger repeat throughout my garden. It may be too busy for some people, but it suits me.
    Mahonia aquifolium is a possibility I had not previously considered, thanks for the suggestion.
     
  4. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Hi @dt-van, just read your post, I know I'm from England but I have a very similar area in my garden that I turned into a small Japanese themed area. I have a stone lantern surrounded by maples, Hostas and ferns. Plus one white Azalea and an upturned tree stump. All these plants thrive in shade and with the different textures, shapes and colours plus the one very dark red maple in the middle, IMO it has given interest and a relaxed looking area.
    A lot of people say that a shady area is not interesting, but I beg to differ.
    I have posted photos on the Japanese gardens forum, so you can see what I have done.
    Hope that's of help to the both of you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2020
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  5. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    I am with Heathen reply above .... the old saying — if you don’t know what else to plant, put in another of what you’ve already got and doing well

    It makes sense - the doing well part

    The other is an old design principal in various creative endeavours —- from quilting to outdoor paving .... interior and exterior design

    In any event .... based on your photos - it might appeal more if you have some height with architectural interest ... like a small maple of some sort

    Then a focal point — like a large decorative container that is safe for Vanc climate year round — and you can put in your seasonal plant interest accordingly

    Here is a good article about repetition - I think it’s fr UK which is great because it keeps it neutral here (ie not from a specific business in PAC NW)

    And has some good DIY

    I know for me - I LOVE the eclectic look and I have lots (way too much) eclectic sentimental vintage stuff — but darn I find it really difficult to do the unified tho diverse design “look” whether it be arranging a good looking book case or a gallery wall of family pix or a garden bed

    I think the focal point really helps anchor diverse eclectic indoors and outside.

    Budget is always a consideration - for initial purchase and ongoing maintenance

    The other factor of course is that spring is the fluffiest fullest prettiest in our Vanc gardens I think .... Feb is when it looks like a half paved old road in the garden (in my mind)

    So having some structure all year would be nice .... like the maple tree above (higher up design ) and sword ferns below at earth level (ideas)

    Here is link to this UK Brit website about repetition

    Have fun !
    Garden Design Principal – Repetition | Our Garden Plan
     
  6. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    In reading your post fr UK — makes me think of Highgrove (Prince of Wales) and the Stump Garden and the wall of gifts (a Canadian born person is head gardener )

    I have never been there however I find the documentary interesting - again I like hostas and diverse design and this is how it’s organized so well (sure, on 15 acres and w 10 staff gardeners!)

    The Stumpery
     
  7. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Hi @Georgia Strait , yes Highgrove is something else indeed. But for those of us with red rather than blue blood, a small one stump stumpery / Japanese area will have to do for now. Lol
    Thanks for reminding everyone about Highgrove it is inspirational.
    I do hope Denis and Teresa get some inspiration from the postings.
     
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  8. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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  9. Mekira

    Mekira Member

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    Hi dt- van
    Have you considered planting Astilbe, I have this plant in three different colours, in north side of the garden, for many years. Ligularia is another option. I think mine was othello, it did well on shady area aswell. posting the picture of it.
    Hydrangea , clematis for climbing vines, maiden fern ,they are doing well in my shade areas.
     

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  10. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Mekira, love the way you have softened this area with planting. More people should plant ferns. One of our latest is Painted lady . Have attached the photo, it is very delicate. Hope you like it.
     

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  11. Mekira

    Mekira Member

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    Thank you Acerholic.Love the pattern of your fern.So far ,I have tried only ostrich ferns and the other one is maiden I think. Ostrich fern stretch had only 5" width but had a 8' length. Amazing to see them in spring.
     

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  12. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Mekira, now that is lovely. 'So bright', what a lovely way to line steps.
     
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  13. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    I really like the composition and color texture / scale / contrast in the ostrich fern photo

    My ostrich ferns look great with allium popping up thru them in spring (in greater Vancouver BC nr ocean)

    That said - we have limited water in summer so my ferns die back (except sword ferns and deer ferns which are somewhat evergreen)

    Mekira - How do you fill in that path for autumn - winter? I am not good at daily maintenance so generally I skip all the traditional bedding plants (plus the budget adds up on those at 5$ each :)
     
  14. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    On my walk back from my coffee run, I paid attention to plants growing in the shade. Of the taller ones, there were
    Polygonum multiflorum
    Polygonatum-multiflorum-1930Haro_Cutler_20200518_141804.jpg Polygonatum-multiflorum-1930Haro_Cutler_20200518_141821.jpg
    Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nigra' (I wonder if the stems would stay dark in the shade, but this one was on the shady side of the street)
    Hydrangea-macrophyllaNigra_1930Haro_Cutler_20200518_141855.jpg Hydrangea-macrophyllaNigra_1930Haro_Cutler_20200518_141904.jpg
    Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'. I think that's what this is.
    Cornus-albaElegantissima_BarclayGilford_Cutler_20200518_143514.jpg
    And I don't know what this is, but you probably do (or someone else), and I would like to have the name.
    PinkTubeFlowers_ComoxChilco_Cutler_20200518_144844.jpg PinkTubeFlowers_ComoxChilco_Cutler_20200518_144907.jpg

    Of fill-y plants, there were
    Adiantum pedatum (I think)
    Adiantum-pedatum_BarclayChilco_Cutler_20200518_142548.jpg Adiantum-pedatum_BarclayChilco_Cutler_20200518_142552.jpg
    Dicentra formosa, Pacific Bleeding Heart
    Dicentra-formosa_BarclayGilford_Cutler_20200518_143450.jpg
    Oxalis acetosella - Wood sorrel
    Oxalis-acetosella_1940Barclay-Gilford_Cutler_20200518_143548.jpg
    Asarum, wild gingers. I think this is Asarum maximum
    Asarum-maximum_1924Barclay_Cutler_20200518_143107.jpg
    Beesia (on my balcony)
    Beesia_HomeBalcony_Cutler_20200518_153142.jpg
    Arachniodes simplicior 'Variegata' East Indian Holly Fern, also on my balcony. The last three are for sure evergreen.
    Arachniodes-simpliciorVariegata_HomeBalcony_Cutler_20200518_153149.jpg
     
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  15. Mekira

    Mekira Member

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    Hi Georgia
    I am sure alliums with ostrich fern would put a great show in late spring. I had alliums in my old place( Winnipeg) I have not planted it yet in new place( Vancouver).
    Those ostrich ferns were on a shady area. I have never watered them.Icalso had astilbe inbetween. That photo was in early spring without astilbe. This was in Winnipeg, Throughout winter astilbe's long stalks and snow would fill in the space. The combination worked well.
    Good for you. Like you, I always concentrate on planting perennials.
    On the other side of the ferns I had purple and white Liatris. These plants worked together to fill the space in winter along with snow.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  16. Mekira

    Mekira Member

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    WCutler
    Thanks for sharing great looking plants and their names. I will definitely look out for many in future to add to the expanding planting area.
     
  17. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    That looks very nice next to what appears to be a stone / concrete plant stand or bird bath ... and your acers!

    we have similar fern in our plant nurseries (retail garden centers) out here too. (Pacific NW of North America)

    One of my fav magazines is the RHS publication - I inherit them from my friends mother who subscribes — she’s a long time ex-pat.
     
  18. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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  19. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    Yes - Wendy Cutler - a great idea - I have a couple of small patches of Solomon Seal too

    Here is an interesting article summing up the diff between Solomon Seal and False S Seal - link below

    Both plants are nice - there’s just a difference

    The Solomon Seal I have nr Vanc BC dies back in winter and is now full size like your photo posted today

    It does not spread — it’s a nice cover up and keeps a cool shade area filled .... and it seems to do fine in somewhat dry shade (in other words I don’t water much in summer.)

    Basic soil - decent and moderate to well drainage. I don't really add any fertilizers or fuss over them —- if Hosta is happy then this plant is happy too.

    Here is an article about the two Solomon’s Seals.

    Solomon's Seal: A native plant and its look-alike impostors
     
  20. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Hi, I have taken a photo of my Hosta Patriot, it loves the shade as all Hostas do ,there are just so many varieties to choose from, so you are never at a loss for colour, texture, shape and size. Just a suggestion for this thread.
     

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  21. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    I have another suggestion for the thread, this is in deep shade and brightens up the area all season long. I have it next to one of my Laurel hedges that takes a lot of moisture and nutrients, but still my Hakonechloa still thrives with little work to keep it looking nice. It is also suitable for a Japanes garden.

    It is a Hakonechloa macrae Aureloa, a deciduous perennial grass. I have posted a photo I took of mine this morning.
     

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  22. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I didn't post this grass that I saw on the same outing. I wonder if it's Hakonechloa macra 'Albo-striata'. I was impressed by how tidy it looked (ignoring the elm samaras).
    Grass_1930Haro_Cutler_20200518_142151.jpg
     
  23. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @wcutler, Hi Wendy IMHO it is. I bought this one several years ago for my daughter.
     
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  24. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    For Wendy Cutler — thé plant on your walk a few days ago - is that « comfry »?

    I have inserted a copy of your photos below

    And then a photo I found on line

    My first thought was borage but it looks to be instead comfry

    I find sometimes those eco-sounding « wildflower seed mix blend » are a noxious weed problem about to happen - which is why one should buy reputable seeds

    Also - sometimes bird seed that many of us use can contain future weeds.

    Anyway - here are the photos below
     

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  25. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Thank you, that looks right. I thought it was a herb like that, didn't think of comfrey - I should have thought to look up Boraginaceae, but the flowers looked so different from borage, which I did look up.
    Your package says Symphytum officinalis, Knitbone (that won't show up on a search unless it's in the text). [Edited] Well, it says what it says, but I see that it should be Symphytum officinale.
     

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