what to plant under a tree

Discussion in 'Garden Design and Plant Suggestions' started by sapphire, Apr 7, 2008.

  1. sapphire

    sapphire Member

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    Location:
    MA, USA
    we have a huge Maple tree in the corner of our back yard...we are setting out a garden layout now, we have NONE what so ever, and i would like to plant under this tree but not sure how close i can get to the base and what will grow with the roots there...Hostas come to mind...but i'd like something else, some colour

    TIA
     
  2. Darleen

    Darleen Member

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    Las Vegas
    I just went through this in my yard. If your ground is moist Baby Tears is nice. It is tight and has little white flowers on its vibrant green. It seems sturdy too.
     
  3. Dave-Florida

    Dave-Florida Active Member

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    Location:
    Vero Beach, Fla., USA
    Trilliums? In the native landscape, there's a suite of herbs that wake up early in the spring, flower, and get a reasonable amount of business done before the deciduous trees cast heavy shade.
     
  4. karmahappytoes

    karmahappytoes Active Member

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    Location:
    Felida, WA USA (NW of the other Vancouver in USA)
    Helleborus, hostas, woodland plants, bleeding hearts, lots of annuals come to mind for instant color.
     
  5. Ispied

    Ispied Active Member

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    Location:
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    I've tried various plants under our Maple and it's not so much the lack of light that I found I problem with, it is the roots. Everything I've tried doesn't survive too long as the tree was sucking all the nutrients from the plants. I also have a bed fairly close to the Maple and all the plants are basically dwarfed because of the roots from the tree, and lack of nutrients. So, yes I thing something like Baby Tears may work as the have shallow roots. I bought a Sedum last year that is called Coral Carpet which starts out green and then turns like a burgandy later in the season. These Sedums also spreads fairly quick.
     
  6. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    Location:
    Maine coast, USA, zone 5
    If the shade is really dense and the ground stays mostly dry (which is often the case since maple roots are greedy), you might try to establish a moss garden there.

    I know this sounds paradoxical since moss is associated with damp places, but it can work. Moss, once established, can usually get by with whatever moisture comes along (for instance morning dew). And once it gets going, the older and dead moss creates a tiny microhabitat for other diminutive natives.

    You could try making a "moss smoothie" to get things started. Collect as many varieties of moss as you can find. Mix them lightly (e.g. in a blender for just a few seconds) with a quart of buttermilk and a couple tablespoons of seaweed extract, which you can find at a decent garden center. Spread or pour the weird-looking mixture where you want moss to grow.

    Now keep it moist by misting or spraying it VERY LIGHTLY now and then, once or twice a day to start. You don't want to actually WATER it, because that will just make the maple happy. Sometimes, morning dew alone will be enough to make this happen.

    Sounds weird, but it can be beautiful. There's a lovely moss "lawn" under trees at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller garden in Maine and it creates a wonderfully soothing mood as you approach the main garden gate.
     
  7. Dave-Florida

    Dave-Florida Active Member

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    Moss could indeed work.

    Moss is a typical feature of Japanese gardens, and Massachusetts has lots of Japanese gardening enthusiasts and (I think) a fair number of businesses catering to them.
     
  8. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    Some things I've found which tolerate the dry shade and root competition are:
    Geranium macrorrhizum (Bigroot geranium) which is available in at least 3 colour forms. white, pale pink and magenta is a tough vigorous groundcover type hardy to zone 3.
    The common primula is surprisingly tolerant of summer dryness, as are some ferns. and the larger more "thugish" hostas. Some hostas have very nice flowers; one I especially like is "Sea Octopus which has plain emerald green leaves and beautiful violet flowers striped with white. Planting a mix of Hostas (including perhaps a very large one like"Royal Standard', 'Regal Splendor' or 'Sagae'), ferns and the geranium would give you some nice textural contrasts and some flowers. By adding a bench and intermixing a few large pots with shade loving annuals like begonia you could create a very attractive effect.
    Another thing to consider is to remove some lower branches so that the Maple tree's canopy starts fairly high up. This allows more light and some rain to reach the plants beneath.
     

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