Laura321
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Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:33 pm
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

Novice gardener needs help planning shade garden

I live in Victoria BC Canada which is zone 7 - 9 depending on which map you use (mild with lots of rain, rarely snows). I have a space that's 15 feet wide at the back, 16 feet in front, and 11 ft long. There's an apple tree in the middle near the front. The space is mostly shaded but one side gets a small amount of sun in the evening. It will get even less sun once the leaves grow on the tree. There's a 1 ft high concrete wall behind the garden with a long narrow concrete planter behind that, another 1/2 ft higher. The planter is along a fence where grapes grow along the top. There's a tall stump in an awkward place near the back of one side of the space. I'm not an expert, but the soil looks good to me (fairly dark and moist with lots of worms). There's a composter we've been adding to all year in the middle of the space right now. It will be moved.

The grapes limit the height of anything I put in the planter to about 2 ft. I was thinking I'd plant ferns and hostas there or something not too tall. But I can't figure out what to plant in the main garden space. I have some astilbe coming I'd like to incorporate somewhere. The catalogue says it's height is 2-3 ft. I was thinking I could plant them in the back but I'm worried they'd obstruct the view of whatever I put in the planter. Would it work to put them in front and put something shorter in the back? I've taken some pics and can post them if that would help (if I can figure out how). I was also wondering if the space would work better as a raised bed. But that would obstruct the view of the planter along the fence even more. I'd love some opinions and ideas. Thanks!

Laura321
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Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:33 pm
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

Hmm, maybe this should have gone to the flower garden and garden design forum. Mods, feel free to move if you think that's the way to go.

I should also mention that I'd like a variety of colours and textures growing in my garden and if possible, would love to have at least a few things in bloom from spring to fall.

bullthistle
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Astible flowers may reach that high but the plants no more then 12". Go to perennials.com and browse through the plants to get some ideas.

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rainbowgardener
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Well you've given yourself a kind of limiting set of parameters. If the plants in the planter are no more than 2' tall and the planter is 6" that means 2.5' total. If you don't want to block the sight lines to that, it means all your plants in you whole fairly large flower bed have to be under about 2' tall. That will give you a kind of flat ground-cover-y kind of look that seems a bit at odds with wanting a variety of color/ texture etc.

And shade plants in general tend to be less colorful, less showy, and blooming for shorter periods than sun plants. They are also mainly spring bloomers. Finding fall blooming shade perennials is very challenging. You could always fill in with some annuals that bloom all season like impatiens and begonias, that do come in lots of colors.

That said, here's some plant possibilities to look up, that fall in that 2' or less height range and are shade perennials:

anemones (there's spring blooming white ones and summer blooming red ones), wild ginger (inconspicuous flowers, but a nice low growing ground cover), marsh marigolds (yellow, spring), campanula/bellflower (blue bells that bloom all summer), bunchberry (creeping ground cover with beautiful showy white flowers, needs acid soil), bleeding heart (pretty heart shaped flowers in white, pink, red, bloom late spring-early summer), trillium (spring ephemerals in white, yellow, red, purple), hardy begonias (pink, summer), celandine poppy (yellow, spring), solomon seal (delicate white flowers on striking arched stems, nice for the texture variety, spring), epimedium (very pretty pink or white, spring).

Another thing to think for putting color in is things with colorful foliage. Flowers come and go, but foliage is there all season. Ajugas, heucheras, tiarellas, pulmonarias, all come with foliage in striking colors/variegations. And of course the hostas you mentioned come in a variety of sizes and foliage colors/variegations as do caladiums.

To get fall blooms, you would need to be willing to have some taller plants in there -- bugbane/ cimicifuga, anise hyssop, astilbe, toad lily, white wood aster.

Hope this at least gives you some things to think about and starting places to look....
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Laura321
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Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:33 pm
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

Thanks for all the ideas. I will look all of those up. A problem I never considered before is that a garden full of short plants and ground cover will likely get trampled by my dog. I may end up planting taller things and just leave the back planter empty. I could also plant things there for now and transplant to a better location later when the plants in front grow bigger. My budget is very limited. I will have to build the garden slowly, buying a couple of plants every other week or so.

Laura321
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Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:33 pm
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

I should also mention that the planter is behind and raised 6" from a 1 feet high, 1' deep concrete platform in back of the garden space. So planter plants would be 3.5' high off the ground. That would give me a little more room for slightly higher things in the main garden space. I'll try and post a pic tomorrow

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rainbowgardener
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It's fine to build it slowly; your plants will spread and fill in. Plant things widely spaced and then fill in all the space with plenty of mulch to keep down weeds. I planted some flower beds that way, lots of bare dirt with just mulch and now a decade later they are chock full and crowded and I have too keep pulling things out. (Didn't take the whole decade to fill in in either! :) )
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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