(Photo: Boxwood Border/My Shady Garden)
Boxwoods are wonderful broadleaf evergreen shade shrubs that define the garden space. No, they are not the sexy, showy plants that get a lot of attention. But they provide the structure, and dare I say the formality, of a garden throughout the year. In winter when the showy plants are gone this evergreen has a chance to stand out.
Boxwoods prefer partial shade but adapt to full shade or full sun with sufficient watering. They like being mulched because their roots grow close to the surface. It is best not to disturb the earth around the boxwood once the shrub is established for the same reason.
They make excellent backgrounds for brightly colored plants that show up well against the even, dark green surface of the boxwood and they are the perfect backdrop for the drama of the garden. Continue reading
Empress Wu - still small in the front
Even non-gardeners seem to know about hostas – the ever-present shade perennial that is found near most homes – at least in the mid-West! But in committing myself to shade gardening earlier this year, I wanted to make a statement with them. I wanted hostas that couldn’t be ignored.
So in early May I got myself to a nursery that has the largest selections of plants, shrubs, trees, and garden décor near me and asked “What are the largest hostas you have?” After all size matters – at least in getting noticed in the garden. The answer came back ‘Empress Wu’ and ‘Sum and Substance’. Continue reading
Lady's Mantle with Water 'Pearls'/ MyShadyGarden
In my book, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is a shade perennial MVP. It is a terrific border plant – providing elegance to bed lines.
The light gray green leaves are ruffled and of different sizes reflecting when the leaves last emerged. Besides the pretty shape of the leaves, the best part of the plant is the tiny hairs on the surface. Not only do the leaves feel velvety, but when water collects on the leaves pearlescent drops roll along the surface. This holds true throughout the growing season even after the flowers have stopped blooming.
Living Room View/MyShadyGarden
Beautiful surroundings are important to me – even if it is shabby chic at times….
We spend a lot of time in our living room and look out onto our front garden. We have such a large window that the outside comes in and the inside comes out.
I sit on my couch looking out onto my beautiful magnolia and enjoy watching the birds in the birdbath in the first outside ‘room’ decorated with tulips, daffodils, and Grecian windflowers at the moment. I will change the outside décor as the season progresses – perhaps some impatiens, begonias, or nicotiana – I will have to see what looks good at the garden center and what color palette I’d like this year.
Ever since we’ve owned a home, we have composted. This is not a high maintenance compost pile or a fancy plastic barrel with compost in it. This is a round bin of hardware cloth compost cage wired together in a corner of our garden. You can easily make it yourself with a trip to your local hardware store.
We use it primarily for kitchen scrap – coffee grounds, orange peels, corn husks, watermelon rinds – you get the picture. We started composting because we knew it was green, but our true motivation at the time was to save money. In the Chicago area, there is a yard waste disposal charge. Right now I think it is up to $2.10/20 gal bag. So as many leaves as we could get, we would squish into the wire bin. And miraculously in the spring, the big pile would shrink down to only 1/3 of the capacity.
Clematis - newly planted on right
I recently discovered that some clematis vines are shade lovers. Clematis is my favorite flowering vine because it often blooms twice and puts on quite a show high above the rest of the garden.
Much to my dismay this spring, I realized that one of my clematis vines died over the course of the winter. Truth be told, it was a bit sickly last fall, but I thought it would perk up this spring.
In hindsight, the real problem may have been that I selected a sun-loving clematis instead of a shade lover. Our garden is in transition from sun to shade and if there are enough stresses on a plant – it will croak! Continue reading
(photo: Bleeding Hearts/My Shady Garden)
Bleeding Hearts – My Favorite Early Spring Shade Perennial
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) is one of my favorite early spring shade perennials. It is a fast grower especially if temperatures warm up. In the right conditions, the plant literally grows inches per day.
With a break in the rain and temperatures warming – finally! – Chicagoans finally feel like spring is here. There is no doubt that the plants know it is spring – and they are growing like gangbusters. There seems to be a race for what can grow the biggest before the other plants catch up and mature.
This spring in the Chicago area we have had an abundance of rain, but luckily Ostrich Ferns (and most ferns) enjoy being wet. The rain has kept me from getting out into the yard like I want do.
However, I have been able to monitor the fern growth really well. We have a window on our stairs going down into the basement. I can look out of the window and watch the Ostrich ferns grow. From fiddle heads as they emerge, to almost 3 feet tall, the ferns are fun to watch because they grow so quickly. Continue reading
Plant Tag Container/MyShadyGarden
When I purchase a new plant, I am usually up to speed on the name and growing conditions that are required for best performance by reading the plant tag. But after a year goes by, I find that I do forget things. Maybe it is age…? But I have decided to help myself by keeping those plant tags – and I don’t mean on the bushes or planted in the ground next to the perennial.
Instead I have a Tupperware container with a lid that I keep in the garage. As I make a purchase, I place the tags in the container. I also put my leftover seeds in there as well. Otherwise mice have a way of getting into them and eating them up. Not the most sophisticated garden file organization system, but it is easy and it works! Continue reading