Dear Casual Gardener,
My wife, Barb, and I have read your column with much interest. While I have lived in my home for 30 years, I have little success in gardening on the east side of my house, which receives very little direct sun each day. Professionals have recommended that I plant hostas and ferns there, but I am interested in something with more color. Any suggestions?
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This is a great time to plan next year’s garden! It’s expensive to plant an entire garden space. I use the Fall and Winter to save money and order from catalogs to spread out the garden spending. I will write through the Winter about several great solutions for difficult gardening situations. Remember, when planning a garden for Spring planting, one must keep in mind the position of the sun. In the Winter the sun shines in a different location than in the summer – be sure you are aware of your precise conditions before you start planning for the big planting event in the Spring.
As you know Larry, there are quite a variety of gardening conditions on the street we live on. Dry, sunny spots can be found within a few feet of dry, shady spots. Wet, boggy areas, lime-filled rocky areas and multiple sub-climates exist within our Chicagoland, Zone 5 neighborhood. You mentioned your garden is on the “East” side of your house, yet receives very little sun. City and Suburban communities as well as retail “urban sprawl” have really forced a lot of shade to appear within tight spaces. Filling these spaces with colorful plants and flowers is quite easy.
Hydrangeas would be a good bush to place in the back of your perennial bed. The advantage of the hardier bush varieties is giant “balls of flowers” all summer long. My two favorites are Hydrangea Annabelle (all white flowers, blooming on old wood, held from June to August) and Hydrangea Endless Summer (pink in lime soil, blue in acidic soil, blooming on new and old wood).
Astilbes lend a refined grace to the middle section of your perennial border. Lush, deeply cut foliage is attractive for the entire season. Colorful, airy plumes in the summer move with the slightest breeze.
Perennial Geraniums, specifically Cranesbill Geranium Rozanne, is an amazing shade perennial as it blooms all summer once established. Billowy mounds of blue flowers the size of a quarter.
Don’t knock Hostas! Hostas are my favorite plant of all time and offer a wide variety of color choices and tolerate dry shade. I find combining the varieties in your beds can add a lot of color – deep blue leaves, chartreuse, striped, yellow, odd-variegated – all add some excitement to a shady area. Heuchera is another great shade perennial that tolerates dry conditions and has endless varieties of leaf color – from burgundy to variegated chartreuse – with several colors of dainty little bell flowers.
For shade gardens with dry conditions please keep in mind that plants grow more slowly. If you want an “immediate” show from your plants with dry conditions, be sure to get larger plants to start off with.
Happy Garden Planning and Happy Holidays!
Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!