Northern Shade Gardening

Shade Plants by Birdbath

Thursday, August 27, 2009 Category: Garden Design
birdbath shade plantings

birdbath shade plantings

This woodland birdbath is located under my willow tree. The garden bed is backed by a fence to the south and west, so it mostly gets some early morning sun, and some dappled light during the day. These shade plants have all done well with low light, and competing with the willow roots. Very few weeds ever grow here. I always enjoy gardening in this shady green area.

You can see that the birds would have every right to complain right now. I’ve let the birdbath go dry, but it will soon be refilled. I usually check it every day or two, empty it, and refill it. The birds enjoy a good splash about in the water, or a guarded drink. Some birds are extra cautious, pausing every few seconds to check around, while some just splash away, sending water droplets spraying to the nearest plants. Some birds bring a friend to keep guard from a nearby branch.

Behind the birdbath are Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern). These ones grow about 1 m (3 feet) tall, and don’t mind this shady location. They give a lush look to the planting, with their large, arching fronds. On either side of the birdbath are the much daintier looking Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern). Both ferns sway in the breezes. A few Dryopteris expansa (spiny wood fern) and Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern) grow on the far left edge.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) grows at the front of the bed. The rounded leaves make a great groundcover here, very close to the tree trunk.

The heart shaped leaves with silver highlights are Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, and make a nice contrast. Behind them in the darkest, driest corner, grows the uncomplaining Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley).

Just out of sight to the back and right there are Polygonatum commutatum (solomon’s seal). Their slender arching stems form a bracket to this group. Just to the left of the photo are Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr. Morse’, which have very similar leaves to the Jack Frost, but with white flowers in spring. All of these shade plants have done very well in this garden under the willow.

frog birdbath

frog birdbath

Here is my other birdbath, under a pine tree. This one has a hexagonal shape.There is a relief of a frog on a lily pad inside the bowl, and carvings of lily pads around the pedestal. It gets double the amount of birds as my other one. There are tall shade plants around this birdbath, but above it is more open than the birdbath under the willow. The Hydrangea paniculata has just started blooming, and the white flowers are halfway open. A large Matteuccia struthiopteris frond is just about as tall as the shrub on the other side. To the left grow some Pulmonaria plants.

woodland birdbath with water

woodland birdbath with water

Now the woodland birdbath is filled with water, and ready for some feathery customers at the bird spa.

18 Responses to “Shade Plants by Birdbath” »

  1. Rebecca :
    August 27, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    What lucky birds to have such a beautiful place to bathe! I really like the combination of the ginger and Brunnera, I find the shape of their leaves somewhat similar. It looks like your hydrangea is getting ready to put on a fine show. Are the leaves on your pulmonaria solid coloured? Most of the ones I’ve seen are mottled. :)

  2. Northern Shade :
    August 27, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Rebecca, Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ is by the woodland fountain and Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ is by the hexagonal fountain. Both have them have solid silver coloured leaves, with just the occasional leaf reverting to a few dots. The leaves of Samourai are longer and narrower. I really like the look of both of these in the garden.

    That Brunnera is the end of a group of plants that extends to the right. They are very close to the tree trunk, and do very well.

    It’s nice to be able to look forward to new blooms in the garden at this time of year, like on the PG hydrangea shrub. All of my H. paniculata are still in the early flowering stages. They should look good for all of September, and maybe pink into October.

  3. Sunita :
    August 27, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    No wonder the birds flock there… its such a lovely site for a birdbath !
    That hydrangea looks very striking in the shaded atmosphere.

  4. The Garden Ms. S :
    August 27, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    The birds must think of your garden as a spa especially for them :)

  5. Northern Shade :
    August 27, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Sunita, I particularly like the Hydrangea for its late blooms, which it will keep going into fall. I like to anticipate new flowers opening in the garden, so these blooms that arrive late keep the gardening changing. These shrubs gets covered in lots of white flowers, and make a real focal point in late August and September.

    The Garden Ms. S, there are lots of birds in summer, but I’ve noticed fewer around lately. I miss watching the baby birds develop, and the parents busy hunting for food. There are less calls from the trees now.

  6. Joanne Drayson :
    August 28, 2009 at 7:59 am

    That looks lovely it is good to have low plants around a bird bath.
    I though about you much whilst I visited my Dad recently he has many large trees surrounding his garden so much is in shade. One day probably during the winter I will post on his garden.

  7. Northern Shade :
    August 28, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Joanne, some of the plants appreciate the extra water they get when I dump out the birdbath to refill it. I usually splash it towards the maidenhair ferns in particular. The birds are less discriminating, and generally splash it with equal abandon.

  8. MNGarden :
    August 28, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Birds in the garden do not like our birdbaths. For some reason they prefer to sit on the spitting frog’s head and drink from the running water. Your shady retreats look very inviting and I can see why the birds love it.

  9. Renate :
    August 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Love the plant combinations! It’s really not so easy to have a shade planting that doesn’t look monochromatic, and you’ve managed the trick!

  10. Northern Shade :
    August 30, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    MNGarden, maybe I need some running water for the birds too. The one birdbath has a recess for a pump, so I could put a spitter in there. Today I was watching a young robin and 2 adults looking around the open ground. It must be their second brood.

    Renate, the flowering plants by the woodland birdbath bloom in spring, and then the foliage is on show for the rest of the season. I like the look of dappled light on the plants under the willow there.

  11. Shady Gardener :
    September 2, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Hi Northern Shade! This is such a relaxing sight. I think I should come sit in your garden for awhile! My Woodland Walk is okay, but it went through a 5″ rainfall last week. Because we’re on a severe downslope, there was a “river running through it” (quite literally!). At any rate, it looks as though I need to add another layer to the little wall at the back and restore the dirt and mulch to their rightful places. I’ll get to it, but I think I might take a day off. ;-)

  12. Northern Shade :
    September 3, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Shady Gardener, I like to work in this area, under the willow, because it’s cool and peaceful. There usually isn’t much weeding to be done here either.

    I noticed in the photos of your new garden stairs how sloped your land was, sorry to hear about the heavy rainfall rearranging your garden. It sounds like you will have a new project for the fall.

  13. Deborah at Kilbourne Grove :
    September 3, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Hi, I am always looking for beautiful plants to grow in shade, and you have got them. My garden backs on to the Niagara Escarpment, and it is also buried under snow for 4 to 5 months of the year. I laugh at those English gardeners who say to plant for winter interest, when the snow is up to your waist, it is hard to see anything. But, I am trying. I have quite a few, large old sugar and silver maples that I am trying to garden under. I got some great ideas from your site. Thank you.

  14. Northern Shade :
    September 4, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Deborah, I miss the beautiful sugar and silver maples of Ontario. Mature maples give a wonderful atmosphere to a garden, and I bet you will soon be starting to see the fall changes in them. One of the plants that I grow right up against a maple trunk is Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss). There are many with beautifully patterned leaves, and they have lovely blue or white flowers in the spring.

    I have trouble with winter interest too. I admire gardens that have beautiful stone walls or arbours in the winter to give patterns to the snow. Mainly, I have some large conifers that get decorated in white, but mostly, I eagerly look forward to spring, and the start of gardening again.

  15. Jayne :
    September 19, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    I think the birds would prefer your bath with the hexagonal shape because the depth is graduated. My grandad (English) had an old dustbin lid which the birds loved. I have a bath shaped like a flower and each petal has different depths – all the birds from Blue Jay to Chickadee love it! Your shade gardens look very atmospheric..I prefer dappled shade to sun any day!

  16. Northern Shade :
    September 19, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Jayne, that could be the reason. It is shallower too. Your birdbath with each section having a different depth sounds great to satisfy each bird. This garden area looks good into the fall too. The ostrich fern starts to turn yellow, but the other plants are good right past the first frosts.

  17. hortoris :
    March 6, 2010 at 4:13 am

    British birds need feeding and protection and I like the idea of the ferns.

  18. Northern Shade :
    March 6, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Hortoris, The birdbath helps make a better habitat for the birds, while I enjoy watching the wildlife.

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