This shade garden is under some evergreens. I started it last year under the pine and spruce, and the perennials overwintered very well. This year, I’m expanding the plantings, through to the other side of the tall conifers. I’ve recently added some Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Sheen’ (Japanese spurge), Hosta ‘Patriot’, Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’ and another Athyrium ‘Ghost’. Some of the plants from last year have also been moved around. I’m aiming for a forest floor or woodland garden look in my front yard.
The soil under the spruce is a pleasure to work in. It has years of decomposing needles and tree debris, making a thick spongy layer. It is difficult to dig with a shovel, because of the lower tree branches getting in the way of the handle, so I ended up scooping some of the holes easily with my hands, since the soil was so soft.
Do you see how dim it looks at the back of this photo? That’s because they are planted right against the spruce trunk with branches coming down within half a metre (under 2 ft) of the plants. Yet, the Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Sheen’ is glowing in the background, even where the dappled light doesn’t reach into the shade.
The glossy Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Sheen’ (Japanese spurge) is reflecting light in the deepest shade. I never had the urge to add Pachysandra to my shade garden before, until I saw the foliage of ‘Green Sheen’. Like a magpie, I’m attracted to shiny things in the garden. :) This groundcover is recently planted, so I don’t know for sure how it will overwinter in zone 3, but I think it is going to do well in this siting.
I just moved the Asarum arifolium (wild ginger) from under the darker spruce tree, where the Pachysandra is now located, to the base of the pine tree. I’ll be able to see the attractive leaves better here, and it will get a bit more light. I’m pleased with how these Asarum have survived so far. I planted them last fall, but they were rated for a warmer zone. The evergreen leaves of the ginger were there in spring, but disappeared at the end of May when we had a snowfall and frosts. Then a few weeks later, one appeared, and now there are five plants showing. I hate to stress them by moving the plants again, but this will be a better position for them, right next to a silver and green grouping, where their faint silver markings will look super.
As I was moving them, I notice that they already had a flower this year, so they not only survived the winter and the very late spring frost, they even had enough energy to flower. The flower is the green structure, looking like a pitted olive, on the upper left of the photo.The flower is not showy, just rather interesting, but it’s a good sign that they are actually hardy in zone 3. The flowers of Asarum are usually right on the ground, hidden by the leaves, but this plant has been dug out and is laying sideways, so you get a good view.
This is one of my favourite foliage combinations for the shade: Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern), Hosta ‘Francee’ and Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss). The white edges of the Hosta leaves, with the silver fern fronds, next to the silvery green Brunnera are very attractive. The transplanted Asarum are at the top in the middle, but you have to click the picture to enlarge and see them. This pine is multi stemmed, so I’m planting in the shady pockets between the small curving trunks.
Here is a closeup, so you can see how nice the leaves look on this ginger. The Asarum arifolium has faint silver markings on it, so it coordinates beautifully with the perennials that were planted last year in front. If I leave them alone, they should fill in and cover the ground.
Hosta ‘Patriot’ gets a spot on the other side of this shade garden. It has a wider white margin than the Hosta ‘Francee’ that is already in this bed, so it reflects more light under the shade of the pine. I also added another Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern) between the two Hosta. Partly because I appreciate the look of the delicate fern fronds next to the bold Hosta leaves, and partly because it will repeat the silver ferns from the front of the bed.
Another new perennial is Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’, which has fabulous silver leaves, with purple underneath. I especially like leaves where the variegation follows the veins of the plants, making beautiful patterns. I chose this Heuchera because it grows shorter, so it fits underneath the low evergreen branches. Even the red flower wands are shorter, so they won’t get tangled with the overhead boughs. Heuchera are great in a shade garden, because their patterned, colourful leaves add interest even when the plants are not in flower.
These Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ (barrenwort) were planted last year, and they have filled in beautifully. This one even has a late flower on it. There were many of these purple flowers dancing over the leaves back in May and June. This plant is terrific for the shade garden, as a nice groundcover.
These Hepatica nobilis (liverleaf) were planted in the late fall last year, when they were dormant. This year they sent up these good looking leaves, but only one flower so far. I’m assuming there will be more of the beautiful blue blooms next year as the plants mature.
The Aruncus aethusifolius (dwarf goatsbeard) was planted last year, too. It has finely cut leaves, like a fern, with small creamy white plumes waving over top. Mine bloom well in the shadiest areas of the garden.
Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) is a very common woodland plant across Canada. This hardy perennial makes a good groundcover under the spruce. I planted these late last summer, and they are starting to spread now.
You can see in this photo that I’m going for a woodsy look, even though the shade garden is on a suburban front lawn. I leave the tree needles and cones here to add to the forest duff, and have been trying to get more moss to grow. The moss is slowly expanding, and should give a nice green setting for the perennials.
The plantings are looking more full, now, and it is greatly improved from the scraggly grass that was here before. This previous post about this shade garden has a good before picture, showing what it looked like when I started planting. I give this garden some supplemental water, but I don’t have to mulch it, since the conifers do that for me. I’m going to continue expanding the bed out more to the next tree.