Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Filling the gaps


You’ve all heard me bemoaning the shade and tree roots that make it very difficult to get any kind of color into my front yard. Even aggressive ground covers have a hard time colonizing some of this densely canopied space.

Nonetheless, I’ve been reluctant to bring more containers into the area, as I’m not sure about the mixed aesthetic message that a ground cover, shrub, and perennial planting combined with containers would give. Until now. In desperation, I decided to bring a couple large containers into the mix. They held tulips in the spring and are now planted with colocasia, “fusion” impatiens and hedera hybrids. It seems to be working out OK so far, but I would hate them to be the thin edge of a wedge of artificial elements in the front.

Many on the street have the same problem, and are solving it with pavement, gravel, containers and —invariably, when all else fails—hosta. These solutions are all very well, but I would like to have other plants than hosta. That’s where the containers come in. They are free of tree roots, and they have a bit of height. This seems to help the plants capture a bit of dappled light. If it works out, I may eventually replace them with some heavier iron vessels. The traditional appearance of these Victorian urns will better reconcile them to front yard use.

12 comments:

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Using containers seems to be the best solution in your situation. I use containers in the same way in the shade garden. Nothing wrong with that.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I will just bet when these pots fill in you will be pleased with them. The watering you have to do to keep them up will probably energize the ground covers around them.

Heather's Garden said...

I feel your pain. That's how I ended up with so many large containers on the shady, hilly, tree-root infested side of the house. I've even decided to allow lamium to try and grow there. That's desperation. And if it doesn't take, I may well be covering the whole thing in mulch next year.

Susan aka Miss R said...

I'm sure you've tried to get color using foliage. If Hosta works than Polygonatum varieties, Epimedium (only hardy to Z5), and Dryopteris marginalis might be able to get established. All can take it very dry and are shade lovers. They'll have difficulty spreading because of the root systems so try them in pockets. I know I'm late to the party here, but I run into this all the time with the sheer number of Norway Maples that have been used as street trees here.

Anonymous said...

Pots are the perfect solution for places where nothing else wants to grow. Some pots are so beautiful they are art objects in themselves. They don't even need plants in them.

Garden Much said...

Have you tried Foxglove? They should tolerate dry and shady conditions.

EAL said...

Susan,

Epimedium, check.
Polygonatum, check.
Dryopteris, not yet.

Thanks!

chris m. said...

I've found a ground cover for under a red maple that really works but you have to deal with it's eagerness to spread. It's Bellis perennis, English daisy.It will fill any space given it and then some but the leaves areso fresh, the flowers in spring charming, that I find it hard to resist; just keep moving it to dry-shade areas of which I have many, as our garden is surrounded by large trees.

Anonymous said...

I garden under trees, too, and find containers essential , but do watch pots right on the soil--greedy tree roots (like norway maples) are perfectly capable of growing right UP into drain holes in search of water and nutrients.

chidy said...

shade bed #1

spiderwort, lamium, striped grass, snow otm, silver beacon, ferns, violets, hostas (yes, yes, i know), that purple leafed eph-something, woodruff, alpine strawberry, grape hycth., "cotton easter", dianthus, lily of the valley, some native succulent 'garlic,' annual petunias, stella doros, geranium, delphinium, creeping phlox, echinacea, moss, sedum and rudbekia. these are all under a combo of deep shade, a pine tree, a semi poisonous shaggy hickory, and a maple. the trick is soil improvement. i spent a lot of time establishing this bed, but i put it in right the first time, and it is smashing in early spring. i don't turn my nose up at common stuff if it fills a hole. sorry this photo does not do it justice.

Anonymous said...

I have woodlands surrounding my gardens, mainly oaks. I have have been working on opening up the tree canopy to let filtered light through. My plants tend to be 2~3 weeks behind the surrounding neighborhoods. To bring in color, I pot my colors such as hydrangeas, dahlias & grow them in the sun to give a start. Then I sink the pots in the ground. Come fall, overwinter them in the garage. I also use annuals, spring bulbs & summer bulbs planted straight into the ground. Winthrop Harbor, Illinois.

FaithieP said...

Can you grow new plants? I have good luck with seedlings under my 3 live oaks. I was thinking of adding some african iris since their roots are so shallow...