at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Gardening in the Shade

I was always under the impression that not much grew in the shade. The only shade plants I really knew were impatiens and hostas. The problem was, I had created a landscaped area in our backyard, beside our deck and underneath a weeping cherry tree. 
The area gets a sun in the spring, but by summertime when the leaves are all in, its almost completely shaded. I had tried growing groundcover in this space, and it worked well for a year or so, but eventually died off and the weeds took over. 

2011: the year the groundcover thrived! Each subsequent year, it looked terrible.
Last year, I decided to go on a mission to build a beautiful shade garden with all perennials (sorry impatiens) and with more than just leafy hostas. Some research online and a trip to my local nursery gave me a lot of inspiration and hope that I could really make this area into a beautiful garden space.

My shopping cart full of shade perennials!!
There are more flowering plants than I realized that thrive in shade. I decided that I wanted to plant things in a bit of a random fashion so it looked more "natural" and less landscaped. I bought a wide variety of plants to add visual interest with different leaf types -- from variegated hostas, to green ferns, to astible and purple-leafed coral bells -- I had variety! 

Shade garden right after planting - looks like lots of room for things to grow and expand.

My goal, as with all of my perennial gardens, is to completely fill in the space with pretty plants so that there's really no room for weeds to grow. After just one season, the area is filling in quite nicely! A bit of my old groundcovers are regrowing in between the perennials I planted last year.  I still have daylillies planted along the back, though those may get moved in the next year or so. I also planted some spring bulbs to add some interest while the rest of the plants are just coming back to life -- plus there's sun in the area in the spring, before the leaves grow on the tree above. 

Garden just beginning to grow as the cherry tree blossoms

Here's another early spring view of everything just starting to awaken! I had to laugh because the weeping cherry tree drops its beautiful petals in such a way that they scatter across the deck and garden looking rather like snow.

Early spring shade garden as the cherry blossoms begin to fall.

But then this happened earlier in May, and I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

Welcome to spring in Michigan!

Even Happy wasn't sure whether or not to go outside! Despite the bipolar weather we've been having, the garden has been growing happily.

Early spring forget-me-nots, tulips and hosta

The bird bath remains in the area, with two bird feeders nearby. And it has become a beautiful haven for any bird! Unless, of course, you don't feel comfortable eating and bathing in the presence of a hunting dog! Happy usually leaves the birds alone, though, and the birds just add further interest to the backyard for all of us! 

The chickadees are always hanging around

More forget-me-nots with birdbath in the back

 I realized this spring that I had planted many of these shade-lovers past their prime last year. There were so many spring flowers this year that my shade garden had more spring interest than any other area of the yard! Many of them didn't get a chance to flower last year or at least didn't get a chance to thrive. I'll post an updated photo after everything fills out for summer, but spring is looking good!

Pulmonaria -- with speckled leaves -- were one of the first to bloom this spring
with bright pink & purplish blue flowers!
One of several varieties of Coral Bells I planted. Photo is early spring. they just started flowering at the end of May.

Another variety of Coral Bells - just starting to flower; Forget-me-nots & hosta.
If you think nothing pretty grows in the shade: think again! Take a trip to your local nursery and check out all of the options. Still on my list to get in here if there's room are bleeding heart and hellebore. I'm hoping to create a space that looks like the forest floor out of a fairy tale!

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!