Rainbows in the Shade

As January inches away and February looms around the corner, thoughts are turning to garden planning and scheduling. One of my upcoming February projects is to create a shade garden on the east side of my home and I can’t wait to get started. Part of the planning involves plant selection and several nurseries are tuned in to my dream and are sending me literature on shade plants and I thought that would make for an interesting mid-winter article. I want color in the shade – rainbows in the shade – not only to just add interest but to liven my spirits every morning. So, let’s look at what possibilities exist for reds, oranges, blues, and yellows. The first think to do is evaluate my environment and determine how much sun and shade I actually have. See my previous post “Shade Garden Compendium” for more details.

My shade site is on the east side with my house on the west so there is no afternoon sun. On the south side I have a six foot cedar privacy fence so the immediate area north of the fence is in total shade. My east side also has a six foot fence, so the sun will not shine in the summer until about 9 and after noon, it will be gone. At the height of summer, therefore, I will have no more than 2-3 hours of direct sun – which is good to know.

What about water? I have a hose bib on that side of the house and my “Zone B” sprinkler system has several drizzle heads that cover the area. So summer drought will not be an issue. Drainage? After a heavy rain, water backs up in this area due to the construction of a new home next door and I will have to restructure water flow to avoid puddling. And my soil conditioning? Now, I have Bermuda sod on heavy clay which will have to be removed and the soil will be built-up and amended with a minimum of six inches of a more organic garden soil with perhaps some perlite or vermiculite to avoid over saturation. This will be a challenge!

Don’t forget deer and rabbits! My enclosure is animal proof (no such thing!) on three sides so I installed a wrought iron fence on the north side to deter munching visitors.

Looking North from the proposed shade garden. I have to widen the stone walkway at the garden entrance.
Looking South from the center of the shade garden. Orange native azalea will be at the bottom slightly to the left.

I want to create a focal point and actually the curving stone walkway will be my vantage point as I “stroll” through my shade garden. As I walk from front to back, on my left will be an orange native Azalea which will love the morning sun and amended soil. I have it on site in a 15 gallon tub now so I can visualize the actual placement. It is deciduous and has large buds now so its orange blossoms will be an April focal point. It will be roughly in the center of the shade garden giving it plenty of room (it is already four feet tall!). I will use pine bark nugget mulch and keep the ground under it free of any other plants.

An orange native azalea. This is my large focal point.

Along the twenty foot stone walkway to my backyard gate I will transplant several varieties of Hosta which in addition to their variegated leaves will produce two foot tall spikes of white and lavender flowers from midsummer to fall. See a past article for more perspective… https://74journeys.wordpress.com/2019/10/27/around-the-garden-october-27th/

I have nine leaf varieties of Hosta to transplant from my front porch garden.

Behind the Hosta, I need to add color and I am thinking of a whiskey half-barrel or large pot with some colorful Tuberous Begonias which are very colorful in a partial shade community. I have ordered twenty tubers of mixed colors and a yellow or red would contrast with the Hosta.

Tuberous Begonia (not the annual) will add a splash of color in a large pot tp make it easy to take inside next winter.

On one corner next to the walkway, I plan to have several hardy Astilbe . They will add color and texture. I have ordered four plants – one each of pink, white, dark red, and lavender. They like morning sun and have a good leaf texture.

Astilbe can be potted or planted. Pots will allow me to redesign from time to time.

Also behind the Hosta will be three Chinese Ground Orchids that require little care and are perennials that add a purplish touch to late Spring.

Chinese Ground Orchids will; flourish in the partial shade environment and will add a touch of mystery as they are seldom seen.

I want year round color so what about Fall? I have successfully grown Toad Lilies for years and they come into their own as other plants begin to fade. I will have a patch of about three in one section next to the walkway. They are hardy perennials that need no care.

Toad Lilies add interest as Fall approaches.

As a final touch (it sounds good to say that, but I know I will be constantly rearranging and adjusting), I will add some large ferns along the fence line. They will be a good texture backdrop and I need to be sure they are hardy as I don’t want to bring them indoors as I do my Queen Anne ferns every Fall.

Mixed hardy ferns add texture and framing to a shade garden.

That’s my dream and I hope it gives you some ideas. Did I mention that I will sprinkle some yellow and blue pansies around the stone path? Carefree pansies add immediate color but have to be replanted every winter and spring. I also have to hide my air conditioning unit from street view so outside the shade garden just past my wrought iron fence, I will add a large flowering bush – a rhododendron ? – Japanese Azaleas? – Gardenia, perhaps? Stop by this summer and check it out! I am designing for the future so it may be a year or two before the shade garden starts maturing, but it should be fun and a great visual treat!

4 thoughts on “Rainbows in the Shade

  1. Sounds awesome! Can’t wait to see it.


  2. No rhododendrons. Gardenias please

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. Sounds great George! Can’t wait to see your pictures


  4. Sign me up for a garden tour!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close