Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Shady Characters

Thanks for coming back to see more of my gardens! Last time, we left off with my favorite shade border. Right across from it is another shade bed, along the north foundation of the house.

I think of this one as a “working” bed—that is, it has a job to do besides just providing joy and beauty. It is charged with disguising the unattractive “mechanicals” of the house: the air conditioner, gas meter, PVC furnace vents, and basement window wells.

Four years ago, this area was overrun with invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle. Mr. Previous Owner had fettered the 12-foot beasts to the downspout with an old clothesline to keep them from snagging unsuspecting bypassers. (The old walkway was only two feet from the wall.) Someone buy that man a pair of loppers! Stat!

There was also a healthy patch of ferns in front of the gas meter. The buckthorn and honeysuckle got the boot immediately, but I kept the ferns. With a little reining in, they’ve done quite nicely. I’ve even relocated a few divisions elsewhere in the yard.

One well-behaved ornamental tree and several shrubs have replaced the ousted brutes, providing a nice framework for this bed. At the wider end, near the AC unit, is a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Red Emperor’). Three types of Viburnum make their home here as well (V. trilobum, V. plicatum ‘Summer Snowflake,’ and V. lantana ‘Mohican’).

For height on the bare brick wall, I added a clematis that was supposed to be ‘Niobe’ but isn’t. Its small, purple flowers are unspectacular except that there are hundreds of them. This mystery clematis is the best bloomer of the seven varieties scattered throughout the Suburban Sanctum. Go figure.

There’s also a climbing hydrangea (H. anomala petiolaris) on the chimney. After a typically slow start, it’s finally beginning to fill in nicely. The beautiful white lacecap flowers help to brighten this dark side of the house in summer. Another plus: It won't chisel away the mortar like some clinging vines can.

Perennials here include assorted hostas, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Ligularia, Globeflower (Trollius chinensis), Astilbe, and ferns (maidenhair, Japanese painted, and the unidentified existing ones).

Along the edge, I’ve planted golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’). I love the way it lights up this shady area, and it also softens the edge of the walkway.

However, a word of caution: The photos above were taken in May and October of last year. In just those few short months, Jenny had spread her fingers into every last bare inch of that bed. I would never plant her somewhere she did not have a hard and fast border. Fortunately, she’s easy to yank out when she goes places I don’t want her—plus, I have plenty of great, draping filler for summer containers. I just pull out a handful, stick it in the pot, and she roots readily.

Well, that’s it for this side of the Sanctum. Up next: a walk on the sunny side. Hope to see you again soon!


  1. Very nice! Wonder what Mr. Previous Owner would think if he saw the gardens now!!
    I agree on the Jenny, she does like to spread out. I have it coming up everywhere!

  2. Hi, Gardener in Progress--
    My neighbor told me that Mr. P.O. stopped by when she was outside one morning. She said he walked around back (there's an open field behind us, where everyone walks their dogs) and spent a long time just looking at what we've done. I hope he wasn't upset. We've really changed a lot. Even the house itself is a completely different color. I hope he's pleased to see that his former home is in the hands of people who love it and want to make it even better than it is! Thanks for visiting again!

  3. I love the transformation! The mix of colors, height and texture is beautiful. Sadly, I cannot plan that -- when it happens, it's accidental!
    Don't worry about Mr. P.O. Our Ms. P.O. didn't like anything we did, including removing her orange shag carpeting. But she kept our money!! :)

  4. I like what you've done with that area, Donna. It's a very creative and pleasing group of plantings that work well in a small space. Does your Summer Snowflake Viburnum do well there? I would have thought it needed more sun. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  5. Hi, Penlyn--
    Thanks for the compliments--but please let me quickly disabuse you of the notion that I PLANNED any of this! Sure, I have some vague notions in my head of needing some height here, a little color there, but my plant choices come down to what's available (and cheap!) when I show up at the nursery! Lots of happy accidents in my gardens, I assure you. Good move on the orange shag, by the way. :)

  6. Hi, David--
    Thanks for your kind words. So far the Summer Snowflake seems to be doing well. (Planted 06.) They're supposed to do okay in part sun, and it gets a little dappled sunlight. It's growing and blooming well. I'm counting on it for a little more height there some day. Thanks for stopping by--I'm thrilled at the chance to find YOUR blog. Delightful reading, even the snake story. (I'm not especially snake-tolerant myself.) Your redbuds should be gorgeous in a few years.

  7. It looks lovely...all of it! I'm not good with plant names, I just like to look at them, and if I like 'em, I buy 'em!! Your walkway is so eye-appealing. What's it made of? Brick? Or that new material that looks like it & sand is put in between the pavers and it bonds...that's what we have anyway:) Just curious!

  8. Thanks, Jan! That's what gardening is all about, isn't it--what brings a smile to your face? If there's something you don't really enjoy--like remembering all those Latin names--then why mess with it? The walkway is the pavers and sand, like you said. Seems to work well. I would rather have had natural stone, but not in MY budget at the moment. :)

  9. Sorry Donna, just one question: does the climbing hydrangea do well in shade? and does it have blossoms/blooms? I have something similar that I have in the sun, and it has never, ever bloomed. I keep thinking I'm going to take it out cause I'm getting bored with it;)

  10. Glad to have you back any time, Jan! Yes, the climbing hydrangea does very well in shade, although it's supposed to do well in full sun too. They do take several years to get established, and up to 5 before they start blooming. Mine has big, white flower clusters, several inches across. Really stands out in a shady spot. Try this link for some nice photos:


Thanks for stopping by the Suburban Sanctum! I hope you've enjoyed your visit and will come again soon. I'd love to hear any comments you have before you go, and promise to respond as soon as I can. Thanks!