It’s been a week since I said I would show the new garden, so I guess you’ve noticed I’m dragging my feet. To tell the truth, it’s been a lot harder to pull my thoughts together than I expected and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because shade gardening is a new medium for me and I’m not confident in my vision.
In fact, more than anything, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. After spending a lot of time reading about shade gardens and going through my photo library to pinpoint what I like about them, I’ve put all that aside to follow my instincts.
So, here we go!
As you can see, the areas on either side of the front door are relatively small because the sweeping driveway adjoins the front stoop. As you look to the right of the door, the “before” planting included Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate jasmine) on the wall, Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringe) under the windows, a Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) and a hodgepodge of roses and sun-loving perennials at the front of the bed, an Acer japonicum (fullmoon Japanese maple) in the right corner, and an abundance of weeds, especially pokeweed, which I soon discovered has a very long tap root.
In the revamp, I chose to focus on texture, rather than color or bloom. I made this choice, in part, because my gut told me the hardscape needed to be softened and the house, which looked like it floated on a sea of asphalt, could be better grounded. Since lawn was impractical, Ophiopogon japonicus (mondo grass) was the logical solution.
Two of the original plants, the Confederate jasmine and the fullmoon Japanese maple, were utilized in the new design and give it instant maturity. In addition to the ornamental grass, a pool of Dryopteris erythrosora (autumn fern) was planted under the maple, three stately Buxus sempervirens (common boxwood) were added in front of the windows, and a Fatsia japonica (fatsia or Japanese aralia) was planted at the corner of the house.
Finally, for feature interest, Acanthus ‘Summer Beauty’ was added near the stoop. This hybrid grows well in the South and will bloom in summer with 6-foot tall stalks of white flowers with hood-like purple bracts.
Last month, I commissioned two identical metal trellises for either side of the windows. One will replace the plastic support under the Confederate jasmine and the other will provide a frame for ‘Applejack’, a shade-tolerant Buck rose that can be grown as a short climber. ‘Applejack’, lightly fragrant with the scent of apples and cloves, has perky pink single blooms.
Though the garden is shady, this area does get some hot sun in the middle of the day. I’m not sure the rose will be a success, but figure it’s worth a try.
Initially, I planned to add Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant) behind the boxwood shrubs. Now, however, I’m afraid they would be sunburned. (What do you think? Do you have a suggestion for an alternative?) If I don’t come up with something interesting, I may plant more mondo grass.
One other thing that may have caught your eye is the dry creek bed. When I cleared the bed, I found a drainage grate in the center of the space. Knowing I would always struggle to keep the grate open if storm water flowed over a mulched bed, I decided to make life easy by channeling the water. The dry creek works like a charm, adds an extra point of interest, and relaxes the formality of the planting scheme.
Similar changes were made to the left side of the front stoop. There is one noticeable difference, however. A ‘Jane’ magnolia, too large and spreading under the eaves of the house, was replaced by an upright Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese stewartia).
The stoop itself is ornamented with a collection of ceramic pots that are planted with seasonal ornamentals, a birdbath, and a wicker rocker.