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Shady Gardens: Recommendation needed for a 2.5 foot tall perennial or shrub

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happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 2, 2012
8:58 PM

Post #9107985

I have a shady spot on a hillside I am fussing about. At the bottom is a large bed of variegated solomon's seal (about 2.5' tall). At the top is a Deutzia. I adore both. In the middle is a barren gap about a yard wide -- no more. I tried to grow hostas, but weeds overcame them -- and the hostas are too short to stand out behind the solomon's seal anyway. Now I've weeded it, and I think I'll pull the hostas.

So I want to find a perennial or shrub for the shade, tough and long-lasting, that will appear about as tall as the Solomon's Seal and so flow nicely up to the Deutzia. It could grow to 2.5 or 3', but ideally no more. I'd like it to be able to compete with the weeds, and ideally win. I'd really like it to flower at some point during the year.

I'd do azaleas, but the height is always a little funky with them -- the height depends on a lot of things, and few stay at 2.5'. And they are slow growing, so they'd be too short for a few years and then suddenly too tall.

I know you may suggest that I prune something-or-other to fit, but this is a really tough spot on a hill and I done want to have to do a lot of maintenance.

Any suggestions? I'm toying with a knock-out rose, but those grow to 4', which would be too tall.
l6blue
Coon Rapids, MN
(Zone 4b)

May 3, 2012
6:36 AM

Post #9108303

How shady? Have you considered ferns and bleeding hearts?
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
6:47 AM

Post #9108312

Thank you for your suggestions! Ferns might work, though I'd need quite tall ones. Do you know how ferns do on a hillside? I have a lot of Bleeding Heart that I could put there, but I think the fact that they die out in August might not make them the best candidate. I'd call it a mostly shady spot (shaded by tall trees), but bright.

postmandug

postmandug
Bardstown, KY
(Zone 6a)

May 3, 2012
6:59 AM

Post #9108328

Pieris Japonica?

Doug
l6blue
Coon Rapids, MN
(Zone 4b)

May 3, 2012
7:02 AM

Post #9108333

You're welcome.
Some ferns can do well on a hillside, and there are many varieties that are taller than two feet. It would just be a matter of finding the right variety for your soil. I suggested bleeding hearts with them because they would leaf out earlier than the ferns and have the blooms you said you wanted. Then, by the time the foliage died back, the ferns would be much taller and fuller. The shade provided by the ferns also might help control your weeds.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
8:00 AM

Post #9108438

l6blue: I hear you about the bleeding hearts, but I don't that'd work -- it would just look messy btwn the Deutzia and SS, which are very "clean" loooking. But ferns by themselves might work just fine -- I'll hunt for one.

postmandug: I must be the only person out there who doesn't like Pieris Japonica. To me it looks awkward.

It occurs to me I could root the Deutzia so it spreads a bit lower towards the SS, filling the gap... Its stem tips root easily.

DonnaMack
Elgin, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 3, 2012
8:32 AM

Post #9108492

A short shrub? Fothergilla gardenn - the dwarf fothergilla. Great in spring and fall.

I installed five, so I tried to get you a picture of what one or two look like. The tend to gently sucker. The final picture was taken on November 7 of 2011, to give you an idea of the fall color.

I love this plant.

Thumbnail by DonnaMack   Thumbnail by DonnaMack   Thumbnail by DonnaMack   Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Click an image for an enlarged view.

aspenhill

aspenhill
Lucketts, VA
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
8:40 AM

Post #9108504

Happy,
I like the fern idea - maybe ostrich or cinnamon which have some height. I've had better experience with ostrich fern in dryer locations than the cinnamon, and it keeps them around the 2'5" height that you are looking for. To add some color and single stem form to complement the solomon's seal, how about martagon or oriental lillies in with the ferns? I had only seen martagon lillies in catalogs, but I planted a few that bloomed last season and they quickly became a favorite - the flowers were so much daintier than the visual I had from the catalogs. There are several colors available, but I'm partial to the mauve/pink. I was suprised when I got a tip that most oriental lillies do well in the shade. I've been adding them a little at a time over the last few years. They bloom later than most of the things available for shade - different varieties bloom different times, but I'm getting some color now from mid July to late Aug. They can reach a height anywhere from 3' - 6', but with single stems in groups of 3-5, the height shouldn't detract from the Deutzia behind them.

Terri

aspenhill

aspenhill
Lucketts, VA
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
8:51 AM

Post #9108564

Donna, we cross-posted. I'm sitting here at my desk eating chicken wings for lunch - pretty messy fingers on the keyboard LOL. I been meaning to add some of the Fothergilla to my gardens - saw it for the first time at the Philadelphia Flower show two years ago, and added it to my running "wants" list. I need to remember to add shrubs and climbers into the garden - I tend to keep getting plants, which will leave the design flat if I don't watch out...
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
9:21 AM

Post #9108626

Donna: I clearly need to get some Fothergilla gardenii -- I think it may be ultimately too big for the spot I asked about, but I can think of a number of other places I should put it.

Aspen: I know the ostrich can be a bit of a thug, and I really don't want anything taking over. I'm looking into the Cinnamon fern now.

I love the idea of lilies, and I have a bunch doing ok even in part shade, though this is a deeper shade spot than where the lilies are. Are your Martagons ok in the shade? Brent and Becky say then need full sun. [HYPERLINK@store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com]



aspenhill

aspenhill
Lucketts, VA
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
9:42 AM

Post #9108658

The clump of martagons that I planted are in the woodland shade under tall deciduous trees, and are doing fine. I really need to add more, but read that they do better if the bulbs are planted in fall, so I'll wait until then. The oriental lillies have done great, no matter what time of year I planted them, and are in the same woodland shade.

I just checked out the Brent & Becky's link. I noticed that their description also said 4 - 6'. Mine are only growing to about 3', so they are doing fine in my shade, but may grow to their full height potential if in the sun.

This message was edited May 3, 2012 11:46 AM
DonnaMack
Elgin, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 3, 2012
10:10 AM

Post #9108723

I should add that I have had the dwarf fothergillas since 1998. I put them outside a window so that I can enjoy the beautiful flowers, which are scented, in the spring.

Happ, for me it's a must have. I'm so happy that you like them. I have moved, and I putting in some more in spring.
l6blue
Coon Rapids, MN
(Zone 4b)

May 3, 2012
10:47 AM

Post #9108760

happy, please post photos to this thread when you've finished your planting!
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
11:30 AM

Post #9108802

I will, but you have no idea how cheap I am -- the plants are not likely to be visible for a year or two!

Here are photos of how it looks now. I forgot to move the hostas in pots at the bottom of the hill before I took the photo -- I need to plant them in somewhere, but they won't be going anywhere visible in this shot. And I couldn't take the shot dead-on because there is a Caryopteris in front of it that I forgot to cut back, and it looks pretty uninspired right now. The spot I want to fill is the empty spot in the middle of the first shot. The first shot is a bit of a close-up; the second is the same area, but from futher back. The Deutzia is the plant with dollops of white on it -- it was in full bloom a week or so ago, and looked spendid. I love it and don't want to block it with whatever it is I plunk in here. (Actually, there are two next to each other now that I think about it.) There are some azaleas in the rear, also just about past bloom. The Solomon's Seal looks very nice right now, but it didn't pick up well in the photo.

There are some small hostas in the hole that you can barely see (they are coming out), and some self-seeing herbs the name of which I always forget, but they have ferny foliage and will have pretty white flowers in a month or so (I need to post them on the plant ID forum).

Thumbnail by happy_macomb   Thumbnail by happy_macomb
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DonnaMack
Elgin, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 3, 2012
1:14 PM

Post #9108979

It's very clear how lovely your garden is!

This message was edited May 3, 2012 2:50 PM
dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA
(Zone 5a)

May 3, 2012
1:44 PM

Post #9109006

Hi -- here are some of my favorites that seem to come close to what you are looking for - just some new ideas --

1) Annabelle Hydrangea
2) Goatsbeard
3) Ligularia "Desdemona"

Thumbnail by dax080   Thumbnail by dax080   Thumbnail by dax080
Click an image for an enlarged view.

aspenhill

aspenhill
Lucketts, VA
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
1:57 PM

Post #9109019

Happy, how beautiful and lush already!
dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA
(Zone 5a)

May 3, 2012
2:12 PM

Post #9109038

Oops -- forgot Turtlehead -- blooms in the fall -- here are the blooms, and with other plants

Dax

Thumbnail by dax080   Thumbnail by dax080
Click an image for an enlarged view.

happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 3, 2012
3:32 PM

Post #9109130

Donna and Aspen -- thanks! The weed to plant ratio is pretty high, but we love it.

Dax: Your suggestions are great. Annabelle Hydrangea or Goatsbeard might just fit the bill -- I'm leaning towards Goatsbeard at the moment. I have one on another spot on the hill and it does well. The hill gets fairly dry, so I don't think a Liguaria would thrive -- but yours is gorgeous.

So is the turtlehead. I've had it before but it has never done "anything" -- honestly, I didn't know that was how it was supposed to look! That is stunning. I bet I put mine in too dark a spot, and kept it too dry. But I'm inspired now!

(I wish Bluestone still sold plants in packs of threes.)

aspenhill

aspenhill
Lucketts, VA
(Zone 7a)

May 4, 2012
3:08 AM

Post #9109697

Dax, good choices! Love all the garden ornaments - what is the gothic one called, a griffin?

This message was edited May 4, 2012 5:10 AM
DonnaMack
Elgin, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 4, 2012
5:50 AM

Post #9109808

Oh Dax! How beautiful.
pirl
(Arlene) Southold, NY
(Zone 7a)

May 4, 2012
5:57 AM

Post #9109817

Go look at Dax's gardens. It's time very well spent.
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1237941/
DonnaMack
Elgin, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 4, 2012
7:31 AM

Post #9109957

Oh, thank you for directing me to Dax's garden. Beauty everywhere you look! A particular favorite - the picture with the sweet autumn clematis (I inherited three - the world's best cover for the chain link fence next door - pennisetum and miscanthus. Magic!

Dax, you have the gift.
dax080
Cedar Rapids, IA
(Zone 5a)

May 4, 2012
8:13 AM

Post #9110032

Glad you like the pics, it is much appreciated. You always garden for yourself, but it's nice when other folks like it too! I have a bit of a gargoyle obsession (yes, I think the one in the last reply is called a griffin), so you will find them throughout the gardens -- here are a few peeking out as they enjoy their homes (including the troll under the bridge) -- Dax

Thumbnail by dax080   Thumbnail by dax080   Thumbnail by dax080
Click an image for an enlarged view.

DonnaMack
Elgin, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 4, 2012
10:14 AM

Post #9110209

Wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to show us your beauties.

growin

growin
Vancouver, BC
(Zone 8b)


May 4, 2012
10:31 AM

Post #9110220

happy_macomb, my thoughts are a variegated or yellow form Cornus alternifolia to the left and a Fuchsia magellanica to the right between the Deutzia & Polygonatum. The Fuchsia would give blooming after the Deutzia and probably not have leaves on it or act more as a perennial than shrub. The Cornus has that great "cake plate" growth so you can see through it and the added foliage colour can brighten up the area without being too big.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 4, 2012
1:35 PM

Post #9110405

Thanks, growin! I don't think the Cornus would work -- too tall. The Fuchsia would be lovely, but it is a very tough spot -- the soil is awful because the hill is so steep that the top soil keeps washing out. So delicate needy plants don't make it!

The photos make it look as if the Deutzia is to the right of the Polygonatum, but really the Deutzia is directly above it. I had to take the photo at a weird angle becaue of the tall Caryopteris that is the middle of everything.

growin

growin
Vancouver, BC
(Zone 8b)


May 4, 2012
1:41 PM

Post #9110413

Maybe try this one: Lobelia siphilitica http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/133/
The bloom spikes happen after the Deutzia, it takes poor soil and would probably do well and it'll do the shad'ish location.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 4, 2012
1:59 PM

Post #9110429

I must seem so particular. That won't work -- I love Lobelia, but it requires a lot of moisture, and because this spot is on a hill it tends to be dry... I do water pretty often, but not enough to support a moisture-loving plant. Otherwise, perfect plant!

growin

growin
Vancouver, BC
(Zone 8b)


May 4, 2012
2:14 PM

Post #9110441

Actually - read through the comments on that PlantFiles entry about watering. You'll be surprised.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 4, 2012
2:36 PM

Post #9110469

Maybe I need to try it again. I grew it once before in what I would have considered optimal conditions, and it bloomed beautifully -- and never came back. That's why I'm gun-shy. I'll give it a shot!

growin

growin
Vancouver, BC
(Zone 8b)


May 4, 2012
2:41 PM

Post #9110478

Makes sense. Might have been too wet & a cold winter. Maybe mix in Ligularia dentata 'Britt Marie Crawford' http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/72948/
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 4, 2012
2:47 PM

Post #9110488

Another moisture-loving one -- but I do have a lower area that I try to be vigilant about watering -- I've killed off a few Ligularias but I have at least grwoing there. I love Britt Marie!

growin

growin
Vancouver, BC
(Zone 8b)


May 4, 2012
3:29 PM

Post #9110540

I love it too. Forgot about the water requirements. I've found Osmanthus heterophyllus to be really tough. Actually it's the only plant to survive being sprayed with a herbicide thoroughly. It took dry shade very well. It can be kept within the height requirements and there's the variegated and splashed (Goshiki). Not sure how it does in your area but a slow growing shrub that is tough.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 4, 2012
3:56 PM

Post #9110602

It does great in my area -- one of the photos on DG is of it flourishing in a nearby garden! That's a great idea!
UMD_Terp
Central, MD
(Zone 7a)

September 20, 2012
6:58 AM

Post #9280938

Happy,

I'm a little late here but one of my favorite azaleas grows no bigger than 2 foot tall.

Tina's Whorled: http://www.rhododendron.org/roy11ma.htm

happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

September 20, 2012
8:44 AM

Post #9281033

Hmm -- I might have to stop by and air-layer yours...

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