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Problem area-wet shade, Please help

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Attached is a picture of our problem area. This is in deep wooded shade with only maybe an hour of light coming through the hole in the canape where we just lost a tree this spring. This area is soggy wet (if you step into it, you sink 2")12 months of the year. We have planted Hosta Lancifolia 14 years ago along the right edge of the path and it is thriving. I added H. Ventricosa two years ago and it is alive and blooming, but not growing as well as the Lancifolia. There also is a patch of Pachysandra that is also thriving. I tried planting some Ostrich fern those on the perimeter are doing good. The ones in the center, didn't make it. I planted a Clethra 'Hummingbird' and it is doing good if the deer would just leave it alone. I would like to plant some more bushes or flowering perennials. What will survive having it's feet wet 12 months of the year and bloom? Farfugium? Liriope? Astilbe? I am looking for something other than just a ground cover if possible?

Thumbnail by Shadyfolks
East Bethel, MN(Zone 4a)

Is it wet enough for a bog garden?

Plano, TX(Zone 8a)

How about hollyhocks?

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Well there is constant mud. Rarely is there standing water. But it is heavily shaded.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Hollyhocks-I hadn't thought of that, thanks I will look into that.

Lexington, VA(Zone 6a)

There are alot of perennials which would love this situation! Petasites for low growing, lobelias (cardinalis and siphilitica for natives, as well as some of the newer hybrids with a wide range of colors), and eupatoriums (Joe Pye Weed) for a tall background plant. Another fern to try is the Sensitive Fern which loves wet feet but may spread rampantly in this situation.

Guilford, CT(Zone 7a)

Pussywillows also love damp ground. Have you thought of growing mosses? Or is it too wet for them?

Willacoochee, GA(Zone 8b)

if ever a person needed to visit my site... you are that person.
or for that matter "fancy fronds" or "foliage gardens"
all fine fern vendors, you'd probably find more to drool over at these two places, as alot of my stuff will not winter in 5a.

I would probably give one of my teeth for this "Problem area"


Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Hello everyone,
Thanks for all the suggestions. We just got back from camping up in Door county, WI. My do they love their perennials up there, every yard was just brimming with color!

Thanks for the great suggestions. I have some petasites growing in another area. So maybe I should move a little piece and see how it does. Lobelias has been suggested to me before and now that there is a little bit of a 'window' since that tree fell this spring I think there will be enought light. Eupatoriums (Joe Pye Weed) I don't know a lot about, so I will check into it, thanks. Sensitive Fern- That grows naturally in the yard. I will definately transplant some and see how it does.Years ago, when we first moved here I pulled that fern out because I didn't like, over the years I have changed my view on that fern, I am glad there is still some around. I would not mind it if it thrived in this area. Pussywillow, I will need to check and see just how much sun it needs. Moss- I love moss! but I don't think this is the area for it. There is very little moss that grows naturally in this area. We are very fortunate with our property, that we have areas where it thrives and some of our paths are just covered in a green carpet. All that I have done is blow the leaves off the path in the fall and it started growing on it own, moss does not like to be covered.

Deeproots-what is your site address? because we live in the woods, we are really interested in woodland plants. This 'problem area' I used to hate, but now I look at it as a new challenge to conquer, it's a slow process, but I will win (some year)

Again, thanks everyone for your input. I am listening, please keep the suggestions comming. The area is a good size so I am able to try lots of things.Plants are going on sale around here and I am more willing to try new stuff since I can pick them up cheap!

Thumbnail by Shadyfolks
Pocola, OK(Zone 7a)

Shadyfolks, all you have to do is click on deeproots name and it will take you to his page, which directs you to his website. ;-)

Plano, TX(Zone 8a)

That is a beautiful place you have! I really love my shade gardens but I don't have anywhere near as much room as you do. You should also check out for woodland plants. Gene has about everything you can imagine for an area like yours.

Guilford, CT(Zone 7a)

That photo looks like paradise! So lush & full of life... I can picture Lady's Slippers growing well there! Not much for filling in, but beautiful for the time they are blooming..

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the compliments and directions on how to get to Deeproots website.I am (obviously) new to this site and still learning the ropes. I have been to Munkin Nursery website, and have had opportunity to meet Gene at Hosta College.Very nice person with a lot of knowledge on woodland plants.

Willacoochee, GA(Zone 8b)

i really miss the northern woodlands...
I grew up living in an area like those pictured.
Black cohosh, Jack in the Pulpits, wild Geraniums, Columnbines etc...

truly a woodland paradise, the southern woods cannot compare.


Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

I know we love our place more than we did when we bought it. Where did you grow up?
But now on the other hand to be a Z8 ah, the things you can grow....that we can't. (I think it's that...greener on the other side of the fence syndrome.) This summer we came across a Podophyllum 'Kaleidoscope' they say hardy to Z6 well, we shall see. We are really Z5a/b We live in the 'snow belt', we are capable of getting tons of snow. The only good/bad thing is that the snow stays forever in the spring and because of the terrain of our property, we are the last ones to have snow on the ground. Our Daffodils are usually about 2 weeks later than everyone elses. Soooo, we know that we are pushing it, but we are hoping that we will be able to grow P. 'Kaleidoscope'. The native mayapples are all over the place here and so are the Jacks...

You have some beautiful ferns listed on your site. Maiden hair are some of my favorite. I just acquired a nice size clump Adiantum venustum, I am excited to see how it looks next summer.
Take care,S

Willacoochee, GA(Zone 8b)

it is true, there are many things that can be grown in zone 8b.
most winters it never gets below 20....
I grew up in New Jersey, in the northwest part of the state, which is still hills and countryside.

I do not regret my move, but I do miss hills and the older growth forests.... Here 100 years ago all of the forests were cut down and what land was unfarmable was planted in pine. Monoculture has destroyed any diversity that may have been.
I remember once in New Jersey walking 1mile in the woods and counting over 100 different plants. Here the same walk would result in 15 or 20 different plants.

regarding ferns, also look into the Autumn fern Dryopteris erythrosora... mass planted it is VERY stunning and would survive in your area.


Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

It's ashame what man has done. As much as we plant in the yard we have to remind ourselves that we have a woodland setting and we really can't improve on what nature has done. We try to be very careful. Some of the best treasures nature has to offer are very subtle when it come to a woodland garden.

Autumn fern Dryopteris erythrosora, yes I am familiar with that fern and do have a few plants in a couple different areas. I will keep in mind your suggestion, next time I see some.
Thanks. S

Lexington, VA(Zone 6a)

What a lovely site - and I agree with DeepRoots, what I'd give for a site like that! If you don't have Ostrich Fern growing there, you should! From what I can see from your pictures, basically any shade loving plant should thrive there. It appears that your site has nice sloping ground and therefore 'standing water/wet feet' to me, should not be a problem. Again, this site looks absolutely ideal to create a gorgeous shade garden. Hollyhocks, by the way, require full sun. For reference books, Ken Druse has an absolutely wonderful book, The Natural Shade Garden with pictures to drool over. I've got way too many suggestions now that I've seen the site :) A choice for a small shrub, Andromeda glaucophylla (Bog Rosemary). Large shrubs: Sorbaria sorbifolia (Tree Spirea) - has huge Astilbe-like blooms and Sambucus 'Sutherland Gold' would really brighten an area. Erythronium (Dog Tooth Violet), Primulas and any of the Tiarellas (Foamflowers) for spring flowering ('Heronswood Mist' with pretty white/green variegation and a hint of pink) as well as lots of other with gorgeous splotching of the leaves ('Pink Skyrocket' is a favorite). Tricyrtis (Toad Lily) is another excellent plant for these conditions and there are so many to choose from. We grow about 10 varieties, some with variegated foliage (hirta Variegata, 'Gilt Edge') and a brilliant gold selection (formosana 'Emperor'). Fantastic plant for late summer/fall flowering. Filipendula ulmaria 'Aurea' is another bright yellow foliage plant that would do wonderful in this situation. As you can see we really like perennials with gold foliage to brighten up in those shady areas :) Also, if it hasn't been mentioned, Chelone (Turtlehead) would love this area. Sorry, guess I got carried away after seeing the photo you posted - Good luck and keep sending pics to show us what you've done.

Plano, TX(Zone 8a)

RCN48, you are right. My oldtimers kicks in sometimes (more than I like). When I said hollyhock, I meant foxglove. I have had them perform beautifully in the shade.

Tottori, Japan(Zone 9a)

Wow, this site is very instructive for me!!
I push Anemone hupehensis:) Mine is white flower. Very tough and easy to grow.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Wow, are you on a roll or what, I love it! You have suggested things I have not heard of-this is great, new things to learn about. Also some other suggestions of things I know about and just plain and simple forgot about as possiblities. I was checking your suggestions out on the plant database and I think many of these might work in this area. Light is probably going to be the biggest issue. Thank you, thank you. Oh, you mentioned the book 'The Natural Shade Garden' by Ken Druse well I do have it and it just so happends that I took it with me on vacation last week and was starting to actually read it (as opposed to just looking at the pictures.) Would you believe that we were walking in the woods with our dog and I found Smilacina stellata, star bead (p.11) growing. What a thrill for me-I had just read about it in his book the day before.. Your right the photos are to drool over.

The Ostrich fern I have tried and only those on the edge are still alive. I have lots of Tiarellas around, so to transplant a few will not be a problem and see how they do.
Tricyrtis, I love um. So exotic looking for Z5. Actually, I just planted a good size area with some, so I think I will take some out and move them and try that too. Last fall I found the tri-color Tricyrtis. They had gone summer dormat when I found them because they had not been watered regularly. They looked pathetic. I waited for this great end of the season sale and picked them up for $.50/pot. They all came back this spring!! I have to say that it was my best buy of the season last year. Which helps offset the things I have killed.

Terrie-Hi, I have to say I did look up hollyhocks and no wonder I didn't know anything about them- They need sun;) Foxglove does make more sense.

Goldenfish-Hello, we meet again! I love your suggestion of Anemone hupehensis, it is a very nice looking plant. Now, all I need to find out is who has it for sale.

Thanks again to all of you for your great suggestions. I will keep doing my research and scouring the local nurseries to see what I can find from all these suggestions.

I have to say I only joined Dave's garden site about 2 weeks ago and I have learned so much. This is really a friendly place. Take care,S

Coventry, RI(Zone 6a)

Hi Shadyfoks,
I myself am new to the site (2 days!), and became a member because I have a large barren yard full of "trouble spots". One of mine includes a very boggy, marshy, property line, in and out of shade. I have lots of opportunity to plant most anything my heart desires in this crazy yard of mine, but that itself is a challenge. Too much opportunity! Too many "ugly spots" to deal with at once, and a budget. But, that's all beside the point.

RI is not all that dissimilar in climate, and in my sucking mud area I've had wonderful luck with iris/flag varieties, creeping jenny for a *fabulous* groundcover, spiderwort, forget-me-nots (the ones that like wet), lobelia, ivy, and day-lillies (naturalized when I got here). There are a couple other things, but I'm not 100% what they are yet. I'd be happy to send a bit'o Ms Jenny off to you, I have tons. Good luck!


Plano, TX(Zone 8a)

Hi LuLu -- Welcome to DG!!

Springboro, OH(Zone 6a)

Oh my word! What a gorgeous property you have there!!! :) Beautiful....

Door County :) I smiled when I read your post from last September :) DH's grandparents live up there and we vacation there with them for a week each summer. What a lovely, lovely place. And CHERRIES! Mmmm.... we buy a whole case and bring them home for year-round pies! Know what you mean about the gardens up there, too. In fact, it was a Door County garden that sent me on a wild goose chase for a plant a few summers back. Turns out it was Gomphrena 'Strawberry Fields'. Finally had it last year and just planted it again today :) Great place, Door County :)

Coventry, RI(Zone 6a)

Thanks trunnels! Great group of folks here! I've hopped right in to swapping and the like. Its so great to have some other garden fiends to brainstorm with. I'll post pics of my spaces soon. The feedback will be great.


Plano, TX(Zone 8a)

Looking forward to the pics. You might even want to post them in another thread (if you haven't already).

Coventry, RI(Zone 6a)

I haven't yet, still need to take pics. My schedule is nutty, so I'll find a moment soon. I'm discovering that very old, NE woodland/swamp/pine forest/field/lawn might just have a good selection of natural growth to fuel some hearty swapping!

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Hi LuLu,
Thanks for the suggestions.Since I first made this post last fall things have changed a lot. We were hit with two spring storms in April, one in the begining of the month and the other at the end of the month. In just those two storms we had 30"+ of snow. It did a tremendous amount of damage. On the silver lining side of things there is more light coming in this area this spring, but it is still Shade. I don't think there is enough sun light for day lilies to bloom, but may still give them a try. Last fall I did pick up some astilbe and they are alive and well and setting up buds, so I am thrilled. I did put in some Tricyrtis and it is alive and growing-I will check on its progress though the season. I planted an Itea and it is leafing out, I will watch to see if it blooms. I also planted a couple of Kerria bushes off to the side where it is not so soggy & they are both happy and bloomed this spring. I have some creeping jenny so I will move a little of that over there and see how it does. I did throw some Yellow Archangel 'Florentinum' Lamium galeobdolon ssp. montanumI in this spot last fall and it is also thriving (I am trying to decide if that is a good thing or will I regret it)Maybe now that there is a little more light coming through I will give Lobelia & Tradescantia, Digitalis, Chelone (Turtlehead) a try.
Oh, how could I forget the variegated petasites I bought last year. Well, it loves where I put it (too much) it can't stay there, so I will be moving it and will definately put a piece off to the side here so it can do its thing. Wow, they say the variegated is not as agressive as the plain green. I would hate to meet it! The variegated has more than tripled in size in about 10 months. Will keep ya posted on this areas progress.
LuLu- I too, want to see pictures of your place!

Happy planting!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, Shadyfolks--Good to hear the update on your garden, but sorry to know those April storms caused so much damage...I bet they occurred the same weekend as our Ohio RU. Weather was miserable here (and we ended up having everyone to our home which was fun, though.)!

I hope the storm damage did not intrude too much on your plans for the Hosta Convention garden tour...from your notes above it sounds like you have made a nice recovery and will be ready for the show, in any case.

Hope I can make it up to Cleveland sometime that sounds like they will be offering lots of programs and tours to learn more about Hostas and shade gardening....I could learn a lot.

Happy gardening this weekend. t.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Yes, we are making progress. Sure do wish it would warm up around here. The last forcast I saw for the next week -the highs were only in the 60's. Are you coming up for the convention? Sorry I misse the RU did you take pictures? Would love to see?

Coventry, RI(Zone 6a)

We've been averaging 20 degrees below the norm here for the last two weeks. Gray and drizzly, and today its pouring. So, alas, my picture taking has been delayed again.

My wet area is the long side of my property line, at more than 100 yards with varied vegetation. It starts with a full shade pine filled area. Then the shade continues, and gets much more wet under some to local shrubs/small trees I've yet to ID. Then it transitions to full sun, and back into the full shade of a tree filled swamp. The rest of my property line is virtually inaccesible due to relatively deep swamp, and dense growth.

I've lived here my whole life. But now after many adventures abroad, I've decided to buy the family farm. I have decades of dreams for this incredible space. It can't be mowed regularly, and my dad always dreamed of one huge lawn. So his sporatic clearing has left me with a field of skunk cabbage, a few cat-tails, and jewel-weed. Its insane. I have lots of work ahead, but I'm up for it! One bed at a time, one new plant at a time, the more variety the better!


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Yes, it has been cool here, too. In some ways refreshing, but the wet has made it diffucult to make headway in the garden....

I want to zip up to the H. Convention, but, can't make firm plans because of my mother's ill health...will have to wait and see....

The RU was very nice and lots of fun to meet DG gardeners from quite a distance plant swap too, and with everyone's 'DG adventure' spirit the awful weather was (almost) overlooked!

Here are a few Ohio Riv. Val. RU pics if you are curious.

Next year's ru is up around Wade and Gatton, so I've heard! Get ready!

My shade garden is coming along....(sort of..... ;-)

Thumbnail by tabasco
Coventry, RI(Zone 6a)

You make me long for a vacation.....

Chicago, IL

oooh! the shade is pretty where you are...why doesn't my shade look like that? ;)
how does your grass stay so nice under all those big trees? is it ASTROTURF? our recipe for grass is: one part sweet violets to one part dandelions to one part dirt to one part broken beer bottles. With some peanut shells. Oh, and about 1/60 part actual grass....I'm voting we just root it all up and have a Hosta la Vista!

Shadyfolks: i'm anxious to see how your puddle spot turned out - we have one of those too, it appears.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Great shady retreat Tabasco! I have to agree with Fiatluxury, your lawn looks so lush.

Looks like the RU was a success from all the great pictures. I am looking forward to making it to next year's.

Fiatluxury, you'll have to stay tuned till next year. This area is out in the woods and not part of the garden area, so it has not been part of our main focus. The few plants that are in this area where test plants to see if they would survive over winter with their feet wet. I look forward to planting it over the next year or so.

If anyone is still thinking about going to the convention you had better make up your mind fast. June 1 is last day that they are accepting late registrations. So who out there at DG has signed up to go, anyone? I am looking forward to meeting you.

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

Deeproots, if you come up into the mountains of N. Georgia, extreme western S.C. and Western N.C., the forests are very similar to the northern climes you were used to. We have many of the same plants you mentioned and a few more that can take a little warmer weather. I live in zone 6 at 3100 feet, but when I go to town, 20 mile drive downhill, I arrive in zone 7, about 1,000 feet lower.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, Shadyfolks--Here's a link to the dg hosta convention thread....maybe you will know a few of the convention goers...

Today you would have been proud of me, I think...I (a total newbie at hostas) signed up to join the Cincinnati hosta society (and the national one, too, btw) AND I went to the first meeting today and saw a wonderful hosta garden with about 600 0r 700 hostas ...very beautiful and it inspired me.

Wish I could sign up for cleveland, but my schedule is very 'iffy' right hoo. Was hoping I could just drive up on the spur of the moment and at least tour the gardens...

Don't work too hard this weekend. ;-) t.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Sorry that you will not be able to make it up to Cleveland. Glad to hear that you joined your local Hosta Society and AHS. The people are great and you will learn so much. We joined our local and AHS around 1999-2000 and have learned a lot about a lot of things to do with shade gardening. Plus now you can go to Hosta College!! Put it on your calendar now, it's the second weekend in March. Anyone who has been there will have to agree, it is well worth it.

How lucky for you to be going on garden tours already. I agree they are inspiring. I like learning by observation.Hey, thanks for the link to the DG convention thread.

This is the weekend we are planting our annuals and pots! Putting chip & shred on the paths....between the rain drops (I am not complaining that it's raining) never a dull moment.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Well, the other night my DH had a great idea for our wet spot. There is a strip of area within the wet spot that is really wet...Late yesterday afternoon he put down some gravel and then on top of that he put down some large/thick stepping stones we had left over from other projects. I ran out and picked up some Astilbe (Finale, Peach Blossom, and Chinensis tacquettii Superba) and some ligularia 'orthello'. This should fill in the area nicely. Then this fall I will watch for sales and pick up some Tricyrtis and ferns for wet areas....and whatever else for wet shade.
The path will be a dead end and will not be walked on very much. So sinking of the stones should not be an big issue.
We finally got some much needed rain here about 1 1/2" yesterday!
I am so excited! I had given up on the idea of doing anything with this area until fall. I will send picture later when we finish.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Can't wait to see the pictures...Sounds like you still have a lot of energy after all the work you've done and in this heat to move around rocks! The convention must have your adrenelin (sp?) pumping!

Went out to the civic center hosta garden and to a few nurseries to look at hostas...I am beginning to understand their allure...but there is much to learn.

Don't work too hard in the garden this weekend! Judy

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