Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Garden in Sun and Shade

Pink flowers litter the path like confetti. It's been raining this June morning and the everything is wet and glossy. 

Wow! Does green every get more vivid than this, I wonder?  

You never know what you'll find when you enter a backyard garden. 

That element of surprise is always exciting...even when the weather is a bit damp and miserable.

The garden I am about to show has a wide, but shallow backyard. Mature trees blur the boundaries of the garden however, making it feel much larger than it is. 

The heavily laden Beauty Bush, with its arching branches of pale pink flowers, is one of the first things that catches your eye. This large shrub takes full advantage of a small break in the tree cover and resides happily in a small pocket of sunshine.

Beauty Bush, Kolkwitzia has a fountain shape with branches that hang in long, sweeping arcs. Plant a Beauty Bush in full sun in average garden soil. This shrub blooms on old wood, so prune it in spring after it flowers. Periodically cut old canes to the ground to renew the shrub. Height: 8-10', Spread: 8-10' USDA Zones: 5-9.

A few of the shade perennials identified:

I haven't noted the hosta, but suffice it to say, they form the foundation of this shady planting.

1. Bloodroot, Sanguinaria 2. Yellow Fumitory or Yellow Corydalis (a long blooming self-seeder) 3. Bleeding heart, Dicentra 4. Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus (a young plant, as it is quite small) 5. Violet 6. Heuchera 7. Pulmonaria 8. Lady's Mantle, Alchemilla

A nearby dogwood tree is also covered with small, star-shaped blossoms.

Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus is a great, large-sized perennial for any shade garden:

Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus has feathery white plumes mid-summer. It has green, ferny foliage, which are quite attractive in its own right.  Full sun or part shade.  Height: 120-180 cm (47-70 inches), Spread: 90-150 cm (35-59 inches.) USDA Zones: 2-9.

A path crosses the length of the backyard and then leads back around to the front of the property. When you reach the front corner of the house, a wooden bench greets your arrival. 

A tree lends privacy to this little courtyard, while a small fountain provides the pleasant ambience of splashing water.

Often when homeowners dispense with the grass at the front of their home, they replace it with a cottage style or natural meadow garden that can seem out of step with the other properties in a suburban neighbourhood. I thought that this more restrained approach to a front garden was a nice alternative.

It's hard to capture a large front yard in a single shot, but what the homeowners have done is terrace the area just in front of the house. A set of steps takes you from the upper terrace down to a garden at street level. 

What I think makes this design approach work:

• This front yard is not a jungle of plants. The garden looks neat enough to fit in with the other front yards and their tidy green lawns. 

• There is great use of open space. Never think that you need to fill every square inch of your garden with plants! Some open space is restful to the eye.  Here a thick layer of mulch creates a path that leads you through the garden.

• Color, texture, shape and height have all been carefully considered. For instance, the soft, grey foliage of a Dianthus sits nicely in front of the spear-shaped foliage of a Bearded Iris. Grey, variegated and burgundy leaves break-up all the green. Low growing plants hide the less-than-attractive feet of the taller plants behind them.

• Imagine the same area without the bench and the metal obelisk. The garden just wouldn't be the same! These two objects really compliment the planting. In contrast with the perennials, the bench is chunky and solid. The obelisk, on the other hand, adds a linear element to the heart of the garden.

• The boxwood hedge that runs down the side and part way across the front of the yard contains the garden like a frame. It also presents a neat and orderly face to the street. 

A closer view of the steps that lead down from the terrace.

Groundcovers and diminutive perennials like perennial geraniums (white flowers) are the perfect choice to fill out the area adjacent to the steps. 

These perennials are so densely packed weeds would have a challenge getting established!

A few of the full sun perennials identified:

1. Ornamental Grass (possibly Northern Sea Oats) 2. Shasta Daisy 3. Penstemon 'Husker Red' 4. Bearded Iris 5. A small daylily like Daylily, 'Happy Returns' 6. Basket of Gold, Aurinia saxatilis  7. Pinks, Dianthus 'Essex Witch'

The rain is really starting to come down as I head back to the shelter and comfort of the warm car. 

A garden that was a pleasant surprise indeed... even on a wet morning in early June!


  1. I've always loved the idea of replacing the front lawn with plants, but never brave enough to do it, myself. It is such a big commitment. You can get away with the back garden looking untidy once in awhile, but not the front! Kolkwitzia is a favorite. Lots of good ideas here!

  2. What a beautiful garden! As much as I like the cottage garden style, I think you're right that this front garden is appropriate and less likely to be a jarring contrast with its neighbors in a suburban setting. It's very peaceful and lovely in its own right.

  3. Gorgeous, you know me, I like shade gardens!

  4. Ah ! what a pretty garden .. love the Kolkwitzia (mine will never get that big though) it reminds me of a scene from the Dutch village we lived in ... the streets were covered in pink blossoms from the cherry ? trees .. it was like an enormous wedding happened and the confetti took over the streets. I love shade gardens .. they are beautiful "cool" retreats ... the plants always look refreshing.
    Wonderful pictures Jennifer !
    Joy : )

  5. Lovely garden, it just shows what can be done with shade! It looks so cool and inviting, the bench tempts you to stay awhile, but maybe not in the rain!

  6. I do like this garden, it's interesting and restful, nice planting

  7. Beautiful and serene but the mulch seemed out of place. A stone path would have worked as a resting spot and continued the stonework from the patio.

  8. Nice collection of plants. I like the idea of describing a shade garden and, as there is a lot of shade in my garden, it is a nice inspiration.

  9. What a lovely garden - I enjoyed my visit to it this Sunday, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  10. What a beautiful garden! Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. It is green and beautiful! A garden like this makes me so excited for garden season this year!

  12. The beautybush is absolutely magnificent!

  13. I love the peace and contemplative nature of this garden...those pink petals scattered just make me want to sit down and drink in this place with all my senses!


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