Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Photographer's Shade Garden

When do I feel rather anxious about showing photographs of a garden? When the gardener in question just happens to be a very accomplished photographer!

 Maggie Sale has traveled to some far off places and her photography is quite amazing. If you have a minute, go take a look at some of the photographs from her 2012 trip to Iceland. Maggie has managed to capture the austere beauty of the Icelandic landscape quite masterfully her black and white photographs. I love the images of glacial ice reflected in the mirror-smooth surface of the sea and a huge rock formation that almost looks like it is floating on the surface of the water.  

There are also lots of colorful photographs in the galleries on Maggie's website. I think the series of pictures of brightly painted fishing boats from a 2016 trip to Morocco are just wonderful. 

Here's a link to the main gallery, so you can pick out your own favourites.

A tapestry of shade plants in the front garden

A container planting at the entrance to the backyard.

Six years ago Maggie and her husband Julian (also a photographer) moved from a townhouse in Toronto, with a postage sized garden, to a much larger property in Guelph, Ontario that backs on a public park. 

At the front of the house Maggie created a boulevard garden and a rock garden with local quarried stones. In this post we are going to head down a paved path at the side of the house and have a look at the shade garden in the backyard.

Veronica, Speedwell

A deck off the main floor of the house overlooks the garden which slopes gently down from the house. Large trees, which skirt the back of the property, make this a shade garden.

Along one side of the property a chain link fence has become a living wall of green.

Covered in Virginia Creeper, it makes the property's boundary all but disappear and blend into the surrounding landscape. 

At the back of the yard, there is a cozy dining area framed by a lattice fence. Again, large trees blur the edges of the suburban lot and make it feel as though the garden sits on the edge of a secluded woodland.

I want to draw your attention to the Lamium at the foot of this hosta. Lamium is such a great groundcover! You can read more about Lamiums in this post (great varieties, as well as one to avoid). Here I will feature the two seen on the right:

Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy' has silver leaves with a green edge and mauve-pink flowers. It forms a spreading clump, but isn't invasive. Average garden soil is fine for this evergreen perennial. Part to full shade. Height: 15-20 cm ( 6-8inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Lamium maculatum 'Anne Greenway' (on the bottom right) has green foliage streaked with silver and edged in gold. 'Anne Greenway' has mauve-pink flowers in spring and will continue to flower off and on, if you deadhead it. Once established, it is fairly drought tolerant. Again, average garden soil is fine for this evergreen perennial. Part to full shade. Height: 15-20 cm ( 6-8inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Maggie has one other Lamium in her garden that I want to bring to your attention: False Lamium, Lamium galeobdolon 'Herman's Pride'. Even though you see a big patch here, this is not an invasive plant. The silvery-green variegation makes it a terrific companion for hostas or any other shade perennial.  

Lamium galeobdolon 'Herman's Pride' has small yellow flowers mid-spring, but you really want to grow it for the foliage. This Lamium can be easily grown in a range of garden soils. Part shade to full shade. Drought tolerant once established. Height: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

A couple of container plantings punctuate the garden and add a hit of color.

This container planting incorporates Sweet Potato Vine, Begonias and Wandering Jew, Tradescantia albiflora or Zebrina pendula (a houseplant) among other plants.

A second container planting next to the dining table and chairs.

Two more shade plants: Canadian Wild Ginger (left) and Brunnera 'Jack Frost' (right).

Canadian Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense is native to the woodlands of Eastern north America. It bright green, heart-shaped leaves and insignificant brownish flowers that are largely hidden by the foliage. It will colonize an area and tends to be more vigorous than European Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum), but is not considered to be invasive. Part to full shade. Sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to moist soil suit this plant best. Height: 10-15 cm ( 4-6 inches), Spread: 15-30 cm (6-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

1. Lungwort, Pulmonaria 2. Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa 3. Variegated Sedum 4. Astilbe 5. Bleeding Heart Dicentra spectabilis 'Goldheart' (Maggie also has Common Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis) 6. Blue Star, Amsonia 7. Hosta 8. Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris

Ostrich Ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris are a native ferns that are easily grown in average, medium to damp soil. They are happiest however, in rich soil with constant moisture (the drought we are experiencing here in Southern Ontario have turned my Ostrich Ferns crispy brown). They spread by underground rhizomes and can form dense colonies when grown in favourable conditions. Ostrich Ferns prefer a cooler climate and don't fair well in the hot, humid summers of the southern States. Part shade to full shade. Height: 3-6 ft, Spread: 5-8 ft. USDA Zones: 3-7.

I asked Maggie for the story behind the ceramic owl that presides over the planting in this section of the garden.

"Until last spring we owned a cottage in England near my family in Cumbria in the N.W.", Maggie says,"Every year there was a pottery festival at one of the stately homes nearby. Simon Griffiths was a artist who had many birds, animals etc. in his stall there. They were so life-like that I knew it would be a wonderful garden ornament for our cottage, so we bought the Tawny Owl... When we sold the cottage, we brought it back to Canada...We found a post in a local wood and erected it in our garden here."

This end's today's tour. I hope you enjoyed seeing Maggie's shade garden.

More Information and Links: 

Maggie Sale is originally from England, but has lived in Canada for over 40 years. Most of her photography is done outdoors, and often involves travel, which she loves. Maggie is a member of the Grand River Imaging and Photographic Society, as well as Canadian Association for Photographic Art. The book "Facing Death-A Companion in Words and Images" by Linda Watson, for which Maggie contributed photographic illustrations, won a number of awards including the prestigious Benjamin Franklin award.


  1. What a beautiful shade garden Maggie has created, not something easy to do either! I just loved her owl, and her work, just stunning.xxx

  2. Thanks for your beautiful photos of this serene, cool, shady garden. So beautiful! As I age, my yard gets a little more shady, so I am slowly able to add more shade plants to my borders. Your posts always give me more ideas of plants to try in my zone 4 garden. I am always so excited to see your new post in my inbox as I know I will learn something or garner some inspiration from the lovely gardens you visit. Thank you for that.

  3. I recently found your blog and I love it. I'm in zone 6 and I've gotten so many ideas on new plants from you. Thank you.

  4. Great info on some shade lovers. And your header photo is SPECTACULAR! Wow-really knocks me out.

  5. Hello Jennifer girl .. I have missed coming by and answering email as well , due to just being exhausted most of the time .. which drives me crazy because the garden needs me and even just reading bogs can be too much to handle.
    But I am glad to have seen this post from you .. with all this heat a shade garden profile is wonderful to read and see such pretty pictures of .. that owl and the story are fantastic! .. what I wouldn't give to have such a beauty in my garden too.
    Wonderful pictures girl .. interesting story as well.
    Take care !

  6. stunning! Love the plant combinations and that super cute trellis backdrop. Want!!!

  7. I just love the colour of your header/banner.

    This was such a great post to read and your photo's are so nice to look at.

    I must say I wouldn't mind sitting at one of Maggie's dining chairs,and enjoying her pleasant garden

    All the best Jan

  8. Nice photos of shady garden, Jennifer. Many interesting ideas but I have to think before realize them in my zone 5a. I liked colorful hostas near birdbath.


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