In the backyard I have a mature Western red cedar that has thwarted all my under-planting attempts. I've tried a number of natives, few of which have thrived. Of course, I never bothered to plant things that could survive with almost no water. One lonely hosta looks great until August, at which point it dramatically keels over. The sword ferns are happy but everything else malingers. It's my fault.
There are sad neglected boxwoods in the corner that I leave only because they're evergreen and they live despite getting no water. I really want something large to fill the space in the foreground but I've yet to find a medium shrub that can handle dry shade (but sometimes hot summer sun!) and fierce root competition. My next attempt will be gro-low sumac (Rhus aromatica), which won't get quite as tall as I want, but should be able to survive here.
I consulted with a guy at Joy Creek about ground covers because my wild ginger just never took off here. He suggested hellebores and epimediums, so I'll try that, damn it. I moved my hellebores here and thus far they are doing great.
I searched high and low for an epimedium I liked and found one called 'Black Sea.' It's supposed to turn almost black, which I thought would look great interplanted with Hakonechloa macra.
The only problem is that this epimedium turns black in winter, when everything else is dormant. You can't even see it, it melds with the mulch so well. During the warmer months it turns a very unremarkable shade of medium green. And I planted hakonechloa eight feet away. It's like I'm not even thinking, some days.
So I'm not quitting my day job. What other dry shade (but sometimes hot summer sun!) workhorses am I missing?
You do like a challenge, girl.ReplyDelete
Yes to the Rhus aromatica, plant that and let it spread.
For bigger shrubbier things, plant a Dart's Gold ninebark (physocarpus), it will take shade, tolerate dry and it offers bright chartreuse foliage to light up that dark corner. Or Worcester's Gold caryopteris, smaller than the ninebark, but open-shrubby and with light foliage. Both the ninebark and caryopteris are sun plants but they are tough as nails and will take some dry shade. The caryopteris in particular wants lean, unenriched soil, as long as it gets some hot sun.
Yes to the ferns you have... let them spread into a big swath. That will make a gorgeous statement under that tree, and cover the bare mulch. But make it a nice big sweep, not just a few. Then use the hellebores and epimediums for low ground level fillers. It's all going to be so gorgeous!
Here's a wacky idea: asters. Some will take dry shade. S. macrophyllum, for example. Also Heath Aster, and I think White Woodland Aster. I forget the botanical names.ReplyDelete
You've actually listed (and tried) most of the plants that came to mind! Dry shade really is hard to deal with...especially if it gets blasted with sun at times. I really think you're onto something with Epimediums...maybe add another variety to get you through winter? You could maybe try some Cyclamen...they are up and growing during winter, when there's more moisture, then go dormant during summer, when everything else is up. Of course, if it were me, I'd try Anemanthele lessoniana...seems happy pretty much anywhere you put it! There are Mahonias...but any time I see them in any real amount of shade, they are sad, leggy and shapeless. There is Sarcoccoa, which is kind of drab...but pretty tough once it's established (and fragrant for a few weeks in winter). Solomon's Seal might be good...but I'm not sure of how it would do with the summer sun. Geranium macrorrhizum would work well...although even it would appreciate a drink in summer if it gets too much sun (don't we all). I hesitate to recommend Acanthus, as once it's there...it's pretty much there forever! Oh...and how about some more ferns...like Maidenhair Ferns...so pretty! I sort of wish that Aralia 'Sun King' would work there...but I think it would need more water :-(ReplyDelete
What about Mona Lavender? The leaves are a deep emerald green with purple under sides. In the late fall it makes beautiful little purple flowers that look sort of like little orchids. I grow it underneath one of my fairly shady trees and it survives the New Orleans heat and late summer sun quite well. I'm not quite sure of its extreme winter hardiness, though. It never really gets cold down here.ReplyDelete
I have a similar area that I've been struggling with. I had my cedar cut down last Summer so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do going forward. A couple suggestions: fatsia japonica might be taller than you want there but it's a great one for dry shade. For a groundcover serbian bellflower Campanula poscharskyana has been amazing for me. It's evergreen here in Portland and has been very tolerant of abuse. I have loads of it (it does go rampant) if you want to come get some this Spring!ReplyDelete
How do you feel about using pots on top of the soil in lieu of planting directly in the ground? That's what I've done when I really can't find anything that works. I've tried many of the plants already named - sometimes they take and sometimes they don't. The only other suggestion I have is Arthropodium cirratum 'Renga Lily' (available by mail order from Annie's Annuals & Perennials) - it's done well everywhere I've put it, including on a slope that's dry and hot in the summer and shady the rest of the year, surviving with only haphazard hand irrigation.ReplyDelete
OK, here's another couple of ideas. First, Lily of the Valley (Convalaria majalis). Second, dwarf goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius). Just a thought.ReplyDelete
We are surrounded by cedars, so here's what's growing under them: salaal, vancouveria, salmonberry, ferns, trillium, Oregon grape (all natives growing there of their own accord); 'Lance Corporal', hostas, spike moss, epimediums (very slow to spread, and expensive), oxalis, columbines, Acanthus mollis, arums, rodgersia, gooseneck loosestrife (happy despite its reputation for liking it wet), most any kind of fern (the things planted by me that are thriving under the cedars). If any of these strike your fancy, let me know. Most of them are plentiful enough to share. Rhododendrons also seem to do well in that setting.ReplyDelete
Laurrie, you rule. I love chartreuse and I love ninebark, so that sounds perfect! I can't wait to get rearranging . . . Thank you!ReplyDelete
That's a good idea, especially because that side of the yard is lacking in late summer interest. Thanks, Jason!ReplyDelete
Thank you! So, is lily of the valley as invasive as people warn? I almost don't care but I don't want to unleash a thug in my yard . . .ReplyDelete
I always thought Acanthus mollis needed it most--I'd love to put some here. Do you think it can thrive with the cedar sucking up all the available water?ReplyDelete
Well, it's certainly aggressive, but I'm not sure it's invasive. It is not listed as invasive by the Oregon invasive species council. I think in a difficult site you should be able to keep it under control. I have some in such a location and it has not spread rampantly. It is recommended as a groundcover by the Chicago Botanic Garden, though of course we have a harsher climate than you do.ReplyDelete