Gardening in the shade presents problems to many homeowners, especially if you want color. All of us have some shade, either natural or man made. Often we begin with a sunny garden and over the years, the trees mature to shade the area.
Diane and Rod Loberg have been gardening in their shaded back yard since they moved into their home in 1976. Their river lot has had many changes over the years. In the early years, they had to deal with a dike that ran all across the back. They covered the dike with ground covers instead of grass and had steps going down to the river. Once the Sheyenne Diversion was in place, they took down the dike, resulting in a more spacious backyard.
The backyard is completely fenced in for safety from the river and for keeping out wild critters. They have chain link on the river side to retain the river view and on the south side to allow optimum sunlight in the yard. The north side has attractive wood fencing with a gate to the front.
Over the years, eleven trees have been removed from the yard due to Dutch elm disease. Even so, many trees remain to provide a peaceful woodland-like setting that can be enjoyed from the lovely deck that Rod built.
This garden evolved over the years. It first began with six old-fashioned hosta plants and four impatiens spread around the sides. Diane now claims a collection of 25 varieties of hosta including the newer varieties, 'Stained Glass,' 'Guacamole,' 'Sunpower,' 'Sum and Substance,' and tiny 'Mouse Ears.' She has had 'Striptease' for five years and this year she divided it into four plants that have 25 crowns each. Hostas form a backbone to the garden, but there is plenty of color with other perennials and annuals.
As the collection of plants grew, more garden was added and now the serpentine beds go all the way around the perimeter and are edged with paving stones. The stones are used to create a terrace garden in the southeast corner and circle trees to form planting areas. Rod and Diane constructed a circular pond, much like a wishing well, with paving stones. A fountain sprays from the center and fish swim in the deep end.
All of the beds are thickly mulched with shredded wood, setting off the plants so that their form is in perfect display. Many plants are attractively boxed in with 2 X 4's, keeping the mulch away from their crowns. (It is important to keep mulch away from crowns to prevent rotting.) Large round stepping-stones are interspersed among the plants.
In a semi-shade area between the house and the shed, a large Filipendula rubra, "Queen of the Prairie' holds court. This native perennial forms tall (3-6 feet) clumps in sun or light shade. It has frothy heads of tiny pink flowers and bold foliage. Blooming nearby is a short mound of lavender Monarda and a beautiful dark purple daylily called 'Strutters Ball.'
Diane has recently added another semi-shade perennial that will attain a height of 3-6 feet. Meadow Rue or Thalactrim are airy plants with finely textured foliage topped by large clusters of fuzzy lavender or white flowers. Her Goatsbeards (Aruncus) had finished blooming and she had trimmed off the spent flowers. Goatsbeard forms 3-6 foot clumps that are almost like shrubs and in early summer produce fuzzy white flower plumes.
Ligularias are shade and moist-soil loving plants with lush foliage that goes limp in direct sunlight. Diane has two varieties. 'Othello' dentata has large round reddish leaves that will produce orange-yellow daisy-like flowers later in the summer. 'The Rocket' was in bloom with tall spikes of yellow flowers. Another tall perennial that grows in the shade is Cimicifuga or Snakeroot. Diane grows Red Snakeroot, C. racemosa 'Altropurpura' that will have white spiky flowers in late summer. She says it has a gorgeous scent. A variety with dark purple foliage called 'Hillside Black Beauty' is another popular Cimicifuga.
Smaller perennial clumps are interspersed among the tall plants. There are Japanese ferns, 'Spanish Cross' Tiarella that has fluffy spring blooms, Astilbe in the lighter areas and colorfully leaved Huecheras (Coralbells).
The terrace bed is getting more sun due to the loss of a tree next door, so Diane had to transplant 17 hostas and other perennials to the shadiest area along the back fence. She now grows geraniums, gladiolas and marigolds, Rods favorite, in the tiers. One of the circle beds around a large tree is filled with Lily of the Valley. She has surrounded another tree with a colorful array of impatiens.
Various containers filled with impatiens, coleus, geraniums and petunias appear scattered throughout the gardens and keep the color going all through the season. She has three pots with huge Elephant Ear plants she started from coconut-like bulbs. Some of the containers are tipped, appearing to be half buried in the ground with flowers spilling out.
Diane follows in her mother's footsteps as far as gardening and bird watching. She has many birdfeeders and birdhouses that attract wrens, finches and cardinals to her backyard retreat. A statue of a mother swinging a child brings back fond memories of her childhood.
Breitling is a longtime West Fargo resident and avid gardener always in
search of new ideas.