ICanGarden Suggestions:

Suggestions for north - clay - front of house

Messages posted to thread:

Beverley15-Mar-03 12:10 PM EST 4a   
PatA16-Mar-03 10:01 PM EST 3a   
Susan17-Mar-03 07:33 AM EST 6a   
Joy24-Mar-03 06:48 PM EST   

Subject: Suggestions for north - clay - front of house
From: Beverley
Zone: 4a
Date: 15-Mar-03 12:10 PM EST

Help! I need suggestions for a city garden with a total shade/north exposure and clay based soil. It is the front of the house so we would like to have a colorful or at least dramatic effect. There are some hostas already there, but they are struggling and give a limited effect. Shrubs - perennials - annuals - any suggestions? We need height as well. Nothing has worked very well so far. Each year I put in bags and bags of garden soil and bagged compost - should I just dig it all up and have it taken away - then replaced, or is there something available as an additive that can fix things?

Subject: RE: Suggestions for north - clay - front of house
From: PatA
Zone: 3a
Date: 16-Mar-03 10:01 PM EST

Bev first and foremost you have to address the clay soil problem. A lot of plants suited to total shade are woodland natives so clay doesn't work. Yes you could dig it up and start over. Big bucks and lot's of work! You probably need something to help loosen and add drainage. One thing I have found helps is a product called PROFILE. It is fuller's earth( a type of clay soil) that has been fired and ground down to the consistency of coarse sand/tiny pebbles. Because it is clay based, unlike rock based materials it actually holds moisture while allowing air spaces. It also doesn't break down over one season like peat moss. It's available at many garden centres and I think Can Tire sold it last year too. Once the soil is improved you can keep it on track by mulching with fine bark and adding compost between the plants evey year. The earthworms will work it in for you thus keeping your soil at it's best.

As for plants, LIGULARIA is a tall(up tp 6') perennial with showy yellow flowers, ASTILBE have feathery looking plumes of flowers and reach 1 to 2 feet depending on cultivar. IVORY HALO DOGWOOD a nice shrub has great variegation to the leaves so stands out well in shade. YEW will tolerant shade and the list goes on and on. Check with people in your area both to what is hardy and what is available. Even a walk around to gardens you admire can yield some interesting ideas. Hope this helps you some. PatA

Subject: RE: Suggestions for north - clay - front of house
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 17-Mar-03 07:33 AM EST

I'm not sure why your hosta is not doing well. I have heavy clay soil and hostas do very well for me. If your hosta is under the roof overhang it may not be getting enough water. I put soaker hoses in all the foundation beds - it's the easiest way to water there and ensure they get a good soaking. I suspect that moisture is as much of a problem for you as the clay soil or the shade. With adequate moisture you could try some ferns. The variegated dogwood that Pat suggested would look nice too - Silverleaf is another variety to look for - I have both it and Ivory Halo and I prefer it althoiugh I'm not sure why as they both are very nice. With adequate moisture you could also add the small white bleeding hearts (Dicentra exemia 'Alba') - it won't go summer dormant if it gets enough moisture. With hosta, ferns (look for Christmas fern which is evergreen...), the dogwood and the small bleeding hearts, you'd have a nice green and white shady garden that would be cool and elegant. In the shade, green and white gives a much better effect (and is easier to achieve) than more vibrant colors. But the first thing you need to do is to ensure it's not too dry under the roof overhang.

Subject: RE: Suggestions for north - clay - front of house
From: Joy
Date: 24-Mar-03 06:48 PM EST

Oh gosh, there are so many good plants for shade, I think shade gardens are my favorite. I am on clay, and have about 18in of triple mix on top, , which seems to keep everything happy. Plants for shade that I would recommend are:

Tiarella, Pulmonaria, Lamium, Dicentras, Foxgloves, Hostas, Heucheras and Heucherellas, Lily of the Valley, Trilliums, Jacob's Ladder, all the different Coleus, I've seen native Columbines (Aquilegia) perform very well in shade at RBG, violets (the native viola sororia, freckled violet is lovely), primulas are great - all of them, though I love the drumhead primulas, and the obconica primulas perform great in shade int he summer (but wear gloves when planting). Sure there are a few others - Let you know if I think of them.

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