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Entries in Dry Shade Gardens (2)


Barren Dry Shade Can Become a Garden; a book review for

Planting the Dry Shade Garden  Graham Rice, Timber Press,

Dry shade can be a serious obstacle for gardeners attempting to design beautiful flowerbeds. Not only is it difficult to establish flourishing plants under these conditions, but it is also a challenge to make such a garden beautiful. Homeowners, who have attempted this project on their own, are often stymied and frustrated. Finally, we have a useful gardening handbook that focuses solely and realistically on this problem.

In some gardens, barren dry shade may be the result of mature trees creating a natural umbrella that blocks sun and rain. Tree roots that permeate growing beds, so that plants have difficulty thriving, may further exacerbate this situation. Sometimes, walls that create shade for part of the day, or a location with a northern exposure, also may be contributing factors. Whatever the cause, and there are more, the author offers suggestions.

Ostensibly, this publication lists the best plants for the most inhospitable, toughest spots in the garden. It is also a work of encouragement; it urges the reader not to give up, to rethink ones strategy, and to come to terms with nature.

The author has wisely framed the intent of the book. The reader must first understanding the problem before adapting recommended techniques. Realistically, all that can be done with the guidance he supplies, is to take the edge off drought and poor light.

To achieve that goal, the reader must understand the variability of shade and available moisture. Accurate information about one’s own ecological conditions enables gardeners to take appropriate steps to improve a site for planting. Sometimes, strategic pruning or trimming can contribute to diminishing the problem. Often, the situation may be alleviated by building raised beds, by installing irrigation, and by applying mulch regularly.

However, these options are only the beginning of a strategy. For best results, gardeners need to know which plants will survive in dry shade and they must select those that are appropriate for their specific conditions and growing zones. For example, some plants will benefit from the sun exposure they receive in early spring before overhead trees leaf out to create impenetrable shade.

What is undeniable is that, with few exceptions, floriferous plants with long blooming periods are not realistic options. Furthermore, the chances are unlikely that one might have masses of colorful blooms all season long, similar to the intensity achievable in a sun or part sun garden. Therefore, the dry shade gardener will focus on attractive foliage and delicate, seasonal blooms that are the features of the authors list of recommended plants.

Most of the book is dedicated to discussing the plants that have proven successful under the harsh conditions of dry shade. The reader will discover 11 shrubs, 5 climbers, 21 perennials, 15 ground covers, 4 bulbs, and 3 annuals/biennials, plus a list of 17 British, and 15 American, native plants.

Readers should feel confident that these recommended plant would be more than sufficient to produce a wide variety of plant combinations to make attractive, meaningful gardens out of inhospitable, challenging locations.

Graham Rice is an internationally known plantsman and the award-winning writer of more than 25 gardening books. With a degree in horticulture from the Royal Botanical gardens, Kew, England, Mr. Rice gardens in dry shade on both sides of the Atlantic in Pennsylvania, Zone 5 and Northamptonshire , England, Zone 8.




Dry Shade Perennials: What to Grow Under Trees

I meet many home owners who are unhappy with the portion of their lawn that grows under trees. The grass is never as green or as dense as the rest of their property and that area always looks messy and unkempt. There are several possible explanations for this situation. One reason is the absence of sufficient sun and rain to nourish the lawn. Another reason is that the roots of the trees suck all of the available nutrients from the area leaving the grass stressed. And, another possible reason is that the tree roots grow close to the surface of the lawn preventing healthy grass roots from developing. The positive thinking gardener will turn this situation into an opportunity to create a shade garden.

Perennials will grow under trees if they are watered regularly, are fed with lots of organic material such as compost [which supplies both nutrients and humidity], and are covered with mulch to inhibit water evaporation.

Before planting, it is important to overcome the dense surface layer of tree roots by building a raised flower bed over them. This bed begins with a one-inch layer of compost, followed by two feet of black earth that is topped off with another inch of compost. Leave the hard work of blending the compost and earth to the worms and bugs. Now the bed is ready to be planted with perennials that thrive in shade.

To plant in this new raised garden, dig an appropriate sized hole for each plant, fill up that hole with water and then insert the perennial into the waterlogged hole. Follow by back-filling the hole with earth. When the entire bed has been planted, give it a good soaking and cover with a layer of mulch. Water the flower bed daily until the plants become established.

It may surprise some readers to discover how many beautiful perennials will thrive in dry shade with adequate watering. Here is a partial list: - Aquilegia, Campanula porscharskyana, Corydalis, Dicentra spectabilis, Eupatorium, Heuchera, Hosta, Iris Crystata, Japanese fern, Geranium, Pachysandra, Pulmonaria, Polygonatum, Primula, Thalictrum, Tradescantia and Trollius. In addition, the ornamental grass, Carex does well in shade as do fall-planted bulbs such as Camissia and Scilla sibirica.