Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jorene's Shade Garden

When we first moved to The Ponderosa Lodge, the shade bed contained several very small rhododendron maximums, two day lilies, and a hosta that were covered with deer netting. The rhododendron maximum is a shrub of the heath family and may be recognized by its large, dark evergreen leaves and delicate pale pink or white blooms. It is the state flower of West Virginia and grows wild in the woods near The Ponderosa Lodge, often to heights of 6 feet or more.

During the first year at The Ponderosa Lodge, we removed the rhododendrons and transferred them to a hill out by the front gate. Slowly but surely, we have been transforming the area into a true shade garden. The items that are currently in the shade garden have been given to us by friends and repeat visitors to the lodge. We have also purchased them at Lowes Garden Center, in small catalogs such as Blue Stone Perennials, and at other specialty garden centers.

Our shade garden includes nearly every shape, size and color of mature hosta, including blue angel, frances williams, guacamole, middle ridge, patriot, great expectations, and august moon. The hosta (or funkia, plantain lily) grows in zones 3-8. Its bloom contains lavender or white flowers on tall stems during a few weeks in mid-summer. It is native to East Asia and contains lush foliage in varying heights, textures, sizes, and colors, including white, yellow, green, blue, and mixes of all of the above. Many of the hostas were on the property of The Ponderosa Lodge when we purchased it, and we merely transferred them to this spot, where they have thrived. We also received many as gifts from our close friends Mac and Dee McCutcheon. Our favorite hostas are a few true miniatures that we received from the Harris family. We have never seen them sold commercially, and they hold a spot of honor in the very front of the bed.

The shade garden also includes various perennial flowers. We purchased dicentra spectabilis (old fashioned bleeding heart) and clematis from Blue Stone Perennials. We planted dicentra spectabilis in Fall 2007, and it has already grown to nearly two feet tall. Dicentra spectabilis grows in zones 3-8, and it is deer resistant which is great for life in these mountains. It has pendulous pink flowers on slender stems that grow from clumps of fern-like foliate in the spring.

We purchased and planted clematis crystal fountain and multi-blue in Spring 2009. Clematis are prized for their incredible flowers; most are as large as your hand. Crystal fountain has lilac blue 4-5" double flowers with fountain-like centers. It blooms June to September, but unfortunately it does not appear that it will survive the transplant. Multi-blue has very dark blue to purple 4-5" flowers with thistle-like pronounced centers of yellow green. It blooms in June, July, and September.

We purchased aquilegia (columbine) from Lowes and a specialty garden center, and we have planted them at different times over the past two years (Spring 2008 and 2009). We also planted some by seed. Our most recent additions have been two pink and yellow winky aquilegia and two white ones from Lowes. Aquilegia grows in zones 3-8. It is deer resistant, and comes in a wide variety of colors. Aquilegia grows to 18 inches tall, and it is graceful, with blue-green foliage. It contains a wealth of flowers in sun or shade. It self-sows without overtaking other plants and yields interesting hybrids if near other aquilegia to cross pollinate. It blooms mid-Spring to mid-Summer.

We purchased several Lamium 'lemon frost' (lemon frost dead nettle) from Lowes, and planted them in Spring 2009. It grows in zones 3-8, is deer resistant, and will grow to 12" tall. Lamium 'lemon frost' is a nice contrast plant in the shade garden because it has yellow green leaves and dark, bright pink flowers which bloom in the summer.

I do not remember where we purchased astilbe or when we planted it. Astilbe grows in zones 4-8. It is deer resistant and blooms in Summer. Astilbe produces airy plumes that come in a variety of shades of pink, peach, and white. It lends a refined grace to perennial borders. Its lush deeply cut foliage is attractive for the entire growing season and is colored from green to bronze.

During Fall 2007 and 2008, I dug up two different kinds of fern from the woods surrounding The Ponderosa Lodge and transplanted them to the shade garden. One has thick, dark green, waxy foliage. The other is a lacy, light green fern. They both appear to be holding their own in the shade garden. I recently purchased Japanese painted fern (Athyrium N. Pictum) an ostrich fern to plant in the shade garden. Japanese painted fern has colorful fronds of grey-green blended with wine red. It has lacy leaves that are wide and taper to a delicate point. Ostrich fern has large green fronds that can grow to 4' tall, and is very useful to use in gardens for added height and interest.

We purchased helleborus in Spring 2007 at The Biltmore Estates in Asheville, North Carolina. Helloborus grows in zones 4-8. It is deer resistant and grows to less than 12" tall. It signals spring in the shade garden because it is always the first to bloom and holds its blooms for weeks. It contains short, waxy, dark green leaves. Helloborus can be purchased commercially in a wide variety of colors, including the black ones that we have. These plants are also very special to us because they remind us of the last "road trip" we took with Miss Lucie, our English Bulldog who passed away May 2008.

My future plans for the shade garden include removing several of the solid green hostas to transplant to two flower beds that I am making at the front gates. I will also transplant several of the patriot hostas (which are green with white edges) to the beds located along the front of The Ponderosa Lodge. Eventually, I will transplant most of the pink and white flowers, including the dicentra spectabilis, columbine, Lamium 'lemon frost,' and astilbe, to the far side of the The Ponderosa Lodge after we have the gutters located there repaired. I plan to add ostrich fern, a ground cover, and rudbeckia goldsturm (black-eyed Susan) to the shade garden during this growing season to add height, color and interest to the shade garden. Rudbeckia goldsturm grows in zones 3-9, is deer resistant, and grows very easily without any special attention. It grows to approximately two feet tall and has mounds of yellow flowers with a brown center. It blooms from mid-Summer to Fall. I have a number of these perennials throughout the property that I will simply transfer to the shade garden later this year. Essentially, I would like the shade garden to have more height in the back and throughout the middle. I would also like it to contain mainly yellow, green and blue hostas, ferns, and a few varieties of perennials that bloom long lasting purple and yellow flowers. As a final note, the above photograph was taken April 2009. We live in zone 5, so the perennials and plants were just starting to peek out of the ground.

1 comment:

  1. As always, I'm amazed by your knowledge and ability to find time to do it all. I managed to make it to the greenhouse this weekend to buy some vinca (border for our flower beds), a couple of heirloom tomato plants, some burpless cucumbers, a zucchini plant, and vaious other full sun perennials and annuals to fill out our flower beds. Unfortunately, it's all still in the back of the truck. I'll blame the rain for my inability to get it all into the ground. Gotta run...have a toddler playing in the dog dish AGAIN!