The Q&A Archives: Plants in Shade and Slate Soil

Question: We are moving to a new home this fall. The house is built on an old creek bed so there is a lot of slate in the ground. We chose the house because of the wooded lot, but I really enjoy flowers. The house faces the south and has a backyard full of a wide variety of trees. The front yard does get morning sun. We may be able to take down some of the trees, but I am just not sure how to get started on landscaping the yard. It is pretty shabby and overgrown right now. Will these plants grow: Roses, azaleas, columbine, evening primrose? Do you have other suggestions? Is there any information I can gather on designing my landscape?

Answer: It sounds like you may have a wide variety of microclimates and exposures at your new home. Full sun all morning is usually enough to grow most sun loving perennials and roses, as well as being cool enough for many plants which prefer sun to partial shade, such as columbines and azaleas. Dappled woodland shade is ideal for many of the plants which prefer part shade to shade conditions. Soil type also plays a major role in plant success, so you will want to do some basic soil tests. our County Extension can help you with the tests and with interpreting the results. The plant options are nearly overwhelming when you start a new garden, so I would suggest you look at a few basic books on gardening before you make major decisions. There are several books in the "Dummies" series you might find helpful while you are at the planning stages, especially "Gardening for Dummies" by Michael MacCaskey. It covers everything from site evaluation to plant selection and ongoing maintenance. Enjoy your new home!

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