The Q&A Archives: Evergreens For Shade

Question: I am looking for suggestions for shrubs/trees for the north side of a one story building. My requirements are - narrow upright habit (so as to not block view from a drive), evergreen, native to Michigan. I am striving for a natural, woodland effect in this area, so I don't want anything that requires a lot of shearing to stay in bounds. Any ideas?

Answer: Unfortunately, you have me stumped. Nature does not usually provide specifically shaped plants suited to foundation plantings or to fit our ideals of landscaping. Instead, you will find plants occur where the growing conditions suit them best. This explains why designers and landscape architects so often specify a named variety of a plant and also why they so often use plants from around the world instead of relying only on natives. Although a native hemlock for instance will tolerate some shade, it will grow very sparse for lack of light and would need trimming in time as well. Instead of a plant, you might consider an attractive light pole or sculptural element in the proportions you need for the space and then plant a vine such as a sweet autumn clematis on that, if you think a plant is truly needed in that space. This is a native vine and it will tolerate shade if the overall location is bright enough, meaning the sky is fully open to the north, east and west. Sometimes, too, it is not really necessary to place the plant right up against the house, and by moving it outward from the house the plant will have more light and this could increase your planting options. I hope this gives you some ideas, perhaps your local nursery personnel or county Extension would have some additional suggestions based on a more detailed knowledge of the planting site and what you are trying to accomplish. I'm sorry I just can't think of anything to meet your criteria. Good luck with your landscaping!

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