Question: I have a concrete front porch, about 7 ft high on one end and about 2 ft high on the other. Morning sun, afternoon shade. Any suggestions?

Answer: Sounds as though you are looking for attractive shrubs to line the foundation of your porch. If so, here are a few to consider:
Summersweet Clethra, Clethra alnifolia, is an excellent shrub for year around interest offering fragrant flowers, attractive leaves and interesting form. Its upright growth reaching 3-8 feet tall makes it appropriate for narrow spaces such as next to home foundations or in perennial borders.
Summersweet's finest attributes are its shade tolerance and its late season, long lasting and fragrant flowers. The flowers of white, pink or rose appear when few other plants are blooming in July through August. It has few insect and disease problems but thrives best in moist acidic soils.

Some of Summersweet's notable cultivars include 'Hummingbird' with its 3-4 feet tall low mound and abundantly produced white flowers. 'Rosea' has glossy leaves and pink flowers.

Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, is another native shrub with interesting flowers. Although the greenish yellow flowers are much smaller than the buckeyes, they are flowering now in April before the leaves and may last for 3-4 weeks. Spicebush will grow in deep shade, but its best flowering and fall color occur when it has some sun. The scarlet fruit ripening in August through October is attractive to birds. For best fruiting a male and female shrub is necessary. The stems are spicely aromatic and were once used to make a tea.

Witch Alder, Fothergilla gardenii, is a slow growing shrub only reaching 2-3 feet tall with a compact mounded habit. Another shrub with year around appeal, fothergilla has fragrant flowers of cream colored bottlebrushes. It is also flowering now before the leaves appear. It has magnificent fall color of yellow, orange and crimson and will grow in sun or shade. Fothergilla works in nicely with rhododendrons or as a foundation plant. 'Blue Mist' is a very attractive cultivar with blue green leaves.

Oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, at four to six feet tall makes a dramatic show with large white flower panicles, large "oak looking" leaves and cinnamon brown bark. In fall the leaves turn a deep rich burgundy color that persist well into December.

For the lower areas of your foundation, consider some dwarf plants or add hostas and some colorful annuals which you can change as the seasons change.

Good luck with your new garden!

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