Shade Gardening forum: Low maintenance shade garden

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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Jul 25, 2013 10:04 AM CST
My son has asked his brother and I to help him with a garden plan as his birthday gift this year (he turns 34 in early August). He has mostly shade and lots of deer. He is not a gardener, so easy maintenance would be best for his success. He is a single dad of one child, general contractor so not much time in the summer to mess in the yard. My younger son is a landscape architect and I will leave the actual hardscape and design up to him. My contribution will be helping out with a planting list and/or buying/acquiring plants.

I have reviewed the thread "Favorite Shade Plants" and have noted what I can easily chunk off from my yard - dicentra, goatsbeard, lady's mantle, brunnera, darmera, lily of valley, persicaria. I don't think hostas will work with his deer, and ligularia don't work in our area due to slugs. I thought I'd perhaps buy him a couple largish hydrangeas since they will be in bloom and have instant impact.

The north side yard has a fairly good foundation planting of sword ferns, azaleas, a few dwarf conifers, and a mature Japanese maple in the middle of a [very mossy] lawn. This yard falls down to the road and the slope is covered with English ivy. My younger son will encourage older son to get rid of the ivy, but I think will lose that argument. As invasive as it is, it is also very easy care. I'll put my two cents in to at least keep it in bounds and off his trees.

The east back yard is almost all lawn, 5' solid fence on two sides, with a mature ash in the middle, a pear I think he plans to take out, and a spindly fir that is limbed up quite a ways. The south side of the back yard is further shaded by a tall nondescript hedge belonging to the neighbor. He has a smallish garden against the hedge with hellebore, fatsia, and some random plants that would do better in full sun. I thought this might be a good spot for a bold darmera statement.

His south side yard is very narrow and won't need much attention, he uses it for storage; and his sunny west front yard is tiny and faces a busy street - not much used and already planted out OK.

I'll continue to read through the various threads in this forum, but would also welcome any suggestions. Think fast-growing, easy maintenance, hapless gardener more interested in outdoor sports than weeding but willing to put in an effort. I think.

I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Jul 25, 2013 2:52 PM CST
Too bad about English ivy--Boston ivy will drop its leaves, giving a chance for fall clean up.
Name: virginiarose
Virginia
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virginiarose
Jul 26, 2013 8:15 AM CST
Hosta's are very maintenance free if you get the right kind and pay attention to the size so you will not plant them too close together. You can easily discourage the slugs by purchasing slug resistant hostas and water in the morning instead of evening so the surface dirt will be dry before dark. I also throw a few pine needles around because they cannot slide over them. I love to ruin their day!

There are plenty to choose from if you go to a reputable website/grower. Do not buy any from the Big Box stores because of the risk of Hosta Virus X.

I love the websites that have the shopping options. Hostas Direct, you can go down the categories on the left side and select 'Slug Resistant' or Sun Tolerant or Large or Gold, etc.

http://www.hostasdirect.com/buy-plants/hostas-for-sale?hosta...

http://www.nhhostas.com/slug-resistant-hostas.htm

Thumbs up ( these are my two favorite websites for shopping and research)
Susan

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.....Margaret Atwood
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Jul 26, 2013 8:19 AM CST
Aren't hostas eaten by deer? Son lives across from a large park with tons of deer and they are regularly in his unfenced yard. So that's another consideration. If deer don't bother them, I have several I could chunk off for him (I don't get deer even though I live on acreage and I know they are in our back woods).

I'm not a fan of big box stores in general, and always get my plants from local nurseries. I only very rarely do mail order. I like to check plants out in person and chat it up with someone who knows what they are talking about - all part of the enjoyable plant-buying process for me.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: virginiarose
Virginia
Money talks but Chocolate Sings!
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Level 1 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Hibiscus Dragonflies Daylilies
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virginiarose
Jul 26, 2013 9:16 AM CST
I do not know, you are probably right because I have heard others say that their hostas got eaten. Yikes!! Thankfully I do not have deer, I live in a city that is surrounded by an interstate system and they seem to get hit by a car or Mack truck before they get any where near here. Nothing like road kill for dinner right? Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
Susan

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.....Margaret Atwood
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Jul 26, 2013 12:52 PM CST
Deer LOVE hostas. I have saved my best one by planting under a prickly shrub.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Jul 26, 2013 1:07 PM CST
I rather thought that, but since I don't battle deer, it's not fixed in my mind which ones they like or leave alone. I think we'll leave hostas off the planting list, he has regular visits from his deer friends.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Jul 26, 2013 8:42 PM CST
I forgot that I have been told there is a place called 'Deer Resistant Plants'. Perhaps they would have something for shade.
Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
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eclayne
Jul 27, 2013 11:37 AM CST

Plants Admin

Nice tip Lucy. Here's link to a Rutgers list. Hostas get low marks.
Did you list Astilbe, Ginger (Asarum), Goatsbeard (Aruncus) and of course ferns and more ferns?
Evan
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Aug 1, 2013 10:00 AM CST
Yes stay away from the Hostas. I have herds of deer and they love Hostas but I constantly battle them to continue to grow them. Just not a good idea since you said he wants low maintenance with deer hostas would not be low maintenance.

I see someone said to expand the Ferns. There are so many pretty ones that have color Brilliant with its orange color and the Japanese are very pretty.

Did you say you cannot grow ligularia because of the Slugs? I have lots of slugs and they never touch Marie Britt. That is a statement plant all season. From the description you are right you do need a statement. How about a hardscape item find some sort of a statue, bird bath.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sports+garden+statue&qpv...



Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Aug 1, 2013 11:01 AM CST
Evan, nice link, thanks, I printed it out and highlighted those I can 'poach' from my own yard.

I've told Son #2 (the design guy) to be sure to steer away from deer plants, and he has told me he has a rock-solid list of deer resistance plants his company routinely uses. So, sadly no hostas.

Cinta, I will try Marie Britt, I absolutely love ligularia for the foliage. I've had zero luck with Othello, but better luck with The Torch so apparently there are subtle differences in the cultivars that are more/less attractive to my slimey friends.

And, good idea about a piece of statuary - that could actually be a nice birthday gift for him to start things out. There is a statuary place close to me I've never actually been to, might be worth a look-see.

I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator Forum moderator Aroids Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tropicals Foliage Fan Bulbs Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
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eclayne
Aug 1, 2013 12:55 PM CST

Plants Admin

L. japonica (Counteract Swiss-cheese syndrome with diligent pruning) and varieties are supposed to be both slug and Japanese beetle resistant. Here's a pretty I found at Plant Delights.
Evan
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Aug 8, 2013 7:32 AM CST
I regularly do battle with people that insist on planting hostas and hydrangaes... I believe that they attract the deer from all over the state... So... if you actually want the deer creating nice pathways through the garden beds... There is just not enough deer-away products on the market to protect those things...

Washington state has tons of native ferns... i'd totally think native fern garden, with different types in different beds. Problem is... down here, bambi has a taste for some of the fern types when the herds are thick enuff.

What about some nice rocks?
Plant some hexastylis and western trilliums at the base of the boulders... Depending on the depth of the shade, you might even be able to plant some of those desirable pacific coast iris that the rest of us long for...

Im not sure about the western shrubs... but don't yall have western versions of florida anise, and sweet shrub? problem with sweet shrub... is the suckering. Not really a good choice... and everybody uses it here.

Rose of sharon makes an interesting possibility... the deer browse it, and cause it to become a shrub... there are people who do that deliberately!

And... Everybody grows hellebore... surprised that nobody has mentioned them yet... They're completely avoided by the deer... and what about mahonia... seems like it would be everywhere out on the west coast...

Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Aug 12, 2013 10:05 AM CST
Thanks for all the suggestions -- good food for thought. I bought my son a nice sized oak-leaf hydrangea which is a very handsome somewhat manly plant. I had read that the oak-leaf variety are more deer resistant ... ?? The tag designated it as 'full sun' which is surprising to me, but when I asked the nursery gal about that, she looked it up online and found that is can more easily tolerate full sun than other hydrangeas.

Second son measured off the yard and will come up with a couple plans (high end spendy to more economical less splashy) and I'll dig up some of my own plants to help fill in the planting areas. I also have access to native ferns and berries and vine maple (hard to transplant), so we may be able to set him up with a native feel.

First son's thought is if he has a plan to follow, he can kind of pick at it as his funds allow - put in the hardscape a project at a time and fill in with plants as he can.

Second son has I think convinced first son to take down 3 rather scrappy diseased but mature trees in his back yard - a suckering ash, spindly fir, and half-dead pear. That will open up a huge amount of sun to his east yard, and give him a pretty blank slate to start fresh.

I'll try to take photos as this project unfolds, might be interesting to follow.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: virginiarose
Virginia
Money talks but Chocolate Sings!
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Level 1 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Hibiscus Dragonflies Daylilies
Bee Lover Dahlias Butterflies Hostas Birds Lilies
virginiarose
Aug 12, 2013 3:39 PM CST
Thumbs up
Susan

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.....Margaret Atwood
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Aug 14, 2013 12:50 PM CST
Bonehead said: I had read that the oak-leaf variety are more deer resistant ... ?

I haven't seen this.
The deer down here... love Oak leaf hydrangea.
The only way to keep them alive is to grow them inside a fence... I actually know someone who has a small fence around her patch of oak leaf hydrangeas... the other stuff in her yard... she sprays with coyote urine, and other nice things. But... some things cannot be protected... with repellants.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Aug 14, 2013 3:11 PM CST
Well shoot, we'll just have to see if the deer eat it or not. They tend to come in to his yard when his apples and pears are ripe, and I'm assuming fruit would trump the taste of a leaf any day.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
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irisarian
Aug 14, 2013 5:40 PM CST
Sounds like a great family project.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Sep 13, 2013 2:30 PM CST
Since he doesn't have alot of time for the summer garden, why not create a winter garden? I would use a gazing ball, windchimes, large rocks would add winter interest, evergreens-like yews, or holly, lights, a fire pit? bird feeders, a heated bird bath, plants that have foliage or seed pods or berries during the winter-tall grasses. Contorted plants like lauders walking stick come to mind, a windspinner of some sort, a bench to sit, maybe an evergreen tree to decorate for Christmas? Someone once suggested that tall stalks on a plant could be spray painted to add color for a few weeks.
Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
Garden today. Clean next week.
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CDsSister
Sep 15, 2013 5:00 PM CST

What a great idea or ideas!!! May be able to do something in my small patch.

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