Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
August, 2000
Regional Report

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Oak trees create dry shade in my new garden.

Renovating The Shade Garden

Gardening's a delightfully adaptable passion - unlike real life, you're in control and you can change things whenever you please. I'm taking control of a quarter acre that's gotten away from me in the past three very dry years. What started six years ago as a shady woodland of ferns, hostas and cardinal lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) has become a nightmare of useless hose hauling and dead plant removal.

Making A Renovation Plan

I've made a plan for the area to reclaim the yard, and my sanity, by keeping only the few well-established plants already there, clearing the path and its edges of sprouted oaks, then sorting through the native perennials. There are some huge spireas which form a nice curve, a maple, and two mimosas which will make the cut. However, the old camellias will have to go. I'll leave my beloved native asters, a patch of elderberry for the birds, autumn clematis, violets, and some goldenrod for color. The naturalized bulb menagerie will stay as will the intransigent patches of monkey grass. The rest, as they say, "is compost".

Finding Some New Plants

A great resource and serious inspiration for me is The Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Mississippi, where the cultivation of subtropical native plants is a mission. I'll go there looking for their choices for shady and dry gardens just like mine. Their suggestions include honeysuckle azalea (Rhododendron canescens), oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia), cucumber magnolia (M. acuminata), star anise (Illicium floridanum), and agarista (A. populifolia). I'll also transplant bugleflower (Ajuga repens) and clary sage (Salvia sclarea) as ground covers since both do well with no irrigation in other parts of the garden. It's going to take another year, but the garden will be better suited to its site, and that suits this gardener just fine.

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