My duplex has a semi-mature Silver Maple [20 inch caliper] growing just off the north porch. A 10x13 foot raised planter [4x6 inch timbers backfilled with sandy loam topsoil] surrounds the trunk of the tree and was in place when I moved in. For two years I stayed away from this planter because, as everyone knows, "...you can't grow anything under a Silver Maple."
During my third year here my stubbornness kicked in and I started planting perennials. I started with a couple of Hostas, then three Hellebores and then the dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea. When I realized these plants were succeeding I became "inspired" by a photograph in Beth Chatto's book titled The Green Tapestry. It showed a small bed planted with a beautiful combination of small ground-cover plants. The variations in their foliage shapes, sizes and colors made the photo, in my mind, resemble the beauty of a medieval wall tapestry. From that point on I made every effort to accomplish a similar look in this portion of my shade garden bed.
I don't mean this to sound "high toned" or lofty... I am just explaining what motivated me to create what you see in the photograph. And I don't think I have achieved what Beth Chatto did... I'm constantly drawn back to that photo of hers... and I'm still working to improve my own garden bed. But I will say it has been great fun attempting to create a "tapestry" of foliage that varies in foliage size, texture and color. And it has been very rewarding to realize a garden CAN be created under a Silver Maple.