The Shade Garden

Summer has heated up and I find myself enjoying the shade garden more and more. In fact, when I ask Facilities Manager about his favorite part of the property, he answers "The shade garden." Why do I keep asking? Am I hoping for a different answer? This week, I must agree. I love the shade garden on a hot day, for I can be among plants, weeding or just looking and be quite comfortable as it's easily 10 degrees cooler.

Here's a tour of what looks good this week:
Corydalis ochroleuca, a white-flowered corydalis has lacy foliage and sweet, white blooms. It seeds around a little and is a good filler plant. Carex 'Snowline' in the background is another favorite - a small, variegated evergreen grass. Wow. What's not to love?

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' is my champion shady border plant. In my old garden, I had it planted in full sun facing east. I think it prefers this situation as it looks much more lush. It serves as a border for the garden to the "lawn" (mowed weeds?) and a foil to the Douglas firs along the top of the berm.

Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Tricolor' is a climbing evergreen jasmine that I've allowed to grow along the ground as a very small-scale ground cover. Although it does flower with sweetly scented flowers, I grow it for the foliage.

A shady scene. Ah, summer shade.

I think this is Woodwardia fimbriata or giant chain fern. I am not so spot-on with ferns and unless I remember exactly where I plant them, I tend to lose track of what is what, who is who. If it IS what I think it is, it's a native of the West Coast and will grow huge, so perhaps I should move it.

Corydalis lutea, another corydalis but with all yellow flowers. This plant originally came from my mother's garden years ago and as it seeds around (not obnoxiously), I'll always have a happy supply. It is also a great filler for a shady spot.

 Rhododendron pachysanthum purchased a few years ago from Gossler Farms. It's a slow-grower, but that's ok by me. The indumentum and tomentum or fuzzy stuff is why I love it s much. I've had some critter problems with this plant - someone was chomping at the edges of the leaves. I moved it to a different location and it's finally growing again. Pink flowers on this one.

 Filipendula vulgaris was a throw-away at work so I stuck it in the ground to see what would happen last fall. This year it's grown a little and has been a pleasant surprise.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Barry's Silver' has been featured before, but is worth repeating. Slow growing, it's a centerpiece of the shade garden.

 Adiantum pedatum, our native maiden hair fern has black stems and is, in my opinion, stunning. If I only had a whole grove of these.

Thalictrum rochebruneanum or meadow rue is, I'm not exaggerating, 8 feet tall in my garden. WOW! I had to bend it over to photograph its flowers. I bought this one from work last year. Facilities Manager accidentally cut it off at the base last summer, but this year - look out! I love it, I only wish I could see the flowers better.

FM says he will build me an observation tower! The smartie!

Astrantia major 'Alba'- a white masterwort adds little glowing stars to the summer shade border. Love this plant, I am hoping for some reseeding.

A nice contrast of textures and colors. Who says you need flowers? Ok, well, they are the icing on the cake but this, in my opinion, has lasting interest and looks fresh.

Looking due west. The berm with trees planted on it was apparently at one time the driveway and entrance to the property. Long story short, the entrance was moved and a barrier berm was added. In time it will be covered with native sword fern and Oxalis oregana.

Mimulus guttatus or yellow monkey flower was a hitch-hiker on another native plant I bought at Bosky Dell Natives. I recognized the seedling that came along with a viburnum so left it, hoping it would spread a bit. It has, there's a small colony of it and I've found it in other parts of the garden, too. This native plant will do well in sun with enough moisture. In my experience it goes dormant or dies without enough moisture, but seeds around enough to come back again next year.

This is also due west, but a little farther out.

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' or black mondo grass is blooming and looking quite charming. Later on, small dark berries appear. The newer growth is greenish at first giving a lovely overall effect.

Dicentra 'Langtrees' a white flowered bleeding heart native to our region. The glaucus leaves are what attracts me, it's a lovely airy filler that I hope seeds around.

Corydalis ochroleuca once again.

Hostas, ferns and a Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' in there somewhere among the astilbes.

Osmunda regalis or royal fern. From the Missouri Botanic Garden's website: Osmunda regalis, commonly called royal fern, is a tall, deciduous, Missouri native fern which usually occurs on moist bluffs and ledges and along streams (sometimes growing in the water), primarily in the southeastern Ozark region of the State. Typically grows in clumps to 2-3' tall, but with constant moisture can reach 6' in height. Broad fronds have large, well-separated pinnae (leaflets) which give this fern an almost pea-family appearance. Fronds typically turn yellow to brown in autumn. Spores are located in brown, tassel-like, fertile clusters at the tips of the fronds, thus giving rise to the additional common name of flowering fern for this plant. Osmunda fiber used in the potting of orchids comes from the fibrous roots of these ferns.

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' is a teeny tiny little hosta that I adore. These were saved from the old garden - in fact, many of these, at least 2/3 of the plants in this garden were transplanted from the old garden.

This garden is so difficult to photograph and have it look good because there is crummy weed grass surrounding the south side of it and the berm is covered in poor soil and weeds. One day it will photograph like it feels to be in it. Until then, you'll have to take my word for it and squint a lot.

 Blechnum penna-marina has been slow to establish but this year it's finally put on good new growth. Evergreen and small, it's a slow-spreader.

 Oxalis oregana 'Klamath Ruby' - a naturally occurring form of our native oxalis, it has ruby colored undersides of the leaves. Not as vigorous as O. oregana, it's nonetheless a great addition.

 Hydrangea aspera was given to me as a twig in a pot - a cutting from a friend at a garden blogger's swap a year or two ago. She said "Give this one room - it's a big one!" - and I see the one at work, it's easily 12' tall. I've heeded her advice and planted it where it can do whatever it likes.

Cyrtomium falcatum otherwise known as Japanese holly fern. This evergreen beauty has just the right texture to contrast with most of the other soft-leaved plants typical of a shade garden. It's got some tooth to it - a little stiff and upright so adds a bit of drama.

Polystichum setiferum 'Bevis'- a friend of mine pointed out that polystichums have mittens. If you look closely, each section of leaf has a "thumb" for the mitten. That makes sense - polystichum refers to many digits, right? At any rate, I'll never forget that little trick.

I'll end this post with a photo Facilites Manager took last Saturday night from our garden. Pretty amazing "thunder moon" over Mt. Hood. Nice birthday present from the Universe for my guy.

And that wraps up a quick and dirty tour of the shade garden. There are so many other plants in there, perhaps I'll do a follow-up post another day. It's a pleasure to document what is going on at any particular time or place in the garden, it serves as a visual record that I can return to again and again if needed. In the process, I hope you have enjoyed some of my favorites.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, I love hearing from you and to know what's going on in your world. Until next time, happy gardening!


  1. Ah, the dear, wonderful shade garden. I am pledging the re-built oak bench to be sited in our lovely garden. With TP in her observation tower and myself on the bench, we can enjoy the hot afternoons of summer and watch as the sun sets to the west. We are pro-shade here at Chickadee!

    1. Wow Facilities Manager, really? A bench? Bring it on!

  2. Beautiful and interesting post. I live in central Florida, and am fascinated by how many plants you have that I've never heard of. I love seeing and learning about them. And no squinting was required to see how lovely your garden is. :)

    1. Thank you Floral City Gardner for reading and for your comments! I appreciate the kind words!

  3. I'm betting in a few years you'll have A LOT of free Astrantia seedlings :-)

    1. Oooh, do you promise, oh He Who Grows Astrantia (and grasses) to Perfection? I hope so! :)

  4. As usual, your garden doesn't disappoint. I'm still struggling with the dry shade in my own garden and have concluded that I need to do more to build up my sandy soil before I can expect more of the space. I love your Corydalis but, sadly, they don't much like it here. That moon and mountain shot is wonderful.

    1. Dry shade is a bitch! do epimediums do for you? There must be some that can handle your zone, I bet. Yes, Corydalis is one of those sweet little easy flowers that just melts in hot weather, darn it. The moon shot - It was amazing watching it. The moon came up literally behind the mountain and it looked like the mountain was giving birth. Wow!

  5. I do love my bright sunny front garden, however after a few hours out there it is lovely to retreat to the shady corner for a bit -- so I understand your sentiments perfectly. How wonderfully this area is settling in, so many wonderful plants thrive in the shade and you're taking great advantage of them.

    1. Yes, you know me, Loree - I too LOOOVE the sun but after working 2 acres for several hours I've learned the rewards of gardening in shade. Now if I can get FM to build me that bench so I can sit in it....

  6. Wow, it's changed so much since we were all out there! I think my soon to be new shade garden is what I'm most looking forward to creating.


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