The Shade Garden

Ah, the shade garden. Grace, a fellow garden blogger mentioned the other day she has not seen pictures of the shade garden. It's one of those things that is dear to my heart but not really show-worthy. Yet. Parts are getting there but I think because it's mainly at the base of many Dogulas firs Pseudotsuga menziesii, it has dry-ish soil and so has taken longer to really get going. Despite it not being a showpiece or mature, I'm showing it all the same in bits. I hope to do more shade garden posts in the future as it fills in. For now, here's a glimpse at the northern edge of our property.

In the center is Podophyllum pleianthum, mayapple. Ferns are coming up all around, as are hostas.

A tapestry of colonizing plants, which was my original vision for the shade garden. To be honest, this is one of the first areas in the shade garden I planted so has had time to fill in. Many other areas are still quite young with dotted plants here and there awaiting their colonization phase.

Saxifraga hirsuta, started from a small cutting, has formed a little colony. A very sweet moisture-loving saxifrage.

An unknown Polygonatum given to me at a blogger's swap a few years ago. It's quite tall and stands at the back of the garden.

Geranium macrorrhizum, big-root hardy geranium is such a great problem solver. It handles dry shade under trees, is mostly evergreen, the foliage is spicy scented and it forms behaved colonies in time. I have this lot between to Douglas fir trees and another at the base of an Acer macrophyllum.

More than in any other part of the garden, the shade garden lends itself to having a mash up of differing leaf shapes and textures, just letting them spill on top of one another.

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Patterson' in dappled shade. This is such a hardy pittosporum for me, I bought it years ago from Cistus and it just hangs in there, despite having gone through multiple freezes. Its creamy foliage illuminates the shade garden.

Oxalis oregana and Podophyllum pleianthum - again, the carpeted forest floor effect is what I'm after up here.

Bronze new foliage of some fern or another. I am terrible with fern names, they are quite difficult for me to keep track of. It's pretty, though, and happy.

Cardamine trifolia, an evergreen very little plant at the edge of a path.

Dicentra formosa 'Langtrees', a variation on our native pink version. I prefer the white, personally. A polite seeder, it fills in gaps while waiting for shrubs to grow (Vaccinium ovatum, that's you).

Heuchera 'Sashay' has purple undersides to the leaves and this one has not been attacked by root weevil, something many of the more ornamental heucheras are prone to. This is actually a good plant for some sun, but I have it at the edge of a shady bed and it does quite well.

The gravel path through the garden ends and moss takes over in the distance. I am currently encouraging the moss to grow by pulling weeds regularly and keeping it free of debris. It will take a few more years to fill in and smother weeds but it's on its way. Hosta 'Guacamole' seems to be moving into the path. did that happen?

The ever-evolving little piles of weeds along the mossy path. Well, everywhere in the garden, actually. FM is a champion at finding these and hauling them away.

My green man mask tucked away in a mossy spot on the north side of an old Acer macrophyllum. I'm hoping the moss spreads to cover him. I got him at work from a local company H and I Stonecasting - they acquired the antique molds from a gentleman who has retired. 

Epimedium warlyense

Cyrtomium falcatum, Japanese holly fern. When that new foliage in the center gets going, this is a spectacular fern. It took a couple of years to look good, so have patience.

Beesia deltophylla, a slow-growing evergreen clump of shiny goodness with spikes of white flowers in spring.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' among friends. This is FM's favorite plant. We named one of our hens after her.

Pachyphragma macrophilla, a hitch-hiker from another plant. I have let it form a small colony and so far it has behaved beautifully. I must say it is the very first thing to bloom in late winter, so for that reason alone it stays.

Sword ferns, Polystichum munitum and Galium odoratum or sweet woodruff down the path a couple hundred feet. This area is also being planted, but there's so much of it that it will take a few years. For now I'm maintaining clear paths and weeding regularly. That's my strategy. Just don't let the weeds go to seed, keep planting and wait.

A sea of plants that will shift over time. There is a Sarcococca ruscifolia in there, so that will rise above the others one day. 

Last but not least, Garden Buddy #1, The Hobbes, waiting patiently to join us in the garden.

His sidekick, Garden Buddy #2, Annie waiting to do the same and follow The Hobbes like a little sister does. They both enjoy the shade garden and come for walks with us every evening but they have to wait forever for our escort. Thus, the sad "I'm so tortured" look. I'm not buying it and you shouldn't either.

The shade garden is where I want to be during the hot days of August, just happily weeding and watering. It's a respite, a cool, soothing place to slow down. It's a little like a woodland you might find on a walk in the many forests of the Pacific Northwest and that's by design. It has taught me patience, I must admit, for at first I was full speed ahead with its planning and planting but it has other ideas. It wants to go on a rather slow, leisurely pace. That's ok, nature is in charge as it should be.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and commenting, we love hearing from the world!


  1. What a beautiful post, Tamara. Not only the photos but your lovely prose as well. Your shade garden is beautiful and I can so relate to everything you said. It is our respite during the heat of summer and a magical world all its own. I too am terrible with fern names but they sure add the right punctuation points, don't they? Two plants new to me are your Saxifraga hirsuta and this shade loving Pittosporum. I'll have to keep my eyes open for them at some point, if I ever go plant shopping again. :) Thank you for sharing and for the shout out.

    1. The Saxifraga is a sweet little one and has done well for me...the Pittosporum,'s great. I'll keep my eyes peeled for one or you can have cuttings of mine. You WILL go shopping again, we will all go shopping for plants soon! Let us all cross our collective fingers!

  2. Oh, Tamara, I love this post so much. I've been having so much trouble getting inspired in the garden--and all this beauty est très excitant. (Had to look up exciting. High School French is failing me.) Je t'adore, little Chickadee.

    1. Thank you Patricia, you are so sweet. I'm glad that it did some good for you, I wish I could have you over in person to have a glass of something and walk around and wax poetic about plants. Soon.

  3. I imagine photographing this area is challenging, the light making harsh shadows...but you did a wonderful job! The beauty is evident, lucky kitties getting to explore.

    1. You are so right, it always kind of sucks trying to photograph the shade garden. But thank you! If I try enough maybe one or two good ones come out of it.

  4. Your shade garden is filling in nicely! I admit I'm quite envious of your lush patches of Oxalis oregana. My various selections have been rather slow to fill in. It's such a fantastic carpeting plant. Shade gardens are my favorite. I love the sheltered feeling under the trees and playing with different foliage textures and shades of green.

    1. Parts of it are finally filling in, it's taken a while. You are welcome to some Oxalis clumps if you want. I love the feeling too, the shades of green, the textures and leaf shapes...a more subtle kind of garden, the shade one is.

  5. You've managed to build a lot of diversity into your planting scheme but have integrated the elements beautifully. A "carpeted woodland" is my dream garden but not especially well-suited to SoCal. My old garden, shaded by condos and townhouses on all sides, was shady but there's little of that to be found in my current garden despite the number of trees we have. Hence, my husband's construction of my lath house.

    BTW, the Callistemon viridiflorus you found for me just produced its first flower! I featured it at the tail end of my last post regarding my back slope. Thanks again Tamara!

    1. A carpeted sound so romantic and we all know what that means in our mind's eye. I guess SoCal is not exactly woodland-ish, true. Lath houses are even better, though! Say, glad to hear about the Callistemon, thanks for the shout out, great post! (everyone should go check out Late to the Garden Party's blog! Fabulous!!).

  6. I think it is beautiful and not sparse at all. It looks very filled in with a wonderful variety of plants and textures. It looks like a very peaceful and serene place to walk or sit. I find the greens and textures of shade gardens to be very calming and restful.

    1. Ah, thank you Cindy! I guess I edited out the "sparce bits"...hee hee.

      Textures are my favorite and it is a serene place to walk. My favorite and the Husband's favorite, too. Thank you for your comments and for reading. Happy gardening!

  7. Your shade garden is incredible. I am so glad you posted about it. I have a lot of shade to contend with and it seems that I find it difficult to find plants that work well here. Maybe some of these will be good for my area. I will check out some of them. Cheers.

  8. P.S. I also like seeing your sweet kitties. They do look anxious to get outside with you.


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