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A shade garden begins

I have had this 100 sqft area of scrub plants near the gate to the Back Yard ever since I moved in. While the previous owners must have had a plan in the beginning, since there is a rose bush and plantain lilies, it has since become totally overrun. Earlier during Spring I made a half-assed attempt and prettying it up a bit. I tilled up all the scrub grass in front of the area to better contour the bed, and try to build some soil. I then planted a bunch of wildflower, crimson clover, and buckwheat as cover crop.

Now, the ground under all the grassy areas on my property is all compacted clay, so in order to plant anything into it you have to grind it up and add a ton of compost to help get the soil a little active. In this case, I didn't add any compost because I was trying to be a cheap-ass, and I ultimately paid the price. While a few cosmos came up from the wildflower mix, the bulk of the seeds just moldered in the compacted soil.

I also planted a few yellow hostas, and transplanted several liriope that I have everywhere on my property. I was trying to create a little hosta and grass contour to the bed to make the clump of plantain lilies and teacup roses to look more "on purpose." It kind of worked for a few weeks, and then a crap ton of copperleaf and this annoying vine I can't get rid of started to take over the bed, outcompeting the hostas. I weeded a lot this summer, so never really seemed to get ahead in this particular bed.

So, I decided to take care of this bed once and for all. I snagged about 17 cubic yards of top soil, and a bunch of plants from all over my property, and created a more intentional shade garden bed around the clump of roses and plantain lilies. At this point, I think it's impossible to separate the lilies and the roses, so I'll let them have their little clump, and design around them.

The final plant count for this bed was:

  • Hydrangea (2)

  • Monkey Grass (6)

  • Yellow Hostas (3)

  • Hairy Woodrush (6)

  • Crevice Alumroot (3)

  • Spotted Dead Nettle (3)

The cost for this bed was only $25 for the top soil, since all the plants I used were taken from other parts of my property. I'm especially proud of using a volunteer grass species (Hairy Woodrush) to my advantage. It's technically a "weed," but I really liked its color and the way it grew in discrete circular clumps. I thought it made a nice counterpoint to the yellow hostas since they were similar colors but different growing aspects. We'll see if this was a mistake.

I also was happy I found a new home for a couple of hydrangea bushes that have been languishing all season in not great spots. Hopefully, with a little afternoon sunlight, they'll be more successful in this bed.


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