When trees are removed and sun streams in it's time to
make changes in the shady beds below
We have to take down nine old ash trees!
It is so disheartening. We're bewildered. Should we just
switch all our shady gardens to sunny gardens because of this
It is bewildering to make this kind of transition. However, I've
seen it happen other times and know you will get through it. You
may even be pleasantly surprised in some ways.
Don't change anything right away. Many plants we grow in the
shade are only tolerating the low light and will actually grow
better in sun. Others can perform well in sun if given extra
You'll be surprised at the watering. With trees gone that could
each take up a hundred gallons of water per day or more, you may be
able to turn what were relatively dry beds into moist gardens
without any change in irrigation schedule.
Watch and see. Move plants that burn in the sun. Replace them
with sun-loving species that are of similar shape, texture and
bloom time so you can maintain your design. For instance, if
astilbe begins to scorch without the trees' shade, look for a
replacement that is mounded and fine in texture, as astilbe is.
"Fine" means lacy of leaf as opposed to having large, bold leaves.
You might settle on white and pink veronica (Veronica
spicata'Icicle' and "Fox').
Should you give up a hosta, substitute something else low and
mounded with coarse texture (large leaves) such as large-flowered
comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum) or sea kale (Crambe
For perennials or shrubs that don't come right out and burn but
seem to be faltering, yet you really want to keep them: Promise
them you're working on it, plant a new tree nearby and baby them
for a few years until the tree begins to cast a bit of shade.
Position the tree so it blocks the noon to 3 p.m. sun.
Don't plant big trees, trying to speed things up. Plant trees
with trunks no bigger than one inch in diameter. The smaller trees,
which lose less root in the move than larger trees, will take so
rapidly that they will be larger, quicker, than anything you buy
Keep this in mind: At least you will know what's going on. When
the opposite happens -- sunny areas turn into shade -- it's gradual
and people don't recognize the change. Often, they think something
else is wrong with their plants!
Any advice on planting for the perimeter of a house that
is dry and shade? I have gotten four o'clocks to grow from seed but
otherwise there is a line in the garden where the eaves end. 28
There are no magic spells for dry places under eaves. It is, by
the way, the drought rather than the shade that makes it so hard to
I used to try to grow under eaves, too. Eventually I took a step
back, found enlightenment and now I encourage others with this
problem to do the same. That is, take an objective look at the site
from its main viewing locations and ask yourself, "Why do I need to
When seen from the road or the yard, the bare space between
plants and wall isn't visible. Anything growing near the
foundation, even though it stops two feet shy, appears to be
snugged right up to the house. When it is viewed from a porch or
someplace close by, that gap is not an eyesore but is recognizable
as a humane working space for a window washer. Seen from inside --
well, usually, the two feet nearest the wall are invisible to
anyone looking out a window.
If it's the straight edge where growth stops that bothers you,
plant drought tolerant plants here and there just outside the
eaves, things at least three feet in diameter at maturity. In
shrubs that might be blue mist spirea (Caryopteris x
clandonensis) for sun, and for shadier sites dwarf Oregon
grapeholly (Mahonia aquifolium compactum) or dwarf deutzia
(Deutzia 'Nikko'). In perennials, I'd rely on goatsbeard
(Aruncus dioicus) in shade and false indigo (Baptisia
australis) in sun. For groundcovers, you probably can't beat a
colony of big root perennial geranium (Geranium
macrorrhizum) or bishop's hat (Epimedium
Keep these plantings well watered as they establish just beyond
the eaves. They will expand not only toward the open sky but
backward into drier areas, using the water collected by roots
outside the eaves to supply their drier sides. Their bulk will
break up that annoying straight line.
Green thumbs up
to S.C. who has a novel alternative to burlap for keeping
winter sun off broadleaf evergreens. S.C.'s sinking metal pipes
into the ground right now and will later slide the handles of golf-
and beach umbrellas into those pipes to block the sun from the
shrubs and color the winter landscape, too!
Green thumbs down
to putting tender perennial roots into storage if they have any
soft spots or wounds. Already rotting or ripe-for-rotting spots
will only infect other stored items. Throw them out! The dahlia,
canna, caladium or elephant ear you planted in spring has grown or
multiplied ten fold so you can afford to let some go!
Originally published 10/11/03