Darlings of the Shade Garden

Shaded Memories

Recently it dawned on me that, without even meaning to, we’ve turned our shade garden into a kind of memorial garden:

A bench built by my father, a tiki carved by Chris’s brother . . .

garden with bench

and small statues to remember two departed pets.

Pet statues

Easy Care

The shade garden is wonderfully low maintenance.  Except for trimming back some ragged fern leaves in March, I haven’t yet done any pruning or spring cleaning in there.

Fern with new fronds emerging

But even in its unkempt state, it’s beautiful right now.

shade garden with robin

 Watchmen in the Garden

The garden is protected by two sentries:  The wooden statue that Chris’s brother, Mike, carved years ago.


and the tough little guy I call “the Grumpy Monk.”

Small monk statue

Beautiful Invasives

But even the watchmen can’t keep the beautiful invasives out of the garden.  And I would have mixed feelings about banishing them anyway.

The Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthiodes hispanica) are everywhere in the shade garden.  At one point they were taking over almost all of our planting beds but they have been mostly removed.

They still dominate the shade garden because removing them would be impossible without harming the other plants.

Still, they are blooming now and they look so pretty.

Spanish bluebells
Spanish bluebells sometimes bloom in white or lavender instead of blue.

After they finish blooming, the leaves are ugly and mushy.  But luckily by then they will be grown over with another invasive . . .

Geranium macrorrhizum.  While it is not listed as an invasive in my plant encyclopedia, in my garden this hardy geranium seeds readily and tends to pop up all over the place.

Still it has many merits: it is a great, easy-care perennial ground cover for shade, it seems to keep weeds at bay, the bees love it, the slugs don’t, and the blossoms are pretty.

Geranium macrorrhizum
Geranium macrorrhizum

Other Darlings

In this shade garden, the real estate is shared.  The cyclamen coum that was blooming in winter has mostly gone dormant and been covered by the plants that have emerged in spring.

Pacific Trillium (T. ovatum) is a perennial native to the Pacific Northwest.  I have a few of these subtle beauties in my shade garden.

Pacific Trillium

As they continue to lose their natural habitats, gardeners can help keep these native plants thriving right in their own gardens.

Giant Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum var. communtatum) is a fun, dramatic shade plant that reaches up to four feet tall when blooming. To me, it looks a bit prehistoric.

solomon seal
Giant Solomon’s seal

I have not been able to identify the species of Epimedium growing in the shade garden.  The leaves are smaller and the plant more delicate than the species I talked about in my April plant pick.  It’s such a fresh-looking shade of green.


All of these plants are currently thriving in my shade garden, USDA zone 8a.

You may be thinking, “It’s a shade garden – where are the hostas?”  Those are planted in containers (in a semi-successful effort to protect them from slugs) and they will be making their appearances soon.

Let’s Sit a While

Looking at the bench my father built, I got discouraged.  There were invasive bluebells blooming behind it, weeds springing up under it, and a red-leaf hazelnut tree over it in desperate need of pruning.

Then I realized I had just the right quick fix:  I could tie together the colors of the weeds, invasives, and run-away tree with a fabric remnant I had in my sewing room.  If you can’t beat them, join them.  And so I made a bench pillow.

pillow and bench

This will have to do for now.  But the pillow has motivated me.  Maybe this will be the year that I finally get to planting some pretty annuals around the bench.  Just maybe.

Shade garden

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