Archive for shade plants

Tips for Planting Under Mature Trees

Planting Under Mature Trees in Portland Landscapes

Flowering Tree with plantings underneath

Fatsia Japonica, Beesia and Hosta thrive under Japanese Snowbell Tree in NE Portland.

A designer pal of mine asked for some help with selecting plants to grow under large mature trees.  Here is what I have learned over many years.  Also a thank you to Bruce Hegna (Nature Nurture Landscape Design) for his contributions to the list and Stacey Stewart, Eden’s Gate Garden Design.

 

Carol’s rules for planting under big trees

  1. Do no harm to your big trees roots.  Please don’t chop into them, bury them with additional soil or treat suckers with herbicides. They may see you coming but they cannot run away.
  2. Plants competing with mature tree roots will grow very slowly. Two or three times as slow as plants who do not have tree root competition.  Patience is a requirement.
  3. Up close to the tree trunk where there are so many large woody roots is the hardest place to plant with success.   Also, the size of root ball for your new plants will need to be smaller close in to the trunk so you don’t damage your trees roots. And yet….see #4
  4. A larger sized plant will establish with a higher percentage of success than the tiny sized plants. (Which isn’t fair but I did not make up these rules, nature did)
  5. When you discover a root where you want to put a plant try splitting the root ball of your new plant so the new plant is straddling the root. This can work surprisingly well in fall and winter, but not in the heat of July.
Lush plantings under mature trees in Portland Landscape Design

Plants thrive with morning sun only in hillside garden in NW Portland’s Willamette Heights neighborhood.

Plants to grow under mature trees

Morning sun and afternoon shade under deciduous trees

Under 3’ tall plants:  Sword Fern,-Polystichum munitum, Bishops Hat-Epimendium ‘Sulpereum’ ‘Frohnleiten’,  Hardy Geranium-Geranium Macrhorhizum,Creeping Oregon Grape-Mahonia repens, Hellebore, Hosta

Taller shrubs:  Osmanthus, Japanese Aralia-Fatsia, Huckleberry- Vaccinium ovatum

Understory trees:  Variegated Red Twig Dogwood Shrub- Cornus S. ‘Hedgerows Golden, ‘Vine Maple-Acer circinatum, Rhamnus Variegata, (Variegated Italian Buckthorn) Azara microphylla, Russian Olive. Eleagnus ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’

Woman with Sequoia Tree

Carol Lindsay communing with a grove of Sequoia trees – nothing grows here.

Deep shade is the most difficult.  It’s much easier to grow plants with some dappled light coming through deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the fall). Here is a deep shade landscape of mine in Portland.

Naturescape Portland Oregon Native Plants

Evergreen Huckleberry used as a screen in SW Portland.

Huckleberry used as drought tolerant planting under mature tree in Portland.

Huckleberry Hedge at the edge of a shade garden in NW Portland.

Plants to grow under limbed up fir trees

These plants are getting direct sun for part of the day

Plants Under 3’ Tall:

Mahonia repens (needs some shade), Sword Fern, Tellima grandiflora, (Fringe Cup), Ceanothus t. ‘Kurt Zadnik”, groundcover California Lilac, Abelia ‘Rose Creek’, cold hardy Hebe, a variety of hardy geranium groundcovers like Geranium x cantabriginense and more.

Taller plants:  Corylus cornuta, (native hazelnut),  Holodiscus discolor, (Ocean Spray), Vaccinium ovatum, (Native Huckleberry) Acer Circinatum, (Vine Maple and please be sure you have room for the Vine Maple to 10’ wide and more)  Azara microphyllya, (Box leaf Azara Chinchin) Mahonia (Tall Oregon Grape).

Most of these plants are drought tolerant or low water but you will be watering them carefully, not too much or too often but regular water is a must under such difficult conditions. After many years most of these plants will require less frequent watering.

Hardscape design Sellwood Moreland Garden Design in Portland

Freshly installed Landscape Design in a Day. Emily says, “Carol got my desire for simplicity and my style both with the plant material and the hardscapes.”

After care for plants growing under mature trees

  1. Drip irrigation-you will need to water the new plants so they actually get some of the water.  This means a long slow watering practice such as what you can achieve with drip irrigation.
  2. Top dress with a mulch rather than push the plants with fertilizers. Add mulch around the new plants twice a year or at least once unless they are a plant like California lilac or Manzanita, (they do not tolerate any fertilizer or rich mulch).
  3. I’ve had great success with dressing just the crowns of the plants with tiny crushed rock such as quarter ten crushed rock. Plants that had not grown in years had a growth spurt when I started adding crushed rock around the plant.  (Great tip from Maurice Horn—Joy Creek Nursery.)

There is still some trial and error but I hope you will be inspired to try underplanting your big trees.  You can have successful, healthy and attractive plants under and near many kinds of large mature trees.

We love  to create designs that work with your mature trees.  Contact us and tell us all about what you want in your landscape—503-223-2426 or use our contact page on our web site.

 

Garden Remodel in a Rose City Park’s Craftsman Home

Garden Remodel in a Rose City Park’s Craftsman Home

Entry to private patio garden in Rose City Park neighborhood, Portland, OregonKay hired me to design her garden remodel in the Rose City Park Neighborhood after she had a seismic upgrade done to the foundation of her old Portland craftsman home. The construction process destroyed much of her existing garden.

She decided this was an opportunity to make her garden the best garden of her life.

Designers site assessment

The house sits on a corner lot and the primary garden space is in the side yard. The patio and sitting area worked beautifully as is; patio tucked into a corner with close access to the back porch and kitchen. There were wonderful plants to work with but the proportions of the fenced side yard created a bowling alley feel. This was the opportunity to make a significant change.

Her side yard was a fenced in area 50 feet long and 15 feet wide with the patio on one end and a narrow strip of lawn in the middle.

Before Landscape Design in a Day side yard Rose City Park neighborhood, Portland, OregonMoving her fence and gate and incorporating some of the space into the front yard to create a more intimate space fixed 90% of the problems. Now her private patio garden was 15′ wide by 25’ long instead of 50’ long.

This was a huge improvement for experiencing the garden from the patio. It feels good to walk through the garden, pause and enjoy the journey to the patio.

We widened the planting area opposite her large dining room windows so we could layer multi season plantings for a year-round view and more drama.

Kay’s existing plants

We did an edit of her existing plantings, hanging the pink ribbon of death on a few plants and relocating others. Experimenting with plant material is what being a gardener is all about. Plantings get overgrown and crowded very easily when you’re having fun. Kay is a gardener, loves color and a cottage style to go with her craftsman era home.

Hypericum f. uniflorum 'Citrinum' for Rose City Park neighborhood garden, Portland, OregonHere are some of the fun plants Kay had in her garden that we kept. Several collector  varieties of Hellebore, Euphorbia x m. ‘Tiny Tim‘, Actaea simplex ‘Carbonella’ (purple leafed snakeroot), Hypericum x ‘Citrinne’, the “new” St John’s wort shrubs that are so wonderful for flower arranging,  Tricyrtis, toad lily, an exquisite fall flowering lily with multiple flowers on each stem, Eryngium, a variety of Sea Holly with its wonderful fall silver and blue toned flowers, many unusual varieties of hosta, a multi stem mature vine maple and various sword fern.

Kay’s New Plants

Here’s a list of some plants we added:  Maidenhair ferns, saxifrage ground cover, and native bleeding heart were planted en masse to help blend different planting areas together to give the garden a cohesive look.  Chinese camellia ”Yuletide’ was selected for its cherry red winter flowers, Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ for fragrance in summer and chartreuse Japanese forest grass, Coral bell ‘Lime Marmalade’, Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ were added for color contrasts.  Leptinella verdigris, a brass buttons ground cover was added to existing flagstone area to cover bare soil and since this plant is a very strong spreader, (warning), use appropriately.  The hot pink flowered Salvia ‘UC Pink’, which flowers all summer and into late fall was a replacement. Kay had lost one in the seismic construction and we found the perfect spot for a new one.

Entry garden design in Rose City Park neighborhood, Portland, OregonProportions Matter

Here’s what we did to improve the proportions of her garden room. We changed the straight lawn shape from a line to a curve. We removed 25 feet of fence and set the entry gate closer to the patio. Losing the long narrow shape completely changed from a bowling alley feel to an intimate and integrated garden experience. As much as we all love plants, plants alone cannot give us the impact that changing the space does.

We used my  collaborative Landscape Design in a Day process to create the re-design together.  Kay hired help to move the bigger plants but did most of the garden plantings herself.  She used my plant broker to get some of her plants.  The attractive fence was designed and built by Creative Fences and Decks.

Let’s remodel your garden together.  Contact me, https://landscape-design-in-a-day.com/contact/

 

 

Designers List of Shade Plants for Root Weevil Resistance

NE Portland Hostas with Root Weevil Damage

Root weevil damage distracts from an otherwise beautiful collection of shade loving plants.  

Designers List of Shade Plants for Root Weevil Resistance

Root weevil disfigure so many shade garden plants and can make a garden look ravaged. It’s disappointing to see hosta and other plant leaves looking all chewed up. Can we design a shade garden with beauty and style without using root weevil favorite snack plants?

“Well HELL that’s not much of a shade garden” is what I said after eliminating plants root weevil like to eat. I was disappointed in the tiny number of plants that would work and wandered off to write about something different, something a bit cheerier!!!! However, I’ve been thinking about it and yes, we have some great plants we can use. 

Evergreen Shrubs  

Fatsia japonica Spider's Web in SE Portland Residential Landscape Design

Sometimes choosing an interesting variegated leaf, such as this Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ can hide the notching caused by Root Weevil (look close!)

Aucuba, Daphne and Fatsia are not root weevil favorites and if you select the variegated forms the notching doesn’t show as much. To be specific, Daphne odora ‘Marginata’,  Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’, and Aucuba japonica ‘ Gold Dust’ are varieties that I recommend.

I have never seen much leaf damage on our Native Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) probably because the leaves are so tiny.  It doesn’t show which is what we are after.

Three Root Weevil Resistant Rhododendron for Part Shade 

Grant Park Garden Design Rhododendron with Root Weevil resistance

The fuzziness on the bottom of the leaves on some Rhododendrons reduce Root Weevil damage.

I’ve found  lists of root weevil resistant rhododendron less than helpful since most Rhododendron listed are sun lovers. Root weevil prefer part shade to shade loving plants.

Rhododendron ‘Clipiense’ is my best weevil resistant compact rhododendron for shadier situations. This rhody has fine hairs on the leaves so root weevil rarely bother it. It’s a slower growing variety and can take more shade than the other two I have listed but not deep shade.  Any rhododendron with a hairy or fuzzy leaf will be root weevil resistant.  Many of the hairier leafed plants are sun lovers but not all.

Rhododendron ‘Sappho’ is a tall white flowered w burgandy splotched flower.  Sappho does well in morning sun, dapples and afternoon shade.  

Rhododendron ‘Blue Diamond’ can take full sun but does well in full am sun and afternoon shade. It can get taller than wide.

Perennials   

NW Portland Sword Fern and Hardy Geranium in Residential Landscape Design

Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) and Hardy Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) do not show Root Weevil damage.

Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)  has a fuzzy frond (leaf) and root weevil don’t eat fuzzy leaves typically. Most fuzzy fronded ferns will be root weevil resistant and are an important player in a root weevil free planting. 

Hellebore argutifolius is perfect for NW Portland Landscape Designs

Helleborus argutifolius photo credit: Great Plant Picks

Hellebores are typically safe from weevil once they are mature plants. When the soft and munchable new leaves unfurl in February the root weevil have not hatched yet (here in Portland) so are not present until late April or May. The harder leafed hellebores like Helleborus argutifolius seem particularly impervious. 

Groundcover Plants   

Oregon Oxalis (Oxalis oregana) doesn’t seem to get a lot of weevil attention in my gardens and it is fun to add to salads. Same with our native piggy back plant Tolmiea menziesii. It has hairy leaves and is great for shade. For Saxifraga varieties, use the hairy leaved varieties for weevil resistance, the smoother ones are on the weevil munch list. Hardy geranium varieties that smell like cedar and have a fuzzy leaf are 100% weevil resistant – Geranium macrorrhizum for deep to moderate shade and Geranium x cantabrigiense for part sun areas. Another good bet is Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)

Last but not least, Euphorbia Rob’s spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae) is a tough evergreen ground covering shade plant. I consider it a thug but it’s great to use in gardens where I have a path that doubles as barrier to their creeping roots. This plants roots must be contained or it will march right over your hostas. I’ve never seen any root weevil damage on this plant.

 Know Thy Enemy?   

Root Weevil have no natural predator here in the Pacific Northwest so it’s rare to find a shade garden without them.  We can cut the population of root weevil down to tolerable numbers and thus get our beautiful shade garden back. Read my blog “Attack of the Root Weevils”  to learn what can be done to reduce their population in your garden.