Planting in dry shade is one of the more challenging growing
environments a gardener will encounter. Here in Toronto we
have plenty of gardens dominated by maple trees whose shallow
roots and sometimes heavy leaf canopy rob the ground level
of water, nutrients and sunlight. Forested ravines are also
prevalent and the sloping landscape, even if leaf and humus
covered, tends to be very dry.
Here are some techniques Personal Gardens employs to deal
with such situations.
1. Be realistic!
Under heavy maples many so-called “shade” perennials
won’t tolerate the low light levels … others
need consistently moist soil … the palette of available
plants is vastly reduced so be careful and conservative with
your choices. Choose for leaf not bloom!
2. Job number 1: get the ground covered!
If dry shady areas can be lushly covered with patterns of
foliage this is often enough.
modification: Planting small trees, shrubs or even perennials
into in-ground containers covered with mulch means you’ll
gain a couple of seasons growth with reduced root competition
although you may need to root prune later. Understand that if
you modify or add enriched soil ontop of existing grade maple
roots will soon grow throughout this area, often within one season!
4. Plant choice – some plants we’ve
had success with include Barrenwort, Violets, Hosta, Lamium,
shrub Euonymus, vine Euonymus, shade vines (i.e.Virginia
Creeper), Ostrich Fern, Kerria, Yew etc.
gardeners are principally concerned with what they put into
their garden. Sometimes a better approach is to carefully
consider first what visual elements you’d like to remove
and how you might do it. If you frame a garden properly,
reducing visual clutter, the garden itself will always look
better and the “garden feeling” will be stronger.
1. Is the garden intended
to be viewed from one principal view point (a viewing garden)
or is it intended to be seen from multiple points of view
(a stroll garden?)
2. Are there views beyond the property lines that need to
3. Are there long horizontal fence lines or vertical building
lines that need to be “broken” or softened?