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Made in the Shade Gardens for Suburban Landscapes

They are the most overlooked and underutilized areas in most suburban landscapes. But, with a bit of imagination and planning, the shady pockets and corners most homeowners ignore-- under trees, in side yards and in the shadow of rooflines and structures -- offer an abundance of design opportunities and fertile ground for winning plant combinations.

Is there a spot in your garden that is tucked away behind a tree or behind a row of shrubs? Imagine it transformed from bare ground to a secret garden filled with shade-loving plants. Add a bench or a small table and chair, and you’ve created a destination for reading or sipping a cup of coffee. Introduce a focal point -- a piece of sculpture or an urn amidst a cluster of ferns and perennials -- and your shade garden becomes a quiet, contemplative place to relax and unwind. Consider a gravel path or stepping stones set in grass or mulch. A path will “tell” your visitors which way to go; it will also beckon them beyond the path and introduce an element of surprise to the landscape.

There are plenty of broadleaf evergreens and foliage plants that will thrive and provide year-round form and structure in a shade garden, from boxwood, to hollies, yew, cherry laurels (upright and shrub form), Acuba, Sweetbox, drooping Leucothoe and flowering rhododendruns and andromeda. Some of the most beautiful flowering shrubs, including numerous types of viburnum and oakleaf hydrangea (which also boasts spectacular fall foliage) also thrive in shade, as do Itea and Fothergilla.

Several beautiful trees do well in the shade. Japanese maples add an elegant, sculptural presence to any shady landscape as well as beautiful foliage and color. One of the best four-season, shade-tolerant, multi-stemmed small trees for the landscape is serviceberry or Amelanchier. This edge-of-woods tree offers dainty white flowers in the spring, fabulous fall foliage, bird-attracting berries in the late fall and beautiful branching structure in the winter. Dogwoods and, redbud trees also do well in dappled shade.

If hosta and fern are the only perennial plants that come to mind when you think of a shade garden, think again! From groundcovers such as sweet woodruff, liriope, Solomon’s seal, lily-of-the-valley and ajuga, to colorful perennials like purple-leafed Heuchera, white or pink bleeding heart, Astilbe, Lady’s Mantle and purple-flowering geraniums, there are numerous shade perennials to choose from. Planted in drifts in the shade of a stand of trees, they make a showy statement. Ferns and hosta, which grow in the deepest shade, offer a striking variety of foliage color and form, from petite, ruffled mounds of variegated leaves to shrub-sized plants with giant foliage. Heuchera ‘Purple Palace,’ Japanese Painted Fern and Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ or ‘Sieboldiana’ offer a winning combination in shades of gray and purple, while the variegated yellow-green Hosta ‘Frances William’ shines alongside Japanese forest grass (Hakenochloa Macra ‘Aurea’).

With many of these shade-tolerant plants and shrubs just beginning to arrive at local nurseries, now is the perfect time to take stock and re-imagine your landscape. The possibilities are endless!

Andrea Kaplan, a New York Botanical Gardens-trained and certified landscape designer and the creative vision behind Hedgerow Landscape Design, has been designing residential landscapes in lower Westchester since 2006. Learn more at: http://hedgerowlandscapedesign.com/ or call her at 914-723-5177

Photo: Hedgerow Landscape Design transformed this forlorn side yard (where an oversized swing set once reigned) into a destination and stop-and-linger transition from front to backyard.

Now in Bloom

A local garden blogger has offered to share excerpts from her site with readers of Scarsdale10583.com. Here is the most current entry on what’s in bloom, from her blog called, Observations on a Half Acre Plot in Westchester…Notes from an Edgemont Garden.
What's In Bloom
Creeping Phlox, Grape Hyacinths, Vinca and some tulips are blooming in the front yard. The tulip selection is pathetic and I won't attempt to plant them again until I've gotten over the frustrations of the last couple of seasons. I spent plenty of money and hours planting rivers of tulips in the front beds only to have them devoured by the otherwise adorable chipmunks. I thought I was clever the following year and ordered en masse from an inexpensive catalog and planted again, this time with a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper from my pantry. Success?

The tulips were not eaten; nor were they as advertised. They emerged pale and puny and not even the colors I ordered. A couple of these little insults are up now.

Dogwood, Redbud, several azalea varieties, Virginia Bluebells, Bleeding Hearts and Trout Lilies are in full bloom out back. Lily-of-the-Valley and 'false' Lily-of-the Valley, and the bugleweed are emerging.

If you have photos of what’s blooming in your garden, please email them to scarsdalecomments@gmail.com to share. Or, if you have questions about your garden, post them below, and we’ll see if we can get you the answers.

Read more at: http://edgemontgarden.blogspot.com/

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