Our gardens take a rest in winter but our brains grow on. Winter's the time to review what worked and what didn't, what to expect back next year and what holes there will be to fill.
There is no statute of limitations on the review. Sooner is best, while memories are clearer, but it's never too late to think back. At worst, we laugh at ourselves and move on, avoiding any repeat of that mistake. At best we pat ourselves on the backs and do our best to recreate the glory.
Poet gardener Frank Harney posed us a puzzle that's been bugging him for years. Here's the situation, our reply in summary and details in Essential shade.
The most thoroughly researched, meticulously measured, designed, executed plan since the Pyramids.... and it FAILED!!!
Roughly 12' x 20', full shade, thus the research, plants chosen for their shade tolerance, hardiness, beauty, all to no avail.
Its own sprinkler system, half inch black plastic with punch-in nozzles, one for each plant, hah! That Norway maple must've been a regular sponge. Couldn't keep enough water on the area to keep it damp.
Three different types of ferns, bell flowers, bleeding hearts and other varieties I no longer remember. ALL GONE!!
I still have the bird bath, the red and buff blocks (now a patio and part of my walk to the garage). I still had one bleeding heart until I saw that my daughter had discarded the wire cage and plastic ring that marked the spot after it had gone dormant, and planted a lavender. I'll wait til spring to see which one prevails. Oh yes, primulas, or primroses, whatever. Some of
those made it. I gave away the last of them
last year when I was "cleaning up." - Frank -
(Acer platanoides). They are vicious competitors on three counts:
We'll summarize here, the report the nitty gritty on three other pages, to help you see more angles for meeting this challenge.
Some trees are more ruthless than others in what they take from a bed. How much root tip they grow, and where, come into play.
The fine branches concentrated at the end of a root are the tree's primary water collectors. Some trees' roots are especially good at producing these tips.
Over time, a tree's main roots become thick and woody and in most species these older segments quit producing side branches (tips) and no longer absorb much water through their own outer surfaces. They simply transport what their far-end tips collect.
Norway maple is an exception. So is another invasive Eurasian species, the buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).
Okay, enough detail where we meant to simply summarize!
Last word of summary: Never expect a shade bed to look like a sun garden. In the woods under maples there is less diversity than in a garden. Only a half dozen species may be there, but each will be thriving and covering large areas. Scattered about will be what appear to be bare spaces, but these are actually fully occupied by tree parts below or especially dense foliage above. That space is already at carrying capacity, so fill those necessary voids as below, with paths, stone, artsy fallen logs, a bigger bird bath, etc.