Planting in "Woods" Like Setting

About half of our new yard is under tall elm and oak trees. Although the previous owner was fighting to keep grass growing under there we are thinking of going with more natural plants and bushes.
I know azaleas and rhododendron grow naturally in the woods, any other suggestions (we live in Zone 7)?
TIA, Dawn
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I would also add perennials and groundcover to the mix if you want it to look right. I would put in some spring flowering bulbs, hostas and other shade tolerant perennials To brighten the area, think of variegated foliage and chartreuse foliage. The biggest problem I find gardening in a wooded area is that the soil is often shallow and filled with roots. There can be a lot of competition for water. Dry shade is one of the more challenging gardening conditions. I think you have the right idea. Grass will never be satisfactory in a wooded area.
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The greater majority of rhodies are "part sun" rather than shade shrubs, but with many exceptions. Some evergreen azaleas bloom excellently in shade, others never will bloom if not exposed to a good long dose of direct sunlight every day. One common offering "Purple Splendor" (a R. yedoense hybrid) seems to bloom equally well in sun or dappled shade. Any R. yedoense, or R. yedoense var poukhahense related shrub, seems to be quite floriferous in shade. The PJM series blooms well in a degree of shade, though full morning sun or two-thirds sun it probably likes better, but any slightly sunnier spot of a wooded substory garden would be a great spot for a PJM.
Several large evergreen rhododendrons also bloom quite well in shade, especially the wild R. macrophyllum.
But a great many of the dwarf evergreen rhodies & azaleas are really mostly-sun shrubs, & won't bloom worth a damn in the shade, so you have to select carefully. If you get Greer's guide to available rhododendron species, there's a chart in the back which says which are very sun-tolerant, which are moderately sun-tolerant, & which are least sun-tolerant. The many "least" sun-tolerant varieties are all good bloomers as substory shrubs. Those which are "moderately" sun-tolerant include some I've planted in shadier spots & ended up having to move them to sunnier locations before they would get more than a half-dozen blooms on them.
The majority of hydrangea shrubs prefer dappled shade to bloom their hearts out. I like best the lacecap varieties as big snowball doubles are tacky. But oakleaf hydrangea has an enormous conical white flower that I very much like.
Flowering currants (Ribes sanguineum) prefer a protected semi-shady spot, & there's a golden-leafed variety that would really suffer in much sunlight. But the more fruitful Ribes rubrum wouldn't like as much shade.
Several vacciniums, such as evergreen huckleberries, are mainly substory shrubs. Some viburnums, in particular highbush cranberries, get nice lacecap flowers even in a good portion of shade. Summersweet (Clethra) gets bottlebrush flowers & prefers a moist spot under trees. Another bottlebrush bloomer is Fothergilla, blooms well in partial shade, but has way better autumn leaf color if planted in sun. Witchhazels bloom pretty well (in winter yet) in half-shade, but with too much shade it stops blooming & probably prefers a sunnier spot with just a little protection.
Aucuba does splendidly in deeper shade. The flowers are inconsequential, but if you have room for three or four aucubas & are sure to have one male in the grouping, they'll produce enormous red berries. They won't fruit without a male nearby, but even then, they have remarkably colorful (variegated) leaves.
Camelia sasanqua (a climbing or creeping camellia) blooms in autumn or winter depending on cultivar, & prefer the shade.
Oregon grapes do well in half shade or a bit more shade than that, with yellow late-winter or early spring blooms followed by fruit tasty enough it's hard to beat the birds to them. They even do well in quite dry shade, so might be good choices for areas beyond where water hoses easily reach. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia) blooms well in shade, as do Pieris, & Leucothoe. Japanese spirea (S. bulmalda) doesn't bloom QUITE as well in shade as in sun, but still flowers pretty darned well. Some of these which here in the Pacific Northwest need not TOO deep a shade would actually need more shade if grown inland or little bit further south.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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On 4 Aug 2004 08:40:58 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Dawn) wrote:

I planted pachysandra several years ago in the woods. It did nothing, despite mulching, fertilizing, and weeding it. This year I cleared off some large branches and now it is taking off. Lilly of the Valley is doubling in size every year. I have several varieties of ferns growing and just planted sweet woodruff two weeks ago which is growing fast. English ivy is doing reasonably well. Honey suckle is growing in the wooded area, and I keep pulling it out. I think azalea needs part sun to grow and bloom, although there are varieties that grow well in shade. I'd like to try growing ginger, as I know wild ginger grows in natural wooded areas around here.. E. TN, zone 7.
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Wow what to add to Phisherman??
Japanese Maple, perhaps a few periwinkles along with Hosta big and small. Elegant and Northern Exposure come to mind regarding the larger. hosta. Buy one and divide if you got the time.
One other item ...Hamamelis 'Primavera' aka Witch Hazel.
Have Fun
William(Bill)
William(Bill)
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Zone 5 S Jersey USA Shade Earth sometimes.
There is atleast one word misspelled deliberately in the above post. ;))
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I highly recommend that you find and buy the book "Complete Shade Gardener". Author's name is George Schenk, unsure of spelling of last name. Amazing book - loaded with plant ideas, and excellent descriptions of those plants.

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I'll have to second this. Someone [Doug?] mentioned that book a month or so ago. My copy [along with an 'amazon companion' book Taylor's 50 Best Perennials for Shade] arrived last week. [oddly enough neither book now shows up at amazon-- but bookfinder.com has lots of new and used copies-- search for schenk, george, he's got lots more books there]
I've just skimmed through both & have begun reading Schenk's. [though Taylor's has 50 good ideas & excellent color photos]
If I had to complain about Schenk's on first glance, it would be for his lack of color photos. [there are some in my 1991 edition, but not many] But there is a *wealth* of info on choosing and caring for shade plants [vegetables, berries, ornamentals. . .ferns, etc] laid out in an easy to follow format & written in an almost chatty, but detailed fashion.
Sources are listed & there is a good index.
Schenk is from the pacific northwest of the USA and New Zealand. He also has 15-20 gardeners from various spots in the US that contribute, so there's some specifics for anyone in the US & he has a grasp of some NZ techniques & plants.
Jim
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Ridge. Flourishing around the edge of the woods are sweet woodruff, azaleas, Asarum canadense (native wild ginger), lilies of the valley, hellebores, hostas, pulmonaria. Not flourishing, but struggling valiantly to get established, is Mitchella repens (partridgeberry). Nice closer in to the house is Sarcococca hookeriana (sweet box). There also stands of Starry false Solomon's seal and wild geranium (brief but lovely, in spring) not wiped out by the aggressive spread of honeysuckle and garlic mustard, and plenty of sassafras, which I encourage for the leaves in the fall.
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Dawn: I, too, am in Zone 7 -- 7b to be more precise. Under my mixed oaks and pines, I have azaleas, winter daphne, a tiny Japanese maple (it's out hear the western edge of the drip-line of the larger trees), lenten roses, foam flower (tiarella cordifolia), green-and-gold, hostas, several varieties of ferns, etc., etc.
If it's a possibility, you should try to visit Juniper Level Botanic Gardens <www.plantdelights.com>, the home of Plant Delights Nursery. While Plant Delights has many tempting plants for sale, I'm recommending visiting because of the extensive shade gardens, and it's here in Z7. Looking at what they have done would be a great inspiration for you!
Dawn wrote:

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Thank you so much everyone!
I hadn't even thought of Hostas and they are one of my favorite. I have made a list of the suggestions and will be breaking out the gardening books and starting to make a plan.
I am going to be at the World's Longest Yardsale at the end of the week and hopefully will find lots of local plants on sale!
Thanks again! Dawn
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