Seeking ideas for shaded rocky area

The setting: house in a clearing in mature hardwood forest, the clearing ringed by 70 to 80-foot tall oaks, maples, hickories, etc. Zone 6b. The front 2/3 of the clearing, in front of the one-story house, is a "lawn" comprised of a nice mess of weeds, grass, etc. - and, in the spring, wild Claytonia virginica that looks lovely - that does OK being mowed. The driveway is two gravel strips that run from the front of the lot (north), about half way across the lawn towards the house (and have a huge red oak between them). The lawn is punctuated by several large tree-stumps that have nice things on or around them: one is a natural planter for petunias and mums, one has mint, another has wild roses and one has rotted away and yielded to a mass of intertwined 4 o'clocks and moonflowers I planted. Looking toward the house, there's a garden frame for herbs, rhubarb, etc. on the right (west) side of the clearing, with a small (16' x 2') flower border in front of it. Along the front of the house are several boxwoods and a couple of arborvitaes that were here before I was, azaleas, lilacs, hostas, bleeding hearts, hellebores, pulmonaria, sweet box and Asarum canadense; along the left (east) side of the house is northern bay and sweet woodruff.
The area I want to do something with, because it's so interesting-looking, is on the left (east) side of the clearing. It's an approximately 16-foot wide part of a slope down from a small knoll on which are two gigantic chestnut oaks, two small maples and a gum tree. Jutting out of the slope at an upward angle is an irregular shelf of shale, which runs for about 10 feet of the area. There's a foot to a foot and a half of space between the rock and the big trees, and about 3 feet width from the bottom of the outcropping, to the driveway. The soil on top of the rocks is really just oak leaf mold, with a lot of smaller pieces of shale that I've been picking out of it. Dig in 6 to 8 inches, and you hit the big rock shelf. I've just torn out a mass of honeysuckle that had overrun the area. Behind the big trees is an understory featuring sassafras, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, chokecherry, hackberry, more honeysuckle, and, in the spring, garlic mustard that I've been hand-pulling each year.
I'd be interested in suggestions for two things:
* Ground-cover that would trail down over the rocks. Creeping thyme would do OK, I think, but it's rather a long shelf to do all in one cover. I might try some creeping phlox, except I doubt there's enough sun, even in spring. The area gets about 3-4 hours of direct sun from the southeast, from midday to late afternoon. The afternoon sun was enough that daylilies did OK, apart from being eaten by deer, on the adjacent section of the slope. What about Lamium and Woolly Veronica? I wouldn't mind encouraging the rampant Virginia creeper to come down this way, though it would require digging up and moving chunks of it from elsewhere, I suppose. I would try partridgeberry, except it's been very disappointing in other areas where I'm trying to get it started as a groundcover.
* Plants for below the shale outcropping. I don't want to tear up and replace the soil, but will amend it. It's currently oak-leaf mold on top of hard clay, with intermittent shale. Will leave intact a nice stand of starry false Solomon's seal. Maybe I should just echo what's along the front of the house and in my flower border (hellebores, hostas, sweet woodruff, Asarum canadense, lamb's ears, columbine, bleeding hearts, coreopsis) - or, maybe someone has other ideas? Lilies of the valley? I don't want anything too tall, or it will obscure the outcropping, which is about 18-24" high. And I don't want non-natives that will become invasive - although with decades-worth of garlic mustard and honeysuckle in the woods, not to mention a 60-foot high Norway maple, it's somewhat of a losing battle. I picked up a couple of pots of soapwort (deadnettle) on sale the other day, but then read more about it and destroyed those plants.
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If you'd like to be buried in interesting ideas, buy the book "The Complete Shade Gardener", by George Schenk. Absolutely awesome resource.
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You will have endless choices of shade plants if you can get water to it regularly & deepen the soil, but as you say it is also rocky, I'm assuming rather dry shade. The list you make is a good list to start with. You could also consider:
Cyclamen hederifolium loves dry shade conditions.
Big-root geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) forms a lovely spring-through-autumn foliage in dry shade, but do need sun to flower.
Bergenia produce their enormous low leaves in almost any condition including dry shade, but won't bloom much if it's too much shade.
Epimediums (bishop's hats) are the premiere dry shade plants for gorgeous leaves & interesting flowers. Many species & varieties, they're worthy of becoming a special collection of different kinds, among which might be dispersed Vancouveria hexandra or Vanouveria planipetala for further variety.
Oregon grapes do well in dryish shade, & you can select from different species that range from low creepers to large upright shrubs.
Evergreen Iris foetidissima ("Stinking Iris" but it doesn't really stink unless you bust open the roots) has subdued flowers as irises go, but unlike other irises it thrives in dryish shade, & its autumn berries are more impressive than flowers.
Liriope muscari & Liriope spicita like dryish shade, producing spikes of purple flowers followed by persisting black berries. It can be invasive in zone 8, but in your zone ought to be more restrained. Cultivars of L. muscari are not usually as aggressive.
Scilla thrives in dryish shade, in the worst coerners where virtually nothing else would be happy.
The western sword fern is one of the more drought-hardy ferns. It needs either lots of water to look good in a bright spot, but holds its good looks even without much water in a deep shade spot. This can also be said of the Japanese Tassel Fern, & a few others in the same genus.
There are other Asarums than the A. canadense you mention, including some mottled giant-leafed Asian species worth having.
Deadnettle/Lamium cultivars aren't as bad as you seem to have been led to believe. They're not as aggressive as liriope or sweet william certainly. They only look their best in moist well draining loose soil, though, & the fact that they don't die in imperfect conditions doesn't speak to how awful they look if neglected.
Japanese anemones, one of the more spectacular perennials to flower best in shade.
Dwarf variegated english ivy. The fancier the cultivar the slower its spread, it'll never take over like regular english ivy.
-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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snipped-for-privacy@netscape.net (paghat) in wrote:

nedds sun
but it's rather a long shelf to do all in one

deer will be big limitiatoin :-)
on the

said ot be good in shade.
and Woolly Veronica?

check out rock gardens and plants, unless your shale 'outcrop' is mostly clay-clotted. i hope you saved teh shale bits. grit and rocky soil make excellent growing medium for many fantasitc plants. they'll grow nicely inot the edge of of your driveway
Maybe I should just echo what's

some ppl say that's a weed. (in wetter and/or shorter season regions)
I don't want anything too tall, or it will

like moist soil, or they just recede while you feel as if you're constantly watering thme. but our season may be too long for them.
. i thikn they prefer low spots, too.

yes. mahonia

very dry summer tolerant. leaves bleach dry in sunny areas, unles well waterd. will reseed nicely. easy transplant.

sword ferns might get tall.

i 'have little exper with Liriop, AFAI(weakly)R, sunset says some aren't creeprs (spreaders)

sun
i've seen impressive swatches of white ones... tho they like water, so never tried them. i've notieced them only on flat ground, as a bed filling perennial.

mix and match googles: the name of states in your regoin or add local bioregoin names, such as "blah blah basin", "allegheny", chesapeake , woodlands "dry woods" etc
add to googles, such as http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&q=%22rocky+habitats%22 +% 7C+scree+%7C+screes+shaded
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&q =% 22new+england%22+shale+fern+%7Cspecies+%7C+native+
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Thanks, Paghat, for a lot of new ideas, and Gard@Gard.info for the additional insights.

this area, so it seems that the 3+ hours of afternoon sun, and dappled in the morning, is enough.

mustard.
Well, there's been so much rain in these parts the last two years that everywhere is a bit wet and the water table is very high in the whole neighborhood, as tends to occur on small plateaus on a mountainside (this is on the western side of the Blue Ridge), but normally this slope is relatively dry. The water runs down towards, then around, the house. I don't want to have to water the area except if some individual plants need to be rescued during deep drought.

rather soapwort. The latter seemed like the kind of thing that might get out of control, spreading by seed, and compete with the springtime stands of cutleaf toothwort, and small patches of rue anemone and wild geranium, in the woods - native wildflowers that are hanging on, against the garlic mustard and honeysuckle.

Thanks, again!
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