Need ideas for formal shade garden

ricardomartin95January 13, 2014

I need some help planning the layout of my semi formal shade garden. This is an area of my garden which I have tried to plant into a semi formal shade garden with not much success. I currently have several plants which I want to use up in my design but don't know how to accomodate them. I currently have planted: two purple leaf plums, a tall boxwood topiary, 3 blue mophead hydrangeas, 2 fuchsia evergreen azaleas, some purple phormiums and some geraniums. The area receives part sun with about 2 hours of it in the early morning. I was thinking of not moving the plums but would like to have the boxwood topiary at by the wall but to the right of the hose with the three hydrangeas in front of it and the shorter azaleas in front of these hydrangeas and at the foreground cover it with liriope. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! I will post pics of the area below.

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Picture 2:

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 2:35PM
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The bed seems nice and cleanly shaped, so you should feel like that is a success!

While having all the different plants might make you happy, it's going to be difficult to make a cohesive, strong, artistic statement out of them. There is too much variety and quantity of plants. The topiary would work as the "center of attention," but it needs some plain space -- uniform, low planting -- around it at the "floor" level, too, in order for all its attention not to be lost in a jumble. (It seems like you grasp that concept because you're placing it in front of a BLANK wall.) Something similar could occur beneath it. Also, I'd place the topiary farther away from the wall -- at least 12" additional -- so there is some room for growth. If you placed the Hydrangea in front of the wall where you now have azaleas, theres only room for one or two of them. One phormium might make a good accent placed near the intersection of where the drive meets the house.

Take a look at photos of all these plants on Google images and you'll see that mature ones could not fit in the space you're offering. Unless you're planning to also keep the plum trimmed in a tight topiary shape, one of those alone would dominate and shade the whole area, allowing little opportunity for most other things to grow at all.

With the picture, I'm trying to illustrate the effect of simplification.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 9:12PM
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Thank you very much for the concept drawing!! It looks really clean, simple and cohesive which is what I'm looking for. I was already thinking of having the topiary be the focal point but since I'm most often looking at this area from the sliding door seen to the right I would like the hydrangeas and azaleas to revolve around the topiary. I don't know how this well would work and how curved and at what angle these plants would have to face.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 9:25PM
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What you mean by "revolve around it" I'm not sure. Hydrangeas and most azaleas will be too large to be a good base (beneath) the topiary. But they could work BEHIND it, if there's space between them and topiary. (This is how I show it in my drawing.) You could place hydrangea and azalea behind the topiary along the garage wall, if you pull the topiary farther out away from the wall. However, the bed shape and size is not conducive to this arrangement. It would mean that the width is very tightly packed relative to the length.

There are many (I think) on this forum who think it's as much, or more, important how the grounds look as viewed from inside the house. I'm not one of them. Instead, I think in most cases, when it looks good from the outside, it also happens to look good from the inside. (Maybe not as thrilling in EVERY aspect as some people might like, but certainly good enough.) And, if focusing on the view from within as the greater priority, there is a good chance that one must sacrifice the view from outside. (It sounds like it could happen here.) There might be times when the view is made PERFECT for inside AND outside simultaneously, but I think most times one vantage point will take priority over the other. Maybe someone who is all-about-the-view-from-inside will help you here.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 9:59PM
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I just did a quick sketch of what I have in mind. I considered what you said about the view from the outside and think I found a way that looks good from wherever. This is actually in my back garden.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 11:08PM
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Ricardo, you are incorporating plants based on their install size instead of their reasonably grown size. If you can open this picture in a drawing program like MS Paint, you can copy the newly enlarged plants as many times as you like. Try fitting them into the garden at the new size and see what you have room for. If you don't have a paint program, you can at least see what sizes you should be working with. Plants grow and you must allow room for it. The purple leaf plum is a tree that would take up, and shade, the entire garden space unless you are pruning it into some kind of topiary, too.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 7:47PM
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Could you enlarge the space?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:36PM
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To get the freshly cut stump, do you have to buy an 18" caliper tree and cut it off ... or can you just buy the stump and plant it ...? :-)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:50AM
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lol, the stump

One thing s/he got right was the need for more room. That is simply too many plants for the size bed you made. The inclusion of two red leafed plums is especially fool hardy. If you keep all the plants in that bed be prepared to remove plants over time as they begin to crowd together.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:49PM
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