Strong vertical plant for dry shade

girlndocs(8 WA)May 4, 2008

One of my flowerbeds is in front of a big laurel hedge I can't remove, and yesterday I limbed that section of the hedge up a little to more of a tree form, to open the bed up and give it more light.

What I didn't expect was how that would change the scale of the bed -- now there's lots of open area at the back of the bed, in the mostly-shade under the laurel branches, that just looks bare. The plants that looked so nice before now look like a sad little row of plants in front of an otherwise empty bed.

I found a lot of candidates to fill in the mostly shaded area but I'm stuck for the spot I really think could use a vertical accent. It's near what will be some Geranium macrorrhizum, hosta, and on the other side alchemilla and a stand of cannas (so, maybe not so very dry). I already have daylilies in that bed and would rather not add any more, but either bearded iris or daylily foliage is close to the form I want.

Do you think bearded iris would do OK in a spot that gets very little direct sun? It probably gets about 5 hours of more-or-less-dappled light. What other shade-tolerant plants have a vertical shape (not just in bloom but in foliage)? So far my list only has Chasmanthium latifolium (spangle grass)and Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon's seal). I'd like something around 3' tall, and no taller than 5' at the very outside.



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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I have bearded Iris growing among my daylilies which are in dappled shade once my flowering crab. leafs out. You may also want to try something like Hydrangea Annabelle - quite tall with beutiful blooms but different foliage.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 4:37AM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

If you like the idea of iris (so do I), there are several others than bearded ones you could try. Yellow flag (iris pseudocorus) loves shade and has stunningly good and tall foliage. It also likes moisture, and when it gets it, it spreads. However, it is easy to keep in check by cutting back the clumps once a year. There is a purple form (versicolor, I think) that is also very nice, though the foliage is not quite as tall as pseudocorus. And then, my very favorite is Iris Aichi-no-kagayaki. It is a hybrid between pseudocorus and ensata. It has chartreuse foliage, which is why it's my favorite. It blooms yellow. Something blue with it is stunning. I know that plant delights nursery carries it, though there may be other sources too.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 10:00AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Chasmanthium latifolium (wild oats, northern sea oats).

This is an outstanding plant and does well in shade - and can take dry shade to boot once established. While it is a grass, it doesn't look "grassy"; rather, it's reminiscent of bamboo.

It gets about 3-3.5' and shape is upright/slightly vase-shaped. It is particularly lovely when it blooms. This grass gives great winter interest, too.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 10:12AM
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Iris pseudacorus is a no-no plant here - on the invasive species list and responsible local garden centers no longer carry it. Depending on the amount of light this area really gets - 5-6 hours of dappled sunlight is fine - I'd suggest a NZ flax, Phormium ctv. It will provide the upright structure you want with iris-like blades and offers a taller presence than most other shade tolerant OG's. And it comes in a whole range of colors and is evergreen as well. Quite tolerant of drier and semi-shady conditions.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 11:49AM
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girlndocs(8 WA)

Fantastic suggestions, thanks! I really really like the Chasmanthium. Do you think it's bamboo-y enough looking that it wouldn't look out of place near the cannas? Do birds like the seeds? How is it with the self-seeding?

Phormium looks really great too. How have I not discovered it yet? I'm not sure it wouldn't look kind of stark in the winter (basically the only evergreen plant in the bed except for some epimedium that's going in this season). The Chasmanthium seems to have a softer-edged form.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 2:34PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I think Chasmanthium would look fine with cannas. It does self-seed, but I don't consider it invasive in my yard.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 3:00PM
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girlndocs(8 WA)

Only one more thing about the Chasmanthium. Anybody with dogs have it? I read someone at DG saying their dogs love to munch away at the new shoots. I have a big lab mix and the last thing I need is her tromping through to the back of the flowerbed for a snack!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 11:14PM
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