New Perennial Garden with "Creative" Sun/Shade Ideas

bosewichte(7a/8b)May 29, 2013

Help! My husband and I moved to South Carolina this fall and found the perfect house in the perfect location with lots of space, lovely trees, peaceful pond, etc. The problem? When we moved in, the trees were bare. I eyeballed the property (1.9 acres) and figured I could squeeze in a sun-loving perennial garden (cottage flowers!!) SOMEWHERE.

Well, spring came, the leaves came back, and this place is...pretty completely shady. I'm covered on shade plants and have several shade gardens going. But I'm suffering without my sun-lovers...roses, lilacs, coneflowers, blazing stars, etc., etc.

Here's my question. There are several spots that get 2 - 3 hours of full, HOT afternoon sun. Do you think I could get away with planting full-sun flowers there? Or - I would *love* suggestions for part-sun cottage perennial flowers. Heck, ANY flowers. This place is SO green but nothing is blooming since the spring flowers died back! I've been feeling really sad about this because I just can't imagine living somewhere long-term where I can't have my colorful summer flower garden.

Thanks so much for any advice!

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2-3 hours of sun, regardless of the time of day, is just not enough for full sun perennials. But there are lots of perennials that will tolerate part sun/part shade conditions.......and many that are very "cottagey" in appearance as well. Some that come to mind immediately are columbine, various hardy geraniums, silene, saxifrage, delphiniums, anemones, dame's rocket, campanulas, foxgloves.

And I'd not worry about lack of color in the more shady areas. Bring in variegation on foliage (shrubs, hostas, grasses) or golds and chartreuses and lots of seasonal color - impatiens, begonias, fuchsias, caladiums, annual vinca. Lots of colorful perennials and flowering shrubs for shade as well - astilbe, ligularia, toad lilies, corydalis, bleeding heart, azaleas, hydrangeas.

And buy yourself a gift with a copy of The Complete Shade Gardener by George Schenk - you will never feel like your garden is "too green" again :-))

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 6:27PM
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Thanks so much! See above picture, taken in April when all the spring flowers were in bloom. Now we've got bronze ferns, hostas, azaleas (flowers are spent), helleborus (flowers are spent), some japonica shrubs (non-flowering), clematis vines (flowers are spent), plus lots of groundcover....all in the shade areas, especially the huge bed by our front door. Those plants are all up by the house, and then there are lots of tidy rows of liatrope. I like a messy look so those little rows are driving me crazy!

I don't have a huge plant budget right now. I bought some caladiums to add a dash of color (3 plants), and I planted peony tubers and a few more ferns. But I do miss color. I'll have to check that book out!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 7:11PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

From my experience I grew full sun plants in 2-3 hours of afternoon evening sun at my old house. I did not have a problem growing Lilies Asiatic, trumpet and Orientals, Daylilies, I even had a yellow rose bush growing at the edge of a 20' pine tree.

When it is 90 degrees and full sun for 2-3 hours works wonders. Try it you will be surprised how well flowers do without 4 hours of blazing sun. A lot of my flowers lasted longer because of some of the shade from the hot sun.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:25PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

When touring Plant Delights (online nursery in NC with extensive gardens) for the first time several years ago, there was one underlying theme that stuck with me as I walked through their amazing gardens. They used dappled sun in their shade areas better than anyone else I have ever seen. To the point of my just being dumbstruck by echinaceas growing in the middle of their wooded areas, all because they did so well using dappled light. I would look for those areas in your yard as well. They are the hot spots, so to speak.

Also, this seems obvious and I am sure you have considered this and discarded it for one reason or another, but don't be afraid to cut down a tree or two, strategically of course, to obtain the full sun that you are looking for.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:51PM
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Day lilies? Euphorbia polychroma (cushion spurge) has great chartreuse color and did well for me in mostly-shade last year (moved it to a sunnier spot but not for sun requirements). I have a hydrangea (annabelle I think) that gets very little light sun and it does very well

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:27PM
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I'm growing Echinaceas with Hellebores here and they are doing great. They are blooming very well. I think you should experiment with a few plants and see how they do. Plants can surprise you. I even tried some Delosperma in shade and was very surprised how well they bloom with just a little sun. Also consider Heuchera because they look good year-round.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:16PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I've fallen in love with coleus. They are easy to grow from seed, and even easier to grow from cuttings. They come in an infinite combination of colors and textures and don't need dead heading.

I feel your pain at not having enough full sun to grow your traditional favorites. I also moved to a mostly-full-shade yard and I'm relearning how to garden. I support the idea of removing trees judiciously, or even just thinning some branches to allow a bit more light to get through. Hire an expert so you're sure the job is done right. Good luck.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:25PM
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Thank you so much for your encouragement! I've felt so discouraged about it. Today I'm charting sun patterns every hour to determine the sunniest location...I'm going to get that shade book, and I'm also going to try a few sun lovers in sunny spots. Yay for gardening! It's always an experiment, isn't it? :)

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 11:31AM
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