A Shady Vignette

One of my favorite spots in my garden is a back corner of our house that spends most of the day in full shade. Over time I have tried to create a space that not only “functions” in that shady locale but is a delight to the eye and interesting.

Here is a three-photo panorama of the area. Because the space winds around the corner of the house, the resulting panorama is a bit skewed (a condition for which I beg your understanding; there must be a technical name for that, but it has escaped me).

DSCN2398 Stitch

This area has undergone radical change since I first planted it nine years ago. The area to the left was filled with Knock Out roses under bedroom windows. The area become much too shady over the years as the crape myrtles grew. I replaced the roses with Encore azaleas which are now beginning to grow and fill in nicely. The trampled grass was replaced by the stone path on the right.

A beautiful spirea filled the near corner. “Filled” is the right word. The spirea became so large that I reluctantly made the decision to remove it. It was difficult to walk around the corner because it impeded traffic. I tried severe pruning for several years, but that just made a beautiful plant become an unattractive one. I gave it to a gardening buddy, and I’m happy to say that it has survived the transplant.

White spireaOn the other side of the corner was a Nandina domestica that also grew too large and needed frequent pruning to keep the path clear on the side of the house. Pulling nandina seedlings became a continuing chore; it has a legitimate place on the list of invasives. It also was growing into and shading out the side of the ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae. So the nandina had to go as well, despite my Arranger’s disappointment in losing the red berries.

The heart of the vignette is a group of five different hostas. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide their identification, another result of poor record keeping (and memory) on my part. Two of them are in pots to give more verticality to the bed.

Vertical roles are played by an unidentified arborvitae and the earlier mentioned ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae Thuja orientalis. The arborvitae on the left was purchased locally when I thought I was buying another ‘Emerald Green,’ but it turned out to have been mis-labeled. I have never been able to get a true identification, but I’ve been quite pleased with it. It is growing slowly but nicely in the shade, and it has a tall but narrow profile that is fitting perfectly into its chosen space. The ‘Emerald Green’ on the right is recovering from the overcrowding; the side that had been shaded out by the nandina is now putting out new growth.

Supporting elements add complementary form, size, and color contrast in the vignette. The boxwood is a reclamation project. It was languishing in a container on the front porch with two other siblings. This one made the move and finally, after a year, is putting out new growth. Variegated liriope is used throughout my garden as an edging plant. The Carex morowii ‘Old Gold’is the only plant remaining from the original plantings in this bed. The autumn fern is the most recent addition, and I must say I am pleased with what it has added to the composition.

This is clearly a foliage based vignette, but I do welcome the blooms of the hosta and liriope, which only add to my satisfaction with this area of the garden. It’s not flashy by any means, but it serves a real purpose in this shady environment.

Yesterday I received a post from  Jason at Gardeninacity who introduced me to a new meme, “Wednesday Vignette,”  hosted by Annamadeit at Flutter and Hum. I had already decided to write this post and waited for the rain to subside to take the photographs. How fortuitous to learn about the meme. It’s not Wednesday, but I hope all will accept my offering.



About johnvic8

John Viccellio retired after 24 years in the U. S. Navy and began to dig into gardening when he could finally land in one place. He completed the Master Gardener course in 1992 and has since designed and constructed two of his own gardens. He wrote a monthly garden column for ten years and was a regular contributor to Carolina Gardener magazine. John published his first book, Guess What's in My Garden!, in 2014. He lives in Stallings, NC with his wife, in close proximity to six of his eight grandchildren.
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11 Responses to A Shady Vignette

  1. A wonderful post to satisfy the appetite of your garden friends. The photography is surely adding to people’s ‘garden shopping list.’ It is a lovely corner taking advantage of a small space. Nobody does that better than Charleston, SC gardeners, except maybe YOU.


  2. This is so wonderful, it is amazing what you can do with a shady area. I’m no gardener and my North facing garden gets very little sun but your post has given me some ideas!


  3. pbmgarden says:

    Lovely. This area is full of interest John. A lesson I shall have to pay attention to is that when something’s not working, there are ways to solve the problems. Too often I just wring my hands, but I should move things around more.


    • johnvic8 says:

      Thank you, Susie. One of the big lessons I’ve learned from gardening in a relatively small space is that I can’t put in plants without considering their mature size. That goes even for perennials (think Becky daisies for example) and particularly trees and shrubs. Maybe in my next garden……


  4. This is a really lovely, balanced area now, John. I love the punctuation marks of your Arborvitae paired with the Hostas. Your Hostas are thriving, too. They are one of my favorite shade plants, and here I must be satisfied with potted ones on the deck. I’m glad you added the Autumn fern, which will look nice through the winter months. I’m turning more and more to ferns for texture in shady areas. Next time you’re in the mood for plant shopping, you will find lots of interesting eye candy at Plantdelights.com They have an amazing selection of ferns and other perennial groundcover for all sorts of situations. I like their selections because most will never make it to the local garden center or big box store- There are fresh choices to grow- Thank you for mentioning that the Spirea went to a good home. It is a beauty 😉 Best wishes, Elizabeth


  5. You’ve created a very tranquil and satisfying garden nook.


  6. johnvic8 says:

    Thanks, Jason. Hope you are having a grand time in Toronto.


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