Shade Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic

For me shade gardening began after I retired and realized that we had lost our woods to  12′ high Multiflora Rose and Japanese Honeysuckle.  We reclaimed it soon after.  Simultaneously I began gardening under shade trees in our yard, White Pines and a Tulip Tree that I’d planted as tiny saplings 37 years earlier (in 1984) and a large American Holly and Georgia Hackberry that came up when we didn’t mow part of our backyard 44 years ago (in 1977) .  Our last English Setter had died and we no longer needed lawn.  I compiled a wish list of natives I wanted to plant in our newly reclaimed woods and other shady areas.  Friends generously gifted me with many divisions from plants in their yards that they had had success with.  Since then I’ve done the same for others who are embracing a more layered landscape.

I certainly don’t miss the lawn and neither does Clay who does the mowing.  In  15 minutes or less he’s easily mowed the pathways and is done.  Our shade gardening provides a great deal more habitat, so we find even more nature moments to savor.  This layering of plants has certainly increased the joy factor in our yard.  And I’ve fallen in love with many, many new-to-me shade-loving natives.  As Thomas Rainer says, “more life brings more life.”

I will be sharing a program (via Zoom) on “Shade Gardening with Natives” for the Native Plant Society of NJ’s Southeast Chapter on Monday, November 15, 2021 at 7 pm.   Those attending will benefit greatly by having my handouts below available during the program.  Registration is required ; please let the SE Chapter know you plan on attending by signing up HERE.

To learn more about shade gardening be sure to read my  handouts below:

Pat Sutton’s Shade Gardening  Handout – Resources (Click on the underlined text to download and print)    This handout includes resources (great books that have helped me) and the many websites with “Native Plant Finder” tools to help you generate a list of plants suitable for your area and site.  It also has suggestions for sites to visit to see shade-loving natives in the landscape.

Pat Sutton’s Shade Gardening Handout – Native Plants  (Click on the underlined text to download and print)    This handout includes a list of shade-loving natives for the Mid-Atlantic, many of which I’ve planted or have growing in my woods or other shady spots on our property.

Pat Sutton’s New Jersey’s Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines That are Beneficial to Birds  (Click on the underlined text to download and print)   This list is annotated with the  number of NJ bird species that feed on fruits, seeds, cones, or catkins of each.

The Living Landscape, by Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke

Hot off the press — a NEW book:

The Living Landscape,
Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden
by Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke

My copy arrived earlier this week and I’m enjoying the book immensely. The authors walk us through and help us understand the layered landscape, something that so many gardeners don’t address, consider, or even know to think about.

I was guilty of it for years and am trying to rectify the situation by making some changes:

  • incorporate layers under the Tulip Tree that shades our house with understory shrubs and shade-loving wildflowers
  • incorporate shrub layers in my back side yard where previously lawn had reigned
  • and my biggest project has been our reclaimed woodland where previously Multiflora Rose grew so thick that there was no understory except for this non-native rose. The woods have given me immense pleasure as I experiment with new understory trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, and grasses. I continue to be amazed by all the native plants that come up on their own (either planted by wildlife or from seeds in the soil that couldn’t survive previously because of the Multiflora Rose). For example, friends gave me 2 baby Willow Oaks and since then I’ve found 5 more that came up on their own.

If you’re intrigued,be sure to get Tallamy & Darke’s new book and digest it. It’s a gem!

Happy Gardening!

Pat

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