Shade, shade and more shade…


The biggest change for me in this new garden (well…apart from the climate!) is the shade…lots and lots and lots of shade. This all comes from living east of a deep ravine flanked by towering native cedars (Thuga plicatum), Big Leaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), and the odd Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menzeseii). Mature trees and the steep slope to the south of the property doesn’t help either. My previous garden was planted (agonizingly, lovingly) from scratch on a wide open 2 acre blank field. After 15 years, it was looking pretty amazing, the trees were actually trees…no longer sticks… but the sun was still dominant – everywhere! Although I get sun very early in this garden, and it lasts all day, there are a lot of big shade trees and I lose direct sunlight in the back garden by 5:00 pm this time of year. At first I was nervous…I’ve always been a sun lover and that’s always been my favourite time to stop digging and pause for a chilled glass of wine and a bask in the fading sunlight. No more! So, I’ve adapted by taking this time for a walk down to the beach or the waterfront downtown. But I’m learning to enjoy the shade. I have a filtered borrowed view of the sunset streaming through the trees in the ravine. The sky stays pale and huge past 9:00 pm, being further north. All in all, it’s been fun switching my focus to shade loving plants. Dizzy with possibilities!  I’ll share a few of my new found favourites with you as we go.
Starting close to the house next to the patio, I limbed up a 10′ tall Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Summer Snowflake’ and a 10′ wide Magnolia stellata to create a low, cozy shade bed. Generous Hort friends (Susan, you know who you are!), the UBC spring plant sale, and a spring visit to Free Spirit Nursery in Langley and Fraser’s Thimble Farm on Salt Spring Island were all instrumental in helping me flesh out the bed. It’s just a few months old but coming…from left to right (ish):

  • Burnnera macrophylla ‘Emerald Mist’
  • Leucothoe fontanesiana little flames ( behind)
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’
  • Epidmedium wushanense
  • Adiantum venustrum
  • Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ ($$$, but what a plant – it’s thriving with 2 big new leaves already)
  • Hosta (rescued from a Vancouver tear down)
  • Mingled in are ground covering Galium odoratum, wild violets, Campanula portenschlagiana, and Omphalodes verna

Author: joannewesterby

Although I lived in Ontario for 25 years, Vancouver Island has always been home to me. 15 years ago we bought a "little house on the prairie" in Brant County, just outside Hamilton, Ancaster and Brantford, Ontario. Over the years, with a lot of sweat, determination, luck, skill, frustration, elation and endurance we turned that 2 acre clay field into an amazing chronicled in Through Leaves. When we recently retired we immediately came back 'home' to the Coast. We have settled in beautiful central Vancouver Island at the edge of Nanaimo on 1/2 acre with a mature shrub garden adjacent to a ravine that winds its way up to Westwood Lake and eventually Mount Benson. Although the garden is mature and is very overgrown, too homogenous for my liking and needs my personal stamp! I am dizzy with the possibilities!!!

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