Garden Design

Today we’re visiting Nancy Kressin’s garden.

I have been building my garden in the Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury for 24 years, with the simultaneous goals of collecting as many plants as possible, sustaining bloom from spring to fall, and growing healthy and attractive plants in extremely difficult conditions in some areas (dry full shade under Norway maples and white pines). One key strategy I use in these tough areas is to insert pots of annuals to brighten shady areas, adding plants with chartreuse (for example, hostas, Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’, Zones 5–9, and Persicaria ‘Lance Corporal’, Zones 4–8) and silver foliage (Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ Zones 3–8) to reflect light.

shade garden with lots of foliage plantsIn addition to purchasing low-maintenance annuals like the Tophat™ Rose bicolor begonias pictured here, I like to “go shopping” in my yard for plants to add to my pots, such as the Lamium ‘White Nancy’ (Zones 3–8) and Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (Zones 4–8) in this pot.

shady garden bed on side of yardSeveral large white pines edge our property, and the soil underneath them is mainly composed of decayed pine needles, in which lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis, Zones 3–9) thrive but not much else except small leaf rhododendrons, which only bloom in the spring. So to introduce summer color, I added pots of begonias and planted bright-leaved hostas (Hosta cultivars ‘Sum and Substance’ and ‘Paul’s Glory’, Zones 3–8) in grow bags, dug into holes nestled among the pine needles. This strategy keeps potting soil and moisture next to the hosta roots, minimizing competition from the pines and lily of the valley. At the edge of this area is a Golden Shadows® Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia, Zones 3–7), which brightens this otherwise shady, deep green area.

shade garden with a begonia in a potThe next full-shade area is situated 6 feet from a Norway maple (Acer platanoides, Zones 4–7) growing from my neighbor’s property. Color, light, and interest here come from more potted begonias (Begonia BIG™ and Dragon Wing® Red Begonia hybrids, annual), nestled among the Carex ‘Ice Dance’ (Zones 5–9), hosta, Persicaria virginiana var. filiformis ‘Lance Corporal’ (Zones 4–8), Geranium × cantabrigiense ‘Karmina’ (Zones 5–8), Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 3–8), Liriope ‘Big Blue’ (Zones 5–10), Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’, and Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’ (Zones 4–9).

pots of coleus in front of green plantsThese pots of coleus, Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’, Begonia boliviensis, and other begonia cultivars (annuals), together with a trailing fuchsia (Fuchsia hybrid, annual), form a stand-alone vignette.

shade garden with diverse foliage plantsOne soothing vignette I did not try to brighten with potted annuals is this one. Shaded by a CryptomeriaYoshino’ (Zones 5–9) and ‘Cripsii’ Golden Hinoki false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’, Zones 4–8), Hosta ‘Guacamole’ (Zones 3–8), and Corydalis lutea (Zones 4–8) form a restful palette on their own.

chartreuse, yellow and red plants next to a fenceThis vignette is situated near another Norway maple, but two pots with Hakenechloa, coleus, and hosta were inserted among the chartreuse hosta, Kirengeshoma palmata (Zones 5–8) and Endless Summer® Twist-n-Shout® bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla, Zones 5–10) to bring all-summer color to the area.

garden bed full of foliageHere is one area that needs no additional pops of color from annuals. Starting in spring, this partly shady area is populated with hellebores (Helleborus hybrids, Zones 4–9), Pulmonaria (Zones 3–8), and Indian pinks (Spigella marilandica, Zones 5–9), which provide early color that yields to the foliage colors in the Japanese painted ferns, heuchera, and redtwig dogwood (Cornus sericea, Zones 3–7). Blooms come in midsummer from the panicle hydrangea ‘Quick Fire’ (Hydrangea paniculata, Zones 3–8) and in late summer from the Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ (Zones 4–8). In fall, asters provide a final flush.

pink flowersAnd finally, the blooms of my Hemerocallis ‘Lilting Lady’ (Zones 3–9) play nicely with the ‘Fire and Ice’ panicle hydrangea blossoms, underscored by the Lamium ground cover.

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