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Friday, April 24, 2009

Moist, Well Draining Soil~

Aquilegia vulgaris "Clementine" 

Maybe in your garden, but not mine!

Much of C&L is dry shade...except for late winters and springs and then it is wet and sticky clay ....But nowhere, even in the heavily amended garden areas is it moist and well draining!
Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'

When I was a new gardener I thought all shade was created equal and planted accordingly!
Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'

It's not!  
Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum' in flower

I can't even tell you how many hostas I lost before realizing  that this was not the garden for them!
Geranium maculatum 'Espresso'

 Even though we get a nice amount of rain....It is not evenly distributed through out the year.  We get our rain in the winter and early spring. It's  best to plant and transplant during the fall and winter.  Now, if only our local  garden centers would cooperate and start offering  decent plants in the fall!  
Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride'

Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride' with Ajuga 

Our summers are hot, humid and lately free of rain! So the trees that make up a shady garden suck every last drop of moisture they possibly can from the earth!
Iris cristata

When it rains,  the water  moves rapidly down through cracks in the limestone bedrock and is carried away!  

So, I've learned to plant natives and native friendly plants here...Plants that are hardy and drought  tolerant once they get established. Plants that can take care of themselves.
Ruellia strepens

Plants like the ones I'm showing you in this post!
H villosa "Autumn Bride" and H villosa "Brownie"



Is it my imagination or have you noticed a recent increase of garden magazine articles about  shade loving plants?  I suspect that many of the gardens of garden writers  are maturing!  Taller trees mean shadier  gardens!    A garden magazine that shall remain nameless (Fine Gardening) recently focused on shade loving plants.
 Chasmanthium latifolium early growth
I eagerly tore into the magazine...It was a great list of attractive plants for shade...But, there it was, listed after each plant I dreamed of adding to the garden.

'Moist, well draining soil! 

The kiss of death for my dreams. It would never survive here!

Gail

My friends~~What ever your garden soil is  ...have a delicious weekend in your gardens!  

54 comments:

  1. I so appreciate your garden Gail. I have mostly sandy dry shade so I can identify with your problems of finding plants to grow in your garden. I even have a couple of spots of clay here too. It is always a surprise to dig in and find that clay. I also got that magazine and read about the shade plants. It seems that most plants call for "moist yet well drained". I think that sounds impossible. To me that statement says you must water to have them survive. My varigated Soloman Seal is about to bloom too. Have a great weekend.

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  2. Gail ! Look at me being here so early in the post !! LOL
    Yes .. I think the trend for more shade plants in the spot light is because more properties are becoming shaded by their trees maturing .. I know that is the case with my back garden .. I am lucky not to have the intense clay build up in that direction ..
    Your garden is becoming rather perfect girl .. some thing like labor and child birth .. you are supposed to work with the "pain" and it will all "happen" sooner and much easier ? too funny right ? LOL
    Joy

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  3. Heh, I sometimes think garden catalog copy defaults to "moist, well-drained soil" when the writer doesn't actually know. Most plants like that kind of situation, right?

    But I see that we have many dry-shade plants in common. I need to try the Ruellia. I've had good luck with some of the sedges - Carex morrowii and Carex muskingumensis, even though some references say they want moist, well-drained soil.

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  4. Wonderful plants. I have pretty good soil here but Gail, I think I killed my epidmedium! Yours is very very pretty. You have a good weekend too.

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  5. Entangled...you could be right! The catch all phrase to save them from many letters to the editor with complaints! ...I have carex that occur naturally but Id-ing them has proven to be nearly impossible...I will check the ones you've listed. Have a sweet weekend.

    gail

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  6. You are right moist and well drained seems to be something that we aspire to but rarely achieve!

    You are right your Geranium Espresso is the same as my Geranium Elizabeth Ann - I wonder if that is a UK/US thing. Will post a photo of mine so you can see

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  7. Lisa,
    I think so, too! When ever I see something that says irt needs moisture...I back away, I have enough high maintenance plants in my life! Aren't you excited that the Soloman's Seal is ready to bloom! I have to tell you that I have never noticed it being fragrant...have you?

    Gail

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  8. Joy,

    Good morning! You are in the birth throes now! How's the deck project...I need to stop by and see! I went through natural childbirth with my son...and tried it here, too! Let me tell you my last mid-wife was great~~the back garden isn't half bad!. Have a lovely day...thank you for your sweet compliment! You are a sweetie pie! gail

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  9. Tina, That is not good news...they are sweet plants and this one is indestructible...although, I have stepped on the little deciduous ones and broken them when I didn't remember where I was stepping!

    Good soil...the stuff of dreams! That's on the list IF we ever move!

    Gail

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  10. It's either dry and hot or soggy wet around this yard. With temps up to 90 yesterday it's beginning to be really dry! Trial and error will always be my way.

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  11. What a lovely stroll, Gail! Dry shade is not a problem we have right now. LOL Maybe one day it might be an issue again.

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  12. I also agree with Entangled, Gail! I think a lot of garden writing is rote. I myself have had good luck with hostas even in surprisingly sunny sites, and would encourage you to keep trying! I've even grown them in decorative containers, which might solve your problems if the clay is the issue. And of course we love our variegated Solomon's seal!!! Many thanks for the wonderful tour!

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  13. Gail, LOL, I subscribe to at least 4 garden mags, and haven't read a single one in over three years! ARG! I've always loved natives; they did well without us, they'd do well with us. I also like getting plants through divisions because they've proven themselves in local conditions even if not local. And don't even get me started on garden centers. Ours are already selling all kinds of perennials and annuals and our last frost date is mid/late May. Perennials would be fine EXCEPT these were all greenhouse raised... ARG! Happy Friday!

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  14. Good morning dear friend, (not the original comment start, but Don was bound and gagged), everything looks wonderful. I hear you about the rainfall and when is the best planting time here. Thank goodness for my dear Mouse Creek nursery where I can buy perennials in late winter while the ground is still cool and moist. I believe we have the well drained part, it is just the moist that is lacking, except in winter. I love the Brownie heuchera, it is the best performing here by far, even if it is not as showy as the others. Backlighting through the leaves is better than flowers, for it happens all year long. Hope you have a wonderful day in the garden. I am planting veggie seeds outside, don't care if it is too early, I have lots of seeds. :-)
    Frances

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  15. I'm familiar with that wet sticky clay! It takes many years to turn it into moist well drained soil. If you want a spot for those types of plants you could use some of your rock and build up! A raised bed for hostas sounds cool to me!

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  16. Loved today's post, and you gave me new things to try! If you can grow heuchera, you can grow hosta. I have some that live in a mudbath in spring and dry conditions in the summer. Sometimes if they are looking really sorry, I'll give them a little drink, but they always survive. I've also found Thalictrum to do well in wet springs and dry summers. Oh, and I've been growing polemonium, and even though all the experts say don't let it dry out, mine has gotten dry and still thrived. And it's lovely, too.

    Thanks for the walk through your garden - I always enjoy it so much.

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  17. What a great post, Gail! Just yesterday, I tried to buy some plants. Every single tag had these words Moist, Well Draining Soil. It started irritate me.
    As for the tall trees, it's not only that they steal all the water, but in my borders their roots form such a thick mat that suffocates all other plants roots. Digging a planting hole is tough -roots, roots, roots. I am talking about fur trees. I'll try to look at those plants that you mentioned. Thank you!

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  18. You are working with nature there at Clay and Limestone and why battle the site! Delicious weekend? I love that and will do so!

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  19. Your flowers look great that you have growing in your garden!!
    What about a raised bed? Would that help? At our old house we had clay soil. You could make pottery out of it. No kidding! It was so hard to work in. We added a lot of gypsum to the soil and compost. It worked for what I had there which was mostly roses. But we did a veggie garden with a raised planter and they did great! I am sure you already through of that though or someone mentioned it before.
    CiNdEeS' GaRdEn

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  20. Ha, Gail, I don't think I have any place in the garden that's moist and well-drained either. Seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it? ;) Plants that take care of themselves are the best kind.

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  21. I too, am cursed with sticky clay soil. I have one spot in my yard where it IS well draining :D SO well draining in fact that it's almost impossible to keep it moist! We can't win!

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  22. You have such wonderful shade plants, Gail - even without the moist well-draining soil...heucheras and epimediums and Solomon'd seal are so worth having!

    It's not just in the magazines. Plants come with moist well-draining soil on the label instructions, too.

    If we asked our garden plants where they wanted to live, maybe they'd vote to ditch Tennessee, Illinois or Texas and migrate to the Oregon coast!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  23. Does anyone have moist, well-drained soil? It seems it's either boggy or bone dry. It's a good thing for us that there are so many plants that will tolerate dry shade (even if they would perform better in moist soil). Have you considered buying plants in spring, potting them up a size and then wait until fall to plant them? I did that last year with a shrub and it worked great.

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  24. Oh for an ideal garden with shade at one end graduating to a sunny area at the other - with moist well drained pockets artfully scattered about - and gentle rain on demand!
    I think the people who write those plant labels do it to annoy us.
    Your garden is looking lovely, despite the soil being uncooperative.

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  25. MMD, That's exactly what I do! Other wise I will have to water them all summer! It's a smart move for those of us who are plant addicts and must get a 'few' plants each spring! gail

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  26. Gail, My H. villosas grown from seed have made it through their third winter. They're borderline hardy here - saw them in Philadelphia and just had to have them. Now I see there's a dark leaf form and it's named for my favourite food group - double temptation. I grew up with hard clay - you pretty well have to triple every garden effort to get where you want to be - but when you get there - and I think you have - it's gorgeous!

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  27. Hi Gail, There's always something to work around, isn't there? Getting to know your growing conditions is the key, isn't it? Exploring the variety of inspiring plants is something one does fairly carefully. ;-) Happy Day!

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  28. Gail,
    You can't go wrong with all of your lovely natives. They are so friendly! :-)

    I told the Musician today that I have only two weeks in the spring in which to plant... the 2 weeks in April between the last frost and the first week of summer... it's getting HOT already! I prefer to plant in September and October.

    Cheers,
    Cameron

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  29. It's good you learned and aren't still trying to "make" things work that don't. I tend to do that from time to time when there's a plant I just insist on growing! I love epimediums ~ yours is gorgeous. I wish the nurseries would carry a bigger variety of plants in the fall too. Maybe we should petition them about it?? Have a great weekend too!

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  30. Now, that's very interesting, and typical. I have parts of my garden i dry shade and looked for plants as well, but just as you say, almost all of them require "moist and well drained". Going native sounds like the best idea. Good luck. Oh, and I adore those blues, truly amazing colours.

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  31. Gail: You sure have lots happening in your garden! Here all I see is brown winter cleanup necessary..very little color..Some of my roses starting to poke through the wood peonies up about 4 inches... Patience is all I need. Guess I'm spoiled from spending my winters in AZ surrounded by color!
    Thank you for always stopping by and leaving me a comment..it means alot!
    hugs NG

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  32. I've been adding more natives to my garden for the exact same reasons Gail. My shade is mostly dry too, but after years of amending my clay it has become almost loamy. I said almost, lol. My shade lovers do best in the spring to be honest & burn up come August. ;)

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  33. Many of my plants actually like to dry out in summer, so that's no biggie. But during the rainy season, the clay holds water very well and some just suffocate. I won't even look at plants that require "moist, well-drained...etc", but I do sometimes try those that require good drainage, excellent drainage, or perfect drainage. With mixed succes, but not always with dismal results.
    Thinking about it, I'm just happy to have some dirt to call my own, actually

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  34. it definitely takes time to figure out what works in the areas of your yard. so glad you are loving the natives. that just makes sense.

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  35. While thumbing through gardening magazines and catalogs lately (and salivating over them), I've noticed nearly every plant needs "well drained soil." Choosing natives for your garden makes a lot of sense, better than buying plants that just won't grow in your garden--something I have done frequently:) My shade garden has a lot of water-loving tree roots, so I've lost more astilbe than I care to count. But the hostas thrive there.

    I replied to your comment on my post, but I wanted to make sure you didn't care I mentioned you there. I do remember you saying somewhere about being too busy gardening to reply as quickly as usual to all the comments. I think we can all relate--gardening season is finally here!

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  36. I've always found your garden interesting and beautiful, Gail. The shade loving plants! Wow! I'll be interested to see what grows there... BTW, why don't you try containers for those plants that wouldn't grow in your soil?

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  37. I've planted so many things where they don't belong over the years and then get miffed with their failure to thrive. I'd love to start all over in some areas out front ... just digging out the turk's caps would be a major undertaking, though. So I'm tweaking instead.

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  38. I think it's one of the hardest things in gardening to learn (and one I'm still having to learn!) - only plant what will grow in your garden. Life gets easier (and cheaper) if you plant what wants to grow there.

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  39. Ha, 'moist and well-drained' is a horticultural mantra that hardly exists in nature! Only in irrigated pots in fresh potting mix, I think.

    Or in the miraculous sandy loam of some former prairie river bottoms -- hhrmph. An awful lot of us have to cope with highly disturbed native soils, or native soil that is quite specific in what it wants to support, like yours!

    Great post!

    Lisa

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  40. Beautiful spring photos.

    Especially the lavender iris.

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  41. All magazine plants seem to require perfect conditions and none of us have them. Yet, we make it work. You certainly do, with your lovely space, dry shade or no.

    Believe, me I know dry shade, and I must have more than you because I can't grow many of the plants you grow.

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  42. Now that you mention it, I have noticed a vast increase of shade gardening magazine articles. And I should know. I buy many!
    Brenda

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  43. Hi Gail......Lovely to see your epimediums in bloom.....some little creature ate all the buds on mine....sigh (nevermind there is always next year)....

    I garden on heavy clay.....and I also have a high water table...perfect for hostas of course.....if the snails do not eat them lol
    Like you I plant native now and clay tolerant plants......it has been a huge learning curve.....

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  44. Lovely photo of Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'. Gail. I have a huge bed of them that needs tweaking. Shade gardening is my favorite ... do try hostas in pots, a stunning look that might work well for you.

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  45. Gail, I was thinking about your comment on your local nurseries not having plants suitable for your area. It seems as though that happens a lot. Somewhere, hundreds of miles away in a green house, there are plants being grown that won't survive in very many areas or soils. Maybe there is a method to their madness-selling more plants when those die. I'm all for natives and soil type suitable plants. Maybe we need to speak out more and then search out specialty garden centers. Your natives are all beautiful and seem to be thriving in your not so well drained soil. :)

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  46. You are so smart and it's encouraging to read. With yesterdays high 80's, I wonder if we are in for it again. I had such hopes while the Spring was cool and rain was coming on a regular schedule. It only takes one dry summer to do damage and we've had many.

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  47. Ha! Great closer for this post, Gail. I too dream of articles about dry shade now that I'm gardening under live oaks. And not acidic soil but alkaline, for us limestone-soil gardeners.

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  48. Your garden and photographs are beautiful. I'll be returning to check on the future blooms.

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  49. yes, where are these mysterious places that have "well-draining soil". Certainly not where you are or where I am. Must be up north in Martha Stewart-ville.

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  50. garden centers in the fall--- mine has a red wagon sale on perennials. Yes, the selection could be better, but the price is right... I think it was 50 for as many as you can get in a red wagon.

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  51. Gail (and Pam),

    Our yard is mostly shady under live oaks. We've bought some plants that should do well around here though - our big thing is deer resistant! I planted native ferns under the trees this morning - now to see if we stay here long enough to see the results!

    This house came with a built-in sprinkler with a timing system. It seems like most of the houses in our neighborhood have these systems. I guess otherwise we would be all rocks and cedar trees!

    Gee and some chickadees have found the bird-feeder too...

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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