Although a meadow of drought-resistant wildflowers would be great, living under the shade of four big maple trees may be the next best thing. At least this year. This is the first time Garden Walk visitors have complimented me on my shade instead of commiserating. People were talking about hosta and colocasia—two shade-lovers I use extensively—with more interest than I’ve ever noticed before.
Of course, there are plenty of interesting woodland natives. I am slightly hampered by the root systems that accompany the shade, but continual mulching and other top-down amending seem to alleviate the situation. And it’s fun to try the lesser-known shade natives. Thanks to an April visit to Plantsmen Nursery in Ithaca, my latest shade discovery is Collinsonia canadensis (stone root, horsebalm, other names). It was purchased on absolute trust—not one shoot of it was showing above the dirt of its pot. It took off quickly however, and now we have this lovely wildflower. The blooms are tiny and yellow—you can just about see them here, but a close-up would reveal a rather exotic little flower. I wish I’d bought ten of these, but maybe it will spread.
Collinsonia has a number of medicinal uses; it apparently helps clear various congestions, though it’s unlikely I’ll put it to the test. It is one of a number of new shade natives I’ve added. Others include carex grayi (morningstar sedge), carex plantaginea (seersucker sedge), and many of the eupatoriums (which at least tolerate shade). We’ve also had our oldest maple properly trimmed to prevent further storm losses. This is not the year to ignore tree health—if there’s ever a year when that would be a good idea. This is a year for shade.