you read the descriptions of where to plant your new tree, shrub or
perennial flower, invariably you see words such as “fertile,
well-drained soil” and “full sun.”
ideal plant world, all soils would be rich in organic matter and well
drained, and the locations would be sunny and protected from wind. I
don’t know about you, but that doesn’t describe my yard. I do
have some full sun locations, but those sites are exposed and windy.
protected spot in the backyard would be perfect for plants, but it
floods in late winter and spring for weeks—a perfect recipe for
plant death. Then there’s the north side of the garage that has
great soil, but it’s dark all day.
what can you do if your yard doesn’t have the ideal planting
are ways to use almost any location in your yard as planting space.
It just takes the proper plant selection, a little site preparation
and some improvisation at planting time.
soil is a blessing and a curse. Clay naturally contains many
nutrients and holds water well; however, once wet, it’s difficult
to work and takes a while to dry out.
to working on wet, clay soil is to improve the soil drainage and
texture. You can install drainage pipes to divert the water to
improve drainage, but an easier solution is raising the soil. Raised
beds for perennial flowers or raised mounds for trees and shrubs
allow the water to settle below the root zone.
8- to 12-inch-tall raised beds for perennial flowers. Amend the beds
with compost to improve the soil texture, creating air spaces in the
dense clay soil.
planting trees and shrubs, create a mound with the native soil so
that one-third to one-half of the rootball is above the normal soil
line when you plant. Select the right plant for wet sites, as well.
Some plants that will tolerate wet, clay soils include Joe-Pye weed,
Louisiana iris, Miscanthus ornamental grass, obedient plant
winterberry holly, pepperbush (Clethra),
willow, cypress and eastern white cedar.
Photo courtesy of the
National Gardening Association.
the right plant is also important when planting in a shady location.
First, determine the amount of shade you have.
shade is defined as 3 to 4 hours of direct sun a day. Astilbes,
coleus, impatiens and heuchera are examples of plants that grow well
under these conditions.
or dappled shade is what’s found under small trees like flowering
plums and medium-sized deciduous trees whose lowest branches are at
least 20 feet off the ground, such as maples. Azaleas, mountain
laurel, bleeding hearts, hostas and ferns grow well in dappled shade.
shade is what’s found on the north side of buildings or under
evergreen trees with low branches. Few plants, other than moss, grow
well in deep shade, so it’s wiser to mulch that area instead.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally
recognized garden writer, book author, speaker, and radio and
television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery
Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and
spokesperson for the National
Gardening Association and chief gardening officer
for the Hilton Garden Inn.