The Garden of T

I have been thinking since the beginning of Make It, Like It that I might write about my gardening adventures. I spend a great deal of time in the dirt, caring for plants, raising seedlings, and doing research. In fact, since Spring has sprung I have spent most of my time doing such things. I think it would be a waste to grow beautiful things, learn some do’s and don’ts, and develop preferences and not write it down. So, if you have any interest in shade gardening then follow along.

First off, when I say gardening I don’t mean a vegetable garden on a plot of dirt. I mean flowers, greenery, shrubs, and hardscaping scattered across our property.

We moved in Thanksgiving of 2012 and shortly after I realized that, when looking out any of the million windows in this house, all I see is brown. The color of death in landscaping. Brown tree trunks, brown dirt, brown pine needles, brown pine cones. I panicked. What had we done? Did we really spend 7 horrifying months purchasing this house only to have bought the darkest, dreariest, monotone piece of property in town? Likely. I’m a sunshine kind of girl. Why would I ever buy a house that I couldn’t surround with lilacs and daffodils? Well, because the house was the house. 

Skip ahead to January, past the holiday hustle, I noticed that one of the flower beds buried under large boring green leaves suddenly had flowers opening up. In January! What is this?!? Turns out they are Hellebore. No I had not ever heard of this plant, nor had I ever seen one. In fact, if I saw it in a nursery I would keep on walking. It’s not bright. It’s not luxurious. But I have a ton of them. And, they are actually kind of pretty. In January! Ok, so it’s not a complete waste land, there is something that will flower. And, they bloom for about 5 months. There aren’t many flowering perennials you can say that about. They love the shade and they reseed themselves. OK, things are looking up.


Around the same time of the great discovery I found a teeny, tiny Camellia hiding by the hot tub. It was horribly diseased and still had the nerve to open up two blossoms. In January! Bright pink, I totally fell in love. A while of clipping-and-cleaning later I happened upon the plant marker buried under the bush: Showa-no-sakae Camellia. I have a photo somewhere…

Alright, I’m starting to see hope at the end of the dark and shady tunnel. Maybe I can have colorful flowers in the land of brown.

February rolled around and a couple of blue primroses opened up. I don’t have a photo but i’m sure you know what a primrose is, they appear in every store like clock-work. They are perennials, I had no idea. I thought they were annuals only.

March brought on the big Camellias. I have two bright red ones right off the deck. They are covered in double blossoms and are apparently the only happy, healthy bushes on the property. This gorgeous pink one is in the front yard.


The ferns unraveled and the moss turned bright green.

moss & fern

The Snowbells opened up.


And this Azalea came to life.


April was a big month. The maple trees put on leaves and helped to hide the ugly brown. Also, the Rhododendrons started blooming. 


The Violets bloomed and just as they were finishing up the Forget-Me-Nots appeared. Two fantastic flowers. They both self-seed  but aren’t nearly as aggressive as, say, the Lily of the Valley.

Violets and Forget-me-not

This soft Japanese Forest Grass came from nowhere.  I think the bottom one is Spurge. I see it all around town looking gorgeous in the bright sun.

japanese forest grass & spurge

Finally, May brought the Lily of the Valley. It is so fragrant! And it spreads like wildfire. If you have a patch of dirt you want to hide this plant will do the trick. Just be careful because it doesn’t care about your prized Hydrangea. They are great in containers and they are survivors. I dug some up, butchered them with tired hands, and tossed the worst ones on top of the compost thinking they were done for. Nope, they were my first to bloom this year. Happy and healthy and I didn’t even cover them with dirt. 

Lily of the Valley

There were many other plants of interest that I didn’t get a photo of. Heuchera, Blue Pulmonaria, Liriope, Bleeding Heart, and Hostas; Hostas everywhere. This is another plant that I would’ve wrinkled my nose at in a nursery. Now, I really like them. Hah!  

OK, so all this to say that you can have colorful flowers in a shade garden. It doesn’t all have to be foliage.