Purchasing an older home in an established neighborhood presents many challenges not the least of which is the garden. Many times the garden is overgrown or neglected, trees have matured creating a dense canopy, and the original landscape may have been altered and downsized by additions to the main house.
You may have one or all three of these conditions. If so, the first place to start is by tackling the trees. Consult an arborist and have the canopy thinned if possible to gain some sunlight; even dappled sunlight will help. Observe the density and movement of the sun once the canopy has been lifted. Secondly, assess the soil. Have a soil test and amend the soil as recommended. If there are existing plants in the garden, consider their health and whether they can or should be saved.
There are many plants which do well in the shade garden. If the garden is particularly dark, use plants with some white or colorful blooms to help brighten the area. Tried and true plants include liriope, mondo grass, heuchera, Turk’s cap, columbine, ferns, caladiums, hydrangea, hostas and azaleas. All are great for color, texture and foliage.
The addition of a bench, swing or glider provides a place to sit and watch the birds in the birdbath and admire the serenity of garden. Spring is a joyful time to be in the garden and wonder about its past as grape hyacinths, daffodils, naked ladies, snowdrops and other unnamed bulbs flourish and remind us of others who’ve been here before and left this legacy to be nurtured.
Susan Stone, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service