shade gardens and spring wildflowers

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"Even casual study of an ecosystem reveals an abiding truth - that the relationships between things are as important as the things themselves. Living things have meaning in terms of what they do. Life does not know the dancer from the dance."

from: Eastern Deciduous Forest by Robert Q. Petty 

Shade Garden
click here for more about this garden

Although many people regard shady areas as problems for nice gardens, just the opposite is usually true. You need not be stuck with the drabness and predictability of hostas, astilbes, pachysandra and vinca. In most cases, a shady area can offer a quiet place for relaxation and contemplation - a sacredness - because of its inherent ability to calm you and put you at ease.

Shade gardens work best if the shade is produced by deciduous trees - ones that lose their leaves in the fall - and not by a building or large spruce. (Planting around a Norway maple is also difficult because the shade produced is so intense and the soil becomes depleted of nutrients.)

Shade Garden
Rich soil and shade from oaks make this an ideal garden. The beds were defined by laying out the paths. See how lush and alive this cool-looking garden is! There will be a continuation of blooms all year.

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Imagine patches of light playing on the ground as the sun travels across the sky. In the early spring, before the trees leaf out, the woods are alive with a symphony of color and interest. Many of the plants bloom early and then disappear. These are the spring ephemerals.

The rich soil of this shade garden supports flowers, grasses and sedges. The flowers in bloom are woodland/wild blue phlox.

A well designed shade garden will use plenty of grasses, sedges and ferns, besides the wildflowers, vines, shrubs and trees.
Hindsdale Shade Garden

Shade Garden w/ Fence
It will be beautiful throughout the year and never dull or predictable.

Here is another shade garden in Wildwood, a suburb of Chicago.

whole yard 1

table and tree

A cool, quiet get-away

Maturing plants

yard 2

log and rocks

A dead log and a few rocks placed between the ferns and sweet woodruff add texture and interest.

A Shaded Lot in Riverwoods. IL
This home, designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, sits snugly in a wooded lot.

The owner wanted the woods restored with sculpture and rock features added. At right: owner-designed rock pile feature.

This shady front yard on the north side of Chicago has a bird bath and field stones added for texture.


See how the plants in this same garden have matured and filled in a year later.

A Wet, Shady Garden in Riverside, IL

This garden area receives water from a downspout and sump pump, so has two levels - one for rain garden plants and one for shade.

The rain garden is planted with sedges and other moisture-loving plants.

The shady side yard was once filled with buckthorn and weeds. The garden is now two years old.

A Lightly Shaded Front Yard in LaGrange, IL

The front yard of an average home in LaGrange has been turned into a cozy sanctuary by adding shade-loving native plants and a bench.

An attractive-looking native plant garden on the shady side of the house

A Light Shade Garden in Evanston, IL

Notice the stonework that supports this raised bed. The split makes a welcome entrance.

Another view of the stonework and raised bed.

The shady backyard garden uses a mix of shrubs and native pants.

The garden to the right is a rain garden, featuring plants that prefer to be wet. It is fed by water from the garage's downspout.

This corner of the backyard between the fence and garage became a "secret" sitting area. A "waterfall" was created using the garage's downspout and a garden hose. It feeds the rain garden, above.

A Tiny shade Garden in downtown Chicago

shady bench
This small garden is growing in extreme shade.It was planted on the north side of a three-story greystone in downtown Chicago in 2001.


There isn't much sun because the neighbors on either side of this lot have large trees in their front yards.
flagstone path


Because this is a city lot, the area gets lots of foot and auto traffic. The garden feels very snug and comfortable with its stone walk and bench.

a unique north side shade garden

bridge and bird houses
This shady backyard garden features a wooden bridge and colorful bird house "apartment building."


A wider view of the back yard, between the garage and house.
back yard


bird feeders

Bird feeders and a viewing bench complete the garden.

Click here to see more photos of this garden.

Spring Ephemerals and Woodland Flowers
In the earliest spring days, these little beauties poke their pretty heads through the snow to say hello to the sun.
Virginia Bluebells

Shooting Star
All of these do well in the woodland garden because they blossom before sunlight is cut off by the leaf canopy of trees.

Others keep their nice foliage until fall, like Virginia waterleaf, wild geranium (right) and wild ginger. Not a whole lot blooms in the summer, because of the rich, dark leaf cover, but bugbane, goatsbeard, woodland sunflower and blue lobelia add great interest, color and focus.

Wild Geranium


Goatsbeard can get almost 4-5 feet tall in the shade and has nice flowers. It adds summer excitement to the shade garden.

In the fall, the many goldenrods and asters, snakeroot and mistflower make the garden come alive again with color. Also, it is in the fall that the leaves on the woodland trees and shrubs turn gold, red and rust, while purple and red berries become available to feed the birds. The rich crimson leaves of the Virginia creeper vines (at left) signal the forest animals and birds that its berries are ready for them to feast on.

Virginia Creeper

celadine poppy
False Solomon's seal and celandine poppy highlight this old, dead log. In the fall, the Solomon's seal has a cluster of red berries, formed from the white flower cluster.

Our collection of woodland/shade plants also includes:
(Click on photos for more plant information )
Jack- in -the -Pulpit
Toad Shade Trillium


Wild Columbine


Toad Shade Trillium

Doll's Eyes
Wild Ginger

Doll's Eyes

Wild Ginger

Virginia Waterleaf

Blue Lobelia
Woodland Sunflower


Blue Lobelia

Woodland Sunflower


Our availability list is extensive. We grow many native varieties you cannot get anywhere. If you don't see what you want, just ask. We may have it available later in the season or may be able to get it for you.

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