A Back Garden Update With (Mostly) Natives for Summer Shade

And this is what the Back Garden looks like in mid-July.


The Back Garden sits under the shade of Silver Maples and Siberian Elms, not everyone’s favorite trees, I know. But they give a high, dappled shade that I appreciate.


The American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa) is blooming with its tiny flowers. This plant has a substantial summer presence in the Back Garden.


The compound leaves have a bold look, though the foliage tends to die back from something later in the summer. You can see the beginnings in the lower right corner.


The Purple Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is becoming more substantial. It’s blooming more, too, but the flowers are not profuse.


Here’s a close-up of the flowers. The fruits are edible but not very tasty – better to leave them for the birds.


In spring, Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum) sports frothy white flowers. In summer, they turn into little berries – now bronze, eventually red. My only complaint about this plant is that the stems tend to flop under the weight of the ripe berries. Supposedly the berries (true berries, not drupes) are edible, and one of the common names is Treacleberries. I’m definitely not encouraging anyone to try them, though.


One edge of the Back Garden Island Bed is lined with Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea). Not a native, but it’s such an easy plant, the ferny foliage is nice, and it blooms forever. Self-sows like crazy, but easy to pull out.


Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) blooms behind the Corydalis. I prefer mostly white flowers in the shade, but I make an exception for this perennial. A great plant for gardeners and hummingbirds.


Here’s a look at the east end of the Back Garden.


‘Annabelle’ Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is blooming against the fence between our yard and the neighbor’s. These are native to Southern Illinois, though not to the Chicago area.


I like how our red bird house contrasts with the white Hydrangea blooms.

That’s it for now. There’s a few other things going on in the Back Garden, like my attempt to plant a sedge lawn, but I’ll write about at another time. Are you enjoying any particular shade plants this summer?

35 Comments on “A Back Garden Update With (Mostly) Natives for Summer Shade”

  1. My Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra) are blooming now. I love the tall frothy pink flower and it’s growing nicely in a shade bed that is only sometimes moist. My Hyssop Blue Fortune (agastache) are very tall and bushy and the bees love them. Also, my Culver’s Root (veronicastrum?) is a lovely shade of light blue-purple. It’s a bit floppy so I have to support it. I’m usually a tree and shrub person but I planted more pollinator perennials this year and am seeing more butterflies, a hummingbird, and a hummingbird moth.

  2. So beautiful and lush! I love, covet, the hydrangeas. And yes the little red house does look good with them. You have a nice variety of plants! I am a fickle person when it comes to what I am fancying in my garden at the moment. I always love the fern but a new plants I am coming to appreciate more and more, especially since it survived four days and 4 feet of rain and our two days of 18 degrees, is the Toad Lily, Tricyrtis hirta. They flower well, stay under 2 feet and have the most precious little bluish purple flowers. And they love the shade!

  3. You have a beautiful back yard. I’m also coveting your blooming hydrangeas. I have two types of hydrangeas, both that are supposed to bloom on old and new growth, yet neither has bloomed in the three years I’ve had them. They keep dying back in winter and have to start over, and there’s never a bloom. Yours are beautiful!

  4. This year is a banner year for my hostas. After seeming to struggle for the last five years they’ve really grown into what my son would call Monster Hostas when he was young. The lungwort really took off this year too. A good year for my shade gardens.

  5. I am encouraging a small area to be a moss garden. The patch is about 1’x2′. ha… it is a start.
    It naturally grows in the area so I am trying to eliminate the bossy grass.
    I thought Cordyalis lutea was a native. Hmmmmm
    Your back garden looks so lush and inviting. I too like the red bird house contrasting with the Annabelle. Can’t wait to see your new project.

  6. Silver maple was the second tree I planted when I was just a tyke. They are unpopular trees here as well. I do not mind that they do not color well. Not many trees do color well here anyway. To me, they are nice light shade trees for summer. They are not too dark like the native bigleaf maple is, but just shady enough to keep things cool. Lawn survives underneath them. They are remarkably tough. They defoliate cleanly in winter, and are easy to rake up after. They are still one of my favorites.

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