We seem to have begun the transition from summer to fall, which seems like a good time to take another look at the shady Back Garden.


The bed along the west hedge (that divides our yard from the neighbors’) no longer looks so empty after the ‘Purple Sensation’ Alliums (Allium aflatunense) go dormant. One reason is that I successfully transplanted some Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba).

American Spikenard

At the far end there are Purple-Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus) and Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), both of which keep their leaves throughout the growing season. There’s also American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa). While the Spikenard elsewhere defoliates by the end of August, for some reason in this bed it looks hale and hearty.


White Woodland Aster (Eurybia divaritica) has turned out to be a good plant for filling in after the Alliums go dormant. It’s also the first of my asters start blooming. Funny I never noticed before how the central discs vary in color. The flowers have a rather gap-toothed look, but I don’t mind.


‘Honorine Jobert’ Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida) also helps to fill in after the Alliums retreat, though it is not yet ready to bloom.



The Back Island Raised Bed is also looking pleasingly full. I have tried so many plants in this bed unsuccessfully that I feel I ought to raise a memorial in their memory.


Plants that have succeeded include Brown-Eyed Susan, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis), Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, Indian Pink (Spigelia marylandica), Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea), and Long-Beaked Sedge (Carex sprengelii). The Yellow Corydalis spreads maniacally by seed, but isn’t hard to control.


Our round patio is surrounded with flowering containers including white Caladiums, New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), Petunias, Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), and Wax Begonias.


Between the patio and the fence, though, there’s an area that is still a problem. It is full of spring ephemerals, with few replacements for later in the season. I’ve planted some maindenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum) that are still struggling to get established. For now I place some containers here and hope that no one looks too closely.


Maybe they’ll be distracted by this red bird house and purple-leaved Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).


But here’s something interesting: Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) can be successfully grown in containers. This one is in a container, though it’s almost impossible to tell. It’s also sprawling all over the place. I gave it absolutely no protection over the winter.


There’s more Blue Lobelia growing in the border along the back porch.


I like how it combines with the Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) and little bird fountain.



Generally speaking, the Caladiums have recovered from their difficult spring, particularly the variety ‘Celebration’, ensconced here in a pot on the back steps.

So overall the Back Garden is in satisfactory shape, with a few areas still needing improvement. And now we wait for the remaining Asters, the Goldenrods, and the turning leaves.

33 Comments on “The Shady Back Garden at the End of Summer”

  1. Goodness, you have as much going on in your back garden as you do in the front! How do you keep up with it all? My garden has become weed infested this summer. There is a new invader — “mulberry weed”. Are you familiar with it? It pops up every time I turn my back.

  2. The Great Blue Lobelia likes shade? It’s wonderful with the monarda. The white Caladiums are inspired — I am taking notes as I try to picture how things will go here. As for the pots, why do you think God made them? So we could fill in as needed. I am ever moving mine around; they cover a multitude of sins, at least for me.

  3. Love the chokeberry, I’ve never had luck growing lobelia, I can totally relate to the struggle to grow things in shade, and, while it’s nice to use pots to fill in, I do hate watering a bunch of pots.

  4. The caladiums in the last photo are just splendid. In the photo showing the back porch and the bird bath, what’s that plant right up against the wall, next to the windows. It looks like our purple headed sneezeweed, but it might be something entirely other in the process of losing its ray flowers.

  5. Your back island bed looks gorgeous! There’s just something about the deep orangey yellow of rudbeckia that I just can’t get enough of. Our front walkway is a shady area & you’ve given me some ideas for plants. I’ve planted up a few things in one corner this past spring including a Trout Lily which looks to be on the verge of blooming – can’t wait!

  6. Thanks for this! It gives me some ideas, since I have mostly shade here. I had no success with Great Blue Lobelia–the rabbits gnawed on it, and then it didn’t come back the next year. So…containers would be a good option! I use containers in challenging areas, too–need to do more of that. Also, the Woodland Aster might be a good one for me to try–although the rabbits ate all my other Asters, even though they were caged. Grrrr…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: