Dry Shade Winners

Helleborus and Vinca minor in dry land shade garden

Over the years, there are two micro climate areas that seem to stump the best of gardeners for a successful outcome. One is hillside planting that I will address next week, and the other is plants to use in dry shade areas. Yet there are wonderful combinations that work well into those particular micro climates.

First, perhaps it would be best to define a micro climate. It has nothing to do with the controversy of climate change so don’t stop reading!!! A micro climate in a garden is a section of land with like needs for plants. For example, since we are talking about dry shade, organize plants with like needs that include the terrain, water needs, soil types, heat, light exposure to sun or shade, and wind. In essence, mixing impatiens with Helleborus would result in starving one for water or drowning the other. They are both shade lovers with entirely different needs! Therefore, organizing plants with similar growing conditions will optimize the ideal plant outcome for that area.


It is a delight to walk into the dry shade section of my garden right now. The Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) is in full bloom. The fern-like foliage offers the woodland setting in an otherwise hostel environment to woodland ferns. To add to the wispy foliage, Aquilegia formosa (Western red columbine) are poking up within the nooks and crannies around the large shade covered boulders. Vestiges of winter color still remain on the assorted Helleborus (lenten rose) only to be usurped by the Bergenia cordifolia (pigsqueak) showing off its beautiful heart shape waxy leaves with spikes of pink blossoms. It is a pretty area that brings comfort to the hot and weary when temperatures spike during the summer months.

Veronica lewanensis with pansies gone wild.

It is also an area that pushes the envelope in this gardener. Digitalis (foxglove) have done well in this section of the garden. Lamium ground cover failed a few times even though it is a dry shade plant. It makes me question the soil type not favorable to Lamium. On the other hand, Vinca minor finally took off to provide splashes of green mounds topped with their gorgeous blue/violet flowers. Or how could I forget tomention the success of Veronica lewanensis (Turkish speedwell) that is just beginning to show hints of color as it sprawls over stone pathways.

Dry shade gardens are a challenge but the time invested to perfect the plants to this environment is well worth it. Have fun with it. Next week – hillside gardens!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there! and have a great weekend.

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