suggestions for the shade gardener, from ken druse


THE OTHER NIGHT I hosted a web based class about shade gardening, that includes Ken Druse, whom I met in 1992-ish, nearly precisely 30 years in the past to the day, after I interviewed him on the publication of his e-book “The Pure Shade Backyard.” In 2015, Ken wrote a complete new shade e-book appropriately known as “The New Shade Backyard,” so I assume you’ll be able to inform that shade gardening has been a constant theme of his work and his personal gardening efforts, and it’s our subject in the present day.

You all know Ken Druse, creator and photographer of 20 backyard books and a daring gardener and plant propagator. He spoke to me from his backyard among the many timber in New Jersey to speak about oh-so-carefully tucking small issues in amongst tree roots, about making a bit extra gentle with clever pruning, some favourite crops and extra.

Plus: Enter to win a replica of his 2015 e-book “The New Shade Backyard” (affiliate hyperlink) by commenting within the field close to the underside of the web page.

Learn alongside as you hearken to the January 17, 2022 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant beneath. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

shade-garden suggestions with ken druse



Margaret Roach: Shade, shade, shade.

Ken Druse: We had enjoyable with a number of individuals.

Margaret: Yeah, we should always inform individuals. I assume we should always perhaps backtrack the historical past. We’ve each trotted across the nation for many years giving backyard lectures to backyard golf equipment and botanical gardens and so forth. And that’s form of vanished in these final two years, and so we’ve been studying to improvise, even at our superior age [laughter]. And so we had a e-book membership about your shade e-book.

Ken: A free e-book membership.

Margaret: Yeah, it was enjoyable.

Ken: It was enjoyable. And the way many individuals joined us, do you suppose?

Margaret: 360-ish, I feel registered, They usually can watch the recording, too, so about perhaps 250, 275 had been they’re reside with us and yeah, it was enjoyable. And the “ticket” was both you needed to present us you had the e-book, ship us an image of the e-book, or present us that you simply’re studying it on Kindle or from the library or one thing, in order that they might bounce in and ask questions and stuff from the e-book. And yeah, so it was enjoyable.

And so it obtained me desirous about how we met, it’s nearly actually 30 years in the past to the day as I mentioned.

Ken: Effectively, that’s when the e-book got here out. I don’t know if we met—and it actually wasn’t in January.

Margaret: No, no, however it’s shut as a result of it was a brand new e-book on the time after we I reached you.

Ken: That’s true. You look the identical.

Margaret: Yeah, proper. Yeah. There you go. Isn’t he a flatterer, of us [laughter]? So I’d wish to say we’ll have a giveaway of the shade e-book, however it’s offered out all over the place in the intervening time.

Ken: In every single place, proper.

Margaret: So we will have a giveaway of the e-book, however after I’ll put within the order for it, it could not arrive to the winner instantly, as a result of individuals purchased it to do the category and so we ran out of books, however that’s a superb factor.

So lots of issues that got here up within the class, I assumed it’d be enjoyable to speak about with a bigger group right here, and drill into just a few of them. And perhaps we simply begin the place you started in your presentation within the class. Many gardeners are like, “Oh, shade is so tough and nothing’s rising.” You’re really encouraging, within the newer e-book, the creation of extra shade, so inform us why.

Ken: Effectively, I bear in mind when, oh gosh, when that e-book got here out, it was all about how shade is a curse. And other people wished to know learn how to cope with the curse of shade and I assumed, “It’s a problem, but in addition it may be a blessing.”

It’s humorous, as a result of I had probably the most form of resistance after I spoke within the South [laughter], which is the place they really want shade. I feel lots of people simply go indoors on the finish of Might and that’s it.

However now due to local weather change and all the things, I feel we have to plant extra timber. Effectively, lots of people suppose that, as a result of they soak up CO2, and in each manner they assist. And we have now to do our half, and our half could also be including timber, which provides shade.

And after I see lovely lower flowers and I see different issues that I can’t develop, I feel they’re actually great, however I’m dedicated to shade, and I don’t actually have a alternative due to the place I’m. I additionally love woody crops [laughter]; I like timber.

Margaret: I do know you do. Even propagating them even from seed and from cuttings and so forth. And I feel you mentioned the opposite evening, you mentioned that the temperature distinction within the shade alone, and that’s the factor on a heat day, nothing like going and sitting in a pair chairs within the shade and having a chat.

Ken: It may be 10 to twenty levels cooler within the shade.

Margaret: Proper. Proper.

Ken: And it’s getting hotter and warmer. That’s what individuals say, however that’s what I do know.  We’ve been over 100 levels, and 10 years in the past that didn’t occur.

Margaret: So that you’re encouraging us to not concern or detest—no concern and loathing for the shade, however to even rejoice it and even perhaps to make some extra in some key spots. And a part of your presentation that I beloved, and I spotted if you had been speaking about it and I used to be wanting on the slides and so forth.

However I don’t actually suppose consciously about it, however in fact, duh, it makes a lot sense: The leaf construction of the timber and shrubs we select to create shade, if we’re going to create shade, goes to dictate the character, the kind of density, of the shade we have now beneath them. So clarify some examples of that.

Ken: Yeah. What I kind of check with because the levels of shade, from a form of gentle shade with timber like honey locust, thornless honey locust, which have tiny leaves and make a really delicate shade, to timber like conifers and evergreens that perhaps forged deeper shade. And should you put them in the correct place, you’ll be able to management how a lot shade there may be, and all of the crops in between, in between perhaps a Southern magnolia, an evergreen with massive leaves and all the way in which to that Gleditsia, to the thornless honey locust, and all the things in between. [Above, foliage of the deciduous conifer Metasquoia is also light-textured. Ken photo.]

Ken: I’m pondering as I’m talking, even of a tree that has very dense shade that no person ought to plant, which is a Norway maple.

Margaret: Oh, boy.

Ken: Which has not solely dense shade, however even places a chemical into the soil that inhibits the expansion of different timber. And it leafs out early and it drops its leaves late, so it’s actually affecting… Within the woodlands the place it’s escaped, you’ll be able to see if you go round within the fall and all of the leaves have fallen on the timber, besides there’s some yellow leaves on timber, dotted right here and there. And people are the Norway maples, which had been very talked-about timber to plant and have unimaginable, they’re like shingles overlapping, darkish inexperienced. So now I’m ranting [laughter].

Margaret: So the finer-textured, nearly ferny-ish foliage goes to let extra gentle by and make a extra filtered gentle, versus a dense shade of… Yeah. So I feel that’s vital to consider, so a tree isn’t a tree isn’t a tree, so after we’re making our decisions …

And then you definately additionally kind of espoused one other thought for kind of modifying the shade, even with present timber and enormous shrubs, which is limbing up issues, kind of altering the density of among the present. And I feel this is a chance actually that gardeners miss, is working with… It must be an inventive arborist pruner kind an individual, however somebody who actually will get it, not only a wooden butcher [laughter]. However we will perform a little modifying, can’t we?

Ken: We’re not like chopping the tops off trees-

Margaret: No, no, no, no, no.

Ken: … which individuals do.

Margaret: However we will do some modifying.

Ken: However yeah, modifying, thinning, eradicating some branches. However limbing up is eradicating the decrease branches to let extra gentle in.

Margaret: Proper. In order that if, as an illustration, you had wished to place a shrub layer, you perhaps have your groundcover, and also you wished to place an intermediate layer. You may have the ability to do this slightly extra simply, proper?

Ken: Yeah. And within the exhibit that I confirmed, it was Barbara Tiffany’s backyard [above], and he or she had her timber limbed up. After which she may develop rhododendrons underneath them they usually bloomed and regarded nice.

Margaret: Proper. Proper. So these are just a few prospects. And one factor that individuals wished to know extra about, and each you and I’ve achieved hands-on experiments on this over time, is planting beneath established timber and in addition older, bigger shrubs, the place there’s already root  programs and so forth.

And you probably did a demo, a video, in your presentation. However describe—right here we’re, we wish to have one thing rising beneath a tree, however we’re not going to take out an enormous outdated shovel. I imply, that’s not taking place.

Ken: And particularly if it’s a shallow-rooted tree, like a maple, or goodness forbid, a beech, when you have a beech, an older beech tree. I confirmed how one can make little holes both with a hori hori knife or slightly trowel and simply scratch slightly opening and plant child crops, perhaps from plugs or from divisions of different crops that you’ve got. [Above, from Ken’s video, a shot of his using a soil knife to make a tiny hole for a small plant near the big old roots of a tree.]

Or you’ll be able to plant bulbs, and or you’ll be able to plant bulbs like Galanthus, the minor bulbs, that bloom within the spring earlier than the leaves on the timber leaf out and forged shade and have a reasonably large present there. Even issues like trillium, you’ll be able to plant.

I don’t do this rather a lot, as a result of I need the timber to be pleased. And it finally ends up being a form of a reasonably factor. However what I did do after I began my woodland backyard, is I planted underneath a couple of pie-wedge-shape quarter of the realm underneath the tree simply by including some materials, compost and a few gravel, a really well-draining combine so I didn’t smother the roots, and planted woodland crops which might be brief, and wouldn’t actually compete with the tree. However I used to be capable of have a woodland backyard underneath a really outdated established white pine.

Margaret: Proper. So that you didn’t… And I feel it’s super-important to emphasise, you didn’t suffocate that tree’s roots by dumping a complete truckload of medium, of-

Ken: Or cutting-

Margaret: Or chopping any of the roots. You picked a wedge, slightly as you say, a chunk of pie, slightly spot, and you set slightly little bit of medium, however you weren’t smothering it. [Ken’s drawing of how much of a tree he might underolant, above.]

And I feel that’s actually vital and I feel we have now to be affected person, relying on the plant we’re working with, however we have now to be affected person. I imply, I bear in mind years in the past, and also you and I’ve talked about this earlier than, however a good friend gave me, that is like 20 years in the past, a tray of hellebore seedlings. He was breeding, making deliberate crosses to get sure colours of hellebores, hellebore flowers. And he had massive trays of them, this was a flat of 72 little plugs, and he despatched them to me and I used to be like, “What the heck am I going to do with these items,” as I hadn’t grown hellebores.

These are the x hybridus or orientalis varieties [top of page, at Margaret’s] that bloom in late winter, and are largely evergreen till late, early spring. And I used to be like, “What am I going to do?” And he mentioned, as a result of he knew my backyard, and he mentioned, “Effectively. Attempt underneath one in every of your outdated apples,” I’ve these 150-year-old apples. And he mentioned, “Attempt underneath one in every of your apples.”

And he mentioned precisely what you mentioned. He mentioned, “Now take virtually a tablespoon, or a hori hori or one thing.” And these are little tiny seedlings and he mentioned, “Put them a foot or 18 inches aside or no matter.”

And I assumed, that is going to essentially look silly [laughter]. And so for a pair years I had, it did look silly. However I did additionally what you mentioned, I put some trilliums in and another issues and a few minor bulbs, some snowdrops as you prompt, and, in these teeny little holes now and again. And it’s develop into one of many showiest areas of the backyard, as a result of these had been crops that as a result of they had been beginning at a really younger age within the spot, they both made it or they didn’t inside that aggressive root space of the timber. I imply, I didn’t give them an edge.

Ken: They established themselves.

Margaret: Appropriate. Appropriate.

Ken: It’s humorous the way you’re saying this, you regarded underneath the apple tree, however lots of occasions you do one thing like that and also you go away [laughter] and also you do one thing else. And also you don’t stand there, tapping your ft, ready for them to develop. Hellebores are form of gradual.

Margaret: They’re, yeah.

Ken: They develop sufficiently big to flower and look actually nice, however another crops will do it in a 12 months. And as I mentioned, you’re not likely there. Consider all of the stuff you’ve planted, even timber; you go away, and earlier than you understand it, seven years later, you’ve been busy with different issues and the tree’s blooming ,or it’s massive, or it’s casting shade. It’s superb how that occurs.

Margaret: Yeah. And, for this goal, if we’re going to tuck issues in and punctiliously and respectfully of the elder statesman of the tree, we have to decide issues that aren’t in search of a house in extremely natural moist soil, as a result of the roots of a longtime tree is mostly talking, and very talking if we’re speaking a couple of conifer, which is a complete different story, it’s not a spot the place slightly plant goes to outcompete the massive woody man for sources. I imply, these need to be adaptable issues. Lots of occasions, just like the issues that we might consider as both dry shade or are robust form of little crops, I feel.

Ken: And I will need to have mentioned it 10 occasions the opposite day: water.

Margaret: Water. Precisely.

Ken: And that’s true for something that you simply’re planting, particularly woodland crops. Individuals typically suppose that “Effectively, native crops get alongside all by themselves.” They usually plant them they usually count on them to get alongside all by themselves. However that first 12 months they need assistance getting established.

And in the event that they reside, they’ll take for much longer to get established. In order that first 12 months, if it doesn’t rain, at the very least an inch per week, you need to assist, and water them. They usually’re little crops, so that you don’t need to water for hours or actually deep. Simply to maintain your eye on them and assist them alongside.

Margaret: One other factor that individuals requested about within the e-book membership class was the shade backyard in winter. And each of us, I feel once they requested the query, it was on the spot and so forth, and it was night, and so I couldn’t look out the window. I don’t learn about you, however you most likely couldn’t look out the window both [laughter]. And see something, as a result of it will get darkish at what, like 4 o’clock now.

However, what are the issues that make a shade backyard work in winter? What are among the issues that you simply, since that class, perhaps have taken a go searching that-

Ken: I thought of this, and perhaps I haven’t paid sufficient consideration to winter, however after I go searching, I feel, “Oh, that’s fairly and that’s good. And look how these hydrangea flowers are nonetheless persisting”-

Margaret: Light, proper.

Ken: …on this shrub, they usually’re lovely.

And so I actually haven’t planted for winter, and I assume I ought to. However the hellebores are all inexperienced and searching fairly good. And as I mentioned, the hydrangeas have their pale, dried flowers.

After which there are the evergreens, the conifers, and the form of timber and the way in which the sunshine is. And the paperbark maple [Acer griseum] at the moment of 12 months has exfoliating bark. And I planted it in order that the setting solar will make it glow within the winter. It’s a special form of winter curiosity, I assume.

Margaret: Proper. And also you simply gave an instance of bark and I used to be pondering, once more in reflection after our class the opposite evening, Stewartia. I’ve a Stewartia throughout the yard. Kousa dogwoods, I imply, and easy-to-grow, beautiful exfoliating form of camouflage-colored, patterned bark. These are nice.

After which construction, too. I imply, I don’t know what number of years in the past, I had some shrub die on the north facet of my home, and now, in fact, I can’t even bear in mind what it was, and I couldn’t determine what to place there, couldn’t determine what to place.

After which I went for one thing with construction, a shrub with winter construction as a result of I assumed, “Oh, that might be good to nicely stroll previous, even on the winter days.” And what I picked was a filbert, a Corylus, it’s known as ‘Purple Dragon.’ It’s obtained form of purple leaves in season.

It’s deciduous, however it’s all contorted and twisted. And it is a selection that has illness resistance constructed into it, as a result of lots of the older filberts had lots of illness issues.

And it’s a component shade spot. I imply, it might be in a sunnier spot, however it’s a component shade, it’s purple foliage within the season. However what I actually like way more than that’s when it’s bare, half the 12 months round right here, from leaf drop in fall, it’s this twisty loopy wanting factor, an actual sculpture. And it’s simply so enjoyable. I take pleasure in it day by day of the 12 months.

So once more, that’s not going to go within the deep woods, however partly shade, that’s an incredible one. After which what about twig dogwoods [above]? I imply, and twig willows. Once more, not dense shade, however I’ve pink and gold and all types of issues happening outdoors proper now, even in semi-shady locations.

Hamamelis blooming in snow

Ken: And also you’re reminding me, I feel I’ve Hamamelis, a witch hazel, that bloom from, totally different ones, from fall to proper now, and right through March. And also you wouldn’t even discover them the summer season as a result of the flowers are nearly insignificant, however lots of them are very aromatic. However this time of 12 months, if you see little yellow or pink ribbons or purple ribbons, it catches your eye or your nostril [laughter].

Margaret: Yeah. The witch hazels I noticed, I observed, perhaps it was like January third or fourth. I observed that the primary ones right here had been unfurling their little ribbon like flowers. And a few years it’s a lot later and a few years it’s proper round now, in order that’s the kind of mid-winter stuff. [Above, an already open witch hazel after a snowstorm.]

And I used to be pondering of, once more, so there’s the chance for texture and construction—texture within the bark, and construction—and shade like these twig dogwoods and twig willows. And in addition even within the conifer, such a spread of shade, that with some aware thought; I’ve a pair across the yard of a gold conifer, a Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Cripsii,’ this gold Chamaecyparis, and at a distance, even within the winter, it actually pulls your eye to that space of the backyard. It’s an actual beacon.

So some shade within the conifers—not all simply darkish inexperienced. I feel it’s good.

After which, up by one in every of them, up on the hill, I’ve a few of this Salix, this willow. I feel it has some loopy lengthy identify, like Salix alba

Ken: Alba ‘Britzensis.’

Margaret: …subspecies vitellina ‘Britzensis,’ however should you search for ‘Britzensis,’ you’ll… And I don’t prune it again. I simply let it’s. It’s like one million ft tall, straight up. And once more, it’s like this punctuation, loopy gold factor up there and it calls my eye up the hill, even and it’s in a semi-shady… These usually are not once more in the midst of the woods.

So evergreen groundcovers, you talked about some. I imply the European ginger, the epimediums, these persist into the late winter, early spring, once they get in the reduction of. A number of prospects.

So within the final couple minutes, are there any bulbs for shade? You talked about one thing about the place deciduous timber and shrubs are, we will do the early bloomers underneath these, however do you have got luck with every other bulbs in shade, flowering bulbs in shade?

Ken: Not a complete lot. And I haven’t actually examined it that a lot as a result of I imply, the entire thing about bulbs is deciduous timber, that the majority of them are blooming in order that they will collect as a lot gentle as potential earlier than the timber leaf out. And bulbs like daffodils, they want solar to rebloom. However there are some summer-flowering bulbs. Oh gosh, we develop so many. You and I develop Eucomis, these are bulbs.

Margaret: Sure. The pineapple lilies. Proper.

Ken: Proper. And also you develop the voodoo lily varieties.

Margaret: Sure. The Sauromatum and the Amorphophallus [above in pots in the shade at Margaret’s]. Now these I develop for his or her foliage. So these I put in pots they usually’re within the shade and that’s high-quality. The Eucomis, I normally put in sunnier spots. I don’t learn about you.

Ken: Effectively, I don’t have sunnier spots [laughter].

Margaret: Oh. So that you’re saying partly shade, they’re doing high-quality. O.Ok.

Ken: They get most likely, I don’t know, three and a half to 4 hours of direct solar.

Margaret: All proper.

Ken: However then they’re in vibrant gentle or shade for the remainder of the time. And I feel I’ve at the very least 12 totally different ones. They usually bloom, they’re doing high-quality.

Margaret: Yeah. And Dave Culp, who’s written quite a lot of books, and we’ve identified him for a very long time, each of us, the Brandywine Cottage books. He has a complete assortment from fall till nicely into spring, together with lots of winter bloomers, of the snowdrops, of the Galanthus. I imply, you’ll be able to actually research a genus and see which of them do one of the best.

What are the Colchicum? Is {that a} phrase I’m making an attempt to say? What are those which have the beautiful leaves? Colchicums?

Ken: No. You suppose they’re fairly [laughter]? They’ve leaves. They’ve they bloom within the fall. Most of them. After which within the spring they’ve very massive leaves.

Margaret: Oh, O.Ok.

Ken: They’re good. However you need to actually take into consideration the place you’re going to place them.
As a result of they’ll shade out even the crops round them, and people massive leaves final for some time. However should you do take into consideration that, it’s O.Ok. And I feel that now in January, I feel that I’ve seen a few of them simply starting to indicate. They’re very, very early that they arrive up.

Margaret: Effectively, a number of prospects. We simply touched on just a few.

Ken: I’ve obtained Galanthus blooming now really.

Margaret: Oh, you do? Oh, cool. Cool. I’ll need to go march round and see if I do up right here. So thanks, Ken. It’s at all times good to speak. And as like I mentioned, we’re going to have a e-book giveaway of “The New Shade Backyard,” however it’s going to be a delayed receipt of the e-book as a result of we’re slightly out of inventory [laughter], however that’s O.Ok. [Update: The publisher restocked the book!] Thanks once more for the category the opposite evening. And I’ll discuss to you quickly.

enter to win ‘the brand new shade backyard’

I’LL BUY A COPY of Ken’s common 2015 e-book “The New Shade Backyard” for one fortunate reader. All you need to do to enter is reply this query within the feedback field beneath:

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MY WEEKLY public-radio present, rated a “top-5 backyard podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper within the UK, started its eleventh 12 months in March 2020. In 2016, the present gained three silver medals for excellence from the Backyard Writers Affiliation. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station within the nation. Pay attention regionally within the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Japanese, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the January 17, 2022 present utilizing the participant close to the highest of this transcript. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).