Planning a Shade Garden

Shade Garden Rhododendrons

People often feel frustrated when trying to plant a shade garden.

Gardening in the shade is easy if you stick to a few basic rules, beginning with making sure that the plants you choose will thrive in shady conditions.  That seems obvious, but often our overriding desire is to create beauty and color.  This often leads to choosing plants based on their looks rather than on their temperament.

Here are a few tips that will help get you going in the right direction:

  1. Plan the overall design of the garden based on the kind of look that you want.  Instead of just a mass of plants, why not begin by creating an anchor using an interesting feature. Some ideas are: a path, stepping stones, a bench, an arbor, a statue or a fountain.  Once you have your anchor, you can plan which plants to use to bring attention to this feature. It’s all about creating an atmosphere and a purpose.  Do you want to create a secluded spot to while away summer afternoons with a good book? Or a place to sit and meditate? Or a spot of beauty to wander through?
  2. Use groundcover instead of grass.  Grass doesn’t usually do well in heavy shade, so why not find a few alternatives.  Grass also requires a lot of water, and often shaded areas are drier because they’re overshadowed by trees, walls or buildings.  Think about using different types of groundcover.  It could be a creeping ground cover plant or you could use bark mulch spread between larger plants. Variegated ground cover such as variegated Bishop’s Weed adds contrast and interest.
  3. Assess just how heavy the shade is.  Is it full, all-the-time shade or part-of-the-day shade?  Is it dark shade or shade with lots of indirect light?  All these factors will affect which plants will do best in your shade garden.
  4. When choosing your plants, also bear in mind their shape, the texture of the foliage, the types of flowers or other interesting features like berries or cones, and the time of year during which these appear.  The ideal is to have plants that look interesting at various times of the year.Size is important as well. You don’t want to obscure some plants by having them hidden by taller ones.  Place taller, bushier plants so that they create a backdrop for your feature item as well as for smaller plants. Create movement and interest by combining different textures or colors in proximity to each other.
  5. Popular shade plants include: Skimmia, Ferns and Hosta which do well in heavier shade. Rhododendrons and Hydrangeas do well in lighter shade.Shade GardenShade Garden Skimmia in bloom

    provides interest with flowers and berries following during winter.They’re pretty hardy and are both drought and pollution resilient.Skimmia is an evergreen shrub from the Rue family.
    Shade Garden HostaHostas are herbaceous perennial plants that grow from rhizomes.  They have broad leaves, some varieties are variegated, and delicate flowers on long stems during the warmer months. They spread over time, so a single hosta can end up becoming a group.shade garden fernsFerns are another popular addition to the B.C. shade garden. We have some native varieties in B.C. that are perfect to pair with both Hostas and Skimia.  The advantage of choosing native plants is that they’re perfectly adapted to our climate.

    Shade Garden RhododendronsRhododendrons are large, woody, deciduous  shrubs from the Heath family.  The blooms, which appear in early spring come in a variety of shades of pink, purple and everything inbetween.  They do well in lighter shade and as you can see from the image, they complement Hostas perfectly!

    Hydrangea Blue Jangles Fall ColorHydrangeas are another favorite in this region. With their large, showy and long lasting blooms from early summer through to fall, these shrubs also work well with both Hostas and ferns.

There are many other plants that also do very well in shady conditions.  The best idea is to take some photos of the shady area in your garden, getting the surroundings in the photo as well as the immediate area.  Bring these in to us with the approximate dimensions of the area you want to plant. Our experienced horticulturalists will be very happy to help you plan a beautiful shade garden and advise you about the specific plants that will work best for you.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Hash with Mango Red Pepper Pico De Gallo

Sweet Potato Hash

Recipe for Sweet Potato Hash with Mango Red Pepper Pico De Gallo (serves 4)

Sweet Potato Hash
Yam/Potato Hash

2 medium-sized yams, peeled
2 medium-sized red potatoes, peeled
1 red onion, peeled and julienned
2 eggs whole
Method for Hash
Shred peeled yams and potatoes in food processor or grate into a mixing bowl. Add the 2 whole eggs and red onion. Mix together and season with salt and pepper. Strain excess liquid. Place on a parchment-papered sheet pan sprayed with canola oil. Bake at 350 degrees until crispy (approximately 10 minutes).

Poached Eggs

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil and 1 cup of white vinegar (you should be able to taste the vinegar in the water). Stir water with a slotted spoon to create whirlpool and crack eggs into pot. Pull eggs out when they are done to your preference: soft, medium, hard. Drain with slotted spoon.

Mango Red Pepper Salsa

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, peeled and diced
1 yellow pepper, peeled and diced
1 red onion, peeled and diced
1 small pineapple, peeled and diced
Combine all ingredients
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 Tbsp white sugar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together
Cumin Sour Cream
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ Tbsp of ground cumin
Zest of ½ lime
1 Tbsp lime juice
To Assemble
Place yam and potato hash on plate. Gently toss some arugula in the dressing and place on top of hash. Top with poached eggs. Add salsa to garnish. Top with a dollop of cumin sour cream.

sweet potato hash 2

Down the Garden Path with the Most Amusing Garden Writer of All Times!


Down the Garden Path with the Most Amusing Garden Writer of All Times!

Down the garden path

Photographs courtesy of the Bryan Connon CollectionNichols on the grounds of Merry Hall, the Georgian manor house near Ashstead in Surrey where he lived from 1946 to 1956.


Down-the-Garden-PathLIf you’ve never read “Down the Garden Path“,  “Laughter on the Stairs“,  “Sunlight on the Lawn“, or any of the rest of these iconic garden novels, you’re in for a treat!

Beverly Nichols has been referred to by the New York Times as ‘the most amusing garden writer of all times’! If you love reading and you love gardening (or even just gardens!) you’ll thoroughly enjoy this amazing series.

Beverley Nichols (1898–1983) was a prolific writer on subjects ranging from religion to politics and travel. In addition in addition to writing 6 novels, 5 detective mysteries, 4 children’s stories, 6 autobiographies, and 6 plays, he wrote several wonderful gardening novels perfect to while away a summer’s afternoon.

Wondering where to find them?  We’re so glad you asked!  We are getting the entire Beverly Nichols Garden series in our store and will have them ready for you to buy very soon!

These books make the absolute perfect gift!  But we won’t blame you if you buy them early and read them yourself before gifting them!!  The trouble is that when you do, you’ll decide to keep them and have to come in and get another copy to give away!



Yard Work – As Viewed From Heaven


YARD WORK – As Viewed From Heaven

(We’re not sure of the original source of this but it was too good not to share with you!!)

Overheard in a conversation between God and St. Francis:

God: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature; what in the
world is going on down there in the U.S.? What happened to the
dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago?
I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow
in any type of soil, withstand drought, and multiply with
abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts
butterflies, honeybees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to
see a vast garden of color by now. All I see are patches of
green. dandelion

St. Francis: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are called the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them
with grass.

God: Grass? But it is so boring, it’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and sod worms.
It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites
really want grass growing there?


St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it….sometimes two times a week.

God: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put
it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it


God: Now let me get this straight…they fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

grass wateringSt. Francis: You aren’t going to believe this Lord, but when the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get
rid of it.

God: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself.
The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

winter garden choresSt. Francis: You’d better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves
fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to
have them hauled away.

God: No way! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree
roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

St Francis: After throwing the leaves away, they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around
in place of the leaves.mulch lazy no dig garden

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down the trees and grind them up to make mulch.

God: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore.
Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have
you scheduled for us tonight?

St. Catherine: “Dumb and Dumber,” Lord. It’s a really stupid
movie about….

God: Never mind–I think I just heard the whole story from Saint

Miniature Gardens, Fairy Gardens

fairy garden book

It’s not just a little child’s delight. Young at heart of all ages are enthusiastically embracing the latest gardening trend: miniature gardens.

Miniature Gardens Fairy GardensYou might have heard of them called ‘Fairy Gardens’. Whatever you like to call them, they are a delightful pastime – enjoyable in the planning and creating as well as providing ongoing enjoyment as you watch them grow and develop.

miniature garden zen gardenIn many ways, these miniature worlds are reminiscent of the Zen Gardens so popular a few decades ago.

In case it was before your time, or you don’t recall them, Zen Gardens were tiny sandpits decorated with miniature rakes or other garden tools and perhaps a few items of miniature furniture.  The idea was that they would provide a way to de-stress. People would have them on their desk, or on a table at home and would gently rake the sand to produce calming patterns. The Asian simplicity of the ‘garden’ would add to the feeling of tranquility and calm.

Today’s miniature gardens are not quite so still and serene, yet they are equally engaging.

Miniature Gardens Fairy GardensCreating a miniature world complete with living plants, exquisitely tiny furniture and ornaments and peopling them with tiny fairies, provides a window into an ‘ideal’ world of make-believe.  Of course it delights children whose imaginations are free and uninhibited. They love to interact with these Fairy Gardens, creating stories that they can play out in a tiny landscape.

Adults, too, find them fascinating.  You can spend hours deciding on the look, the plants, the ornaments, the little people. Best of all, you can create as many as you like. It’s a project that can be completed in an hour, an afternoon or over a period of time. It’s totally up to you.

fairy garden bookIs there a right way and a wrong way to create a miniature garden?

Not really, although there are better plant choices than others.  To discover the in’s and out’s of Miniature Gardening we have a wonderful book in our store.  It’s called, “Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World” by Janit Calro.  Here’s a description of what’s included:

Get ready to journey into the huge world of growing small!

The next garden trend combines the joy of gardening with the magic of miniatures. Gardening in Miniature is a complete guide to creating lush, living, small-scale gardens. It has everything you need to pick up this new hobby, including scaled down garden designs, techniques for creating tiny hardscapes, miniature garden care and maintenance, tips on choosing containers, how to buy the right plants, and where to find life-like accessories. Inspiring step-by-step projects feature basic skills that can be recreated in any number of designs, like a tiny patio, a trellis, a pond, and a secret garden.

fairy gardenWhether you want to build a miniature empire in your garden bed or design a private garden with a pebble patio for an indoor centerpiece, Gardening in Miniature is the primer for creating your own tiny, living world.”

Of course, knowledge without the tools won’t help that much, so we’re happy to tell you that we not only have a range of suitable plants in stock, we also have some adorable ‘fairy’ ornaments.

Come on in, browse, chat to us and then take your imagination on a journey to a wonderful, fascinating tiny world of your own!