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Cheating the Deep Shadows

The deep greening of the woodland garden has begun. The light, ephemeral shades of spring have faded, and already summer's heavier presence hovers over the moss path and the planting beds. May is a month of transition. Trees provide a thick canopy, and the woodlands become a sheltering cave out of the white glare of the sun. Walk in, and you are lost in the verdancy.
A recent photo of the entrance to the woodland garden

A few more recent images take in the woodland gardenSo what can a gardener do with all that green?

I cheat. At least it feels like cheating, for little horticultural skill is needed on my part. In a few spots I plant impatiens, and, even easier, in other places I just plop a pot of shade-loving annuals down. Instantly a gratifying splash of color lights up the darkest corner. With some water and fertilizer, colorful flowers and foliage will add interest to the green woodlands all the way into fall.Begonia 'Bonfire' highlights a purple pot.

Adding variegated foliage is another way to brighten the shadows. I don't think I have ever seen a variegated plant I did not love. I could easily be carried away to the point of gaudiness, but then, a touch of gaudiness is needed to make the world smile.
Top: A pot of colorful caladiums. Clockwise from above left: Another view of the caladiums; Variegated Liriope; Variegated Joseph's Coat; Zantedeshia albomaculata, spotted Calla Lily.
Angel wing begonia adds interesting foliage as well as pretty flowers.

Fatsia Japonica is a recent addition to the woodlands. It is another green, but the huge leaves make a bold statement.

And finally, cooler tones, as seen in Deodar Cedar 'Feelin' Blue' and the mondo grass beneath it, prevent the greens from becoming oppressive:

Spring was very good this year. It started early, in January, and lasted through April, so I should not begrudge its ending. Soon cicadas will sing, and lightning bugs will flicker in the twilight. Sweat will run down the neck. Clothing will stick to the body. Hot and wild, the jungle will grow, and there is nothing quite like deep green in the summertime. 

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Reader Comments (17)

Cooler weather has returned here so the greens are still fresh and spring-like. Your description of the dard cooling greens made we want to take a walk in your cool woodland. I don't think it is cheating at all to add small patches of colour via pots and annuals. You have chosen everything perfectly. Christina

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

You can't beat the coolness of a woodland when the temperature start to rise, even better when you own it! You have some amazing foliage in your woodland, lovely contrasts.

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

One of the things I miss most from my cooler zone life is the temperate forest and the deep greens. Most of our trees are evergreen, which is nice in January, but they never really achieve the super greens of the broadleaf trees. I often think that I might have to buy myself some property somewhere in zone 7...it seems ideal!

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

All my color right now is yellow... the greenery is so new and the light is so weak in early May that all the foliage comes out as yellow-green and too flat. Your suggestions of adding variegated foliage or pops of annuals is right on.

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

I envy that you have lightening bugs. I miss seeing them, although they do have them at the farm, I rarely am there that late. Your woodland really is a special place and your new planting will add to it even more.

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

How wonderful all the lush green...love the variegation...I won't see my garden looking like this until later June.

Those bonfire begonias are my favorites!! Yours look fabulous in that pot.

I use a lot of variegated foliage in my shade gardens - Brunnera, Solomon's seal, Hostas and Heuchera to name just a few. And what woodland garden is complete without Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'?!)

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Chapman

Wow Deb, i love the way you wrote that first paragraph! And i also love the photos under the canopies plus that very beautiful Caladium which i haven't seen yet here!

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I'm still in full Spring here: someday warm, someday damp but i enjoy it!
I like the deep shadow you have amongst the trees! I've recently seen some pink veined white leaves pictured on a magazine and I liked them, today I discover they were caladiums thanks to you!

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto

Lovely photos, the entrance to the woodland garden looks so inviting too!

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Your woodlands are very beautiful in green. When mine goes by, I just leave it and focus on other areas of the garden.

Not gaudy to me ... If you're cheating Deb - then maybe it's ok if I do too.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

Not gaudy - fun! I love those Bonfire Begonias. They really add a little blaze of color. I've been trying to grow some similar ones, but squirrels or something keep digging them up.
There's nothing like verdant green woods to calm the mind and soul. Beautiful photos!

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

I have never once viewed your garden and thought "gaudy"! Only beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! I added a 'River Mist' sea oats plant to one of my darkest corners and it's already lit it up like a beacon. Have you ever tried the mildew resistant pulmonarias? Painters Palette would be fun, too.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

Deb - I really enjoy your woodland garden. The fresh greens of spring are great but a shot of colour never hurts. It always seems so peaceful there and so stress-free. Great job!

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

What a beautiful woodland garden. I bet you can't wait to take refuge there from the hot summer sun. I don't think you're cheating either - you are enhancing!

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Gardening Shoe

Deb, I'm finally getting a chance to catch up with your blog. The quality of light in these photos is enchanting. It makes me want to go right out and walk in your woodland garden! I disagree that there's no horticultural skill required to add color with potted plants in the woods; at the very least, it requires understanding what are the right plants for that use. But it also requires design skills to make it all work. You clearly have those skills.

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean
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