The back raised garden had a few large shrubs when I arrived–some were bare and one looked a bit sad with droopy dark green leaves. A deciduous fern was fading late in the season and there was a layer of tanbark. A troop of ivy was creeping down toward the retaining wall, but I cut it back to the fence. That was pretty much it. I had no idea what any of the shrubs were, although I was able to work out that the trees towering over the space were Big Leaf Maples.

This ‘Before’ photo was taken in fall, when leaves covered the area and all the deciduous shrubs and trees were bare.

Once spring got underway and the shrubs began to flower, I was able to identify some. A flowering quince began displaying pretty, creamy red blossoms (a pale, muted red) and a serviceberry (or juneberry) began to leaf out and produce little trailing white blossoms at the end of the branches. A visit to the Washington Park Arboretum helped me identify the droopy evergreen shrub–a rhododendron. There’s still one large shrub I have yet to identify, although it’s beginning to leaf out, so it won’t be long before something will give away it’s secret identity.

  1. Big Leaf Maple
  2. Crocosmia, Lucifer
  3. Flowering Quince
  4. Rhododendron
  5. Serviceberry (or Juneberry, Shadbush, Saskatoon, Amelanchier.. the list goes on)

There’s a sunny portion of the raised bed on the left side, where I transplanted some sun-loving perennial flowers from the courtyard. This includes peony and Stonecrop. I also added a couple Echinacea I fell for at the local plant nursery.

  1. Echinacea, Raspberry Truffle
  2. Echinacea, Sonoran Sunset (?)
  3. Peony
  4. Stonecrop (or Sedum), Autumn Charm

The majority of the raised bed is shady when the Big Leaf Maples fill with leaves. For this area I added hostas, ferns, and other shade-loving plants.

  1. Big Blue Hosta
  2. Christmas Tree Hosta
  3. Guacamole Hosta
  4. Regal Blue Hosta
  5. White Edge Hosta (?)
  1. Korean Rock Fern
  2. Leatherleaf Fern
  3. Northern Maidenhair Fern
  4. Western Sword Fern
  1. Heuchera, Palace Purple
  2. Heuchera, Sweet Tart
  3. Lily of the Valley
  4. Meadow Rue, Black Stocking
  5. Redwood Sorrel

Below is the map I developed to plan out this area. It shows the few large trees growing within the area, yet it does not show the large trees just outside this garden that produce most of the shade.

  1. (unidentified bush)
  2. Clover, Redwood Sorrel
  3. Crocosmia, Lucifer
  4. Echinacea, Raspberry Truffle
  5. Echinacea, Sonoran Sunset (?)
  6. Fern, Korean Rock fern
  7. Fern, Leather Leaf
  8. Fern, Northern Maidenhair
  9. Fern, Western Sword Fern
  10. Flowering Quince
  11. Hebe, Buxifolia
  12. Hosta, Big Blue
  13. Hosta, Christmas Tree
  14. Hosta, Guacamole
  15. Hosta, Regal Blue
  16. Hosta (white edge)
  17. Heuchera, Palace Purple
  18. Heuchera, Sweet Tart
  19. Lily of the Valley
  20. Meadow Rue, Black Stocking
  21. Peony
  22. Rhododendron
  23. Stonecrop (Sedum), Autumn Joy
  24. Serviceberry (Amelanchier)

I did perform an experiment by spreading some seeds around at the beginning of April, but we continued to have frost so I was concerned they wouldn’t germinate. This included a flower mix to draw hummingbirds, in addition to Cleome, Money Plant, Forget-Me-Not, Porter Weed, Cerinthe, Columbine and Shirley Poppy seeds. In the last couple of days I noticed seedlings sprouting (surprise and delight!), so there may be hope yet. I’ll fill you in later with developments.

Over the long term, I intend to carry on the woodland theme I started in the courtyard. I’d like to add some evergreen plants for a nicer show in the winter and fill out the space with additional ferns and other native plants for an attractive, natural, low-maintenance garden. I learned recently that covering the ground with plants helps maintain (if not improve) the richness of the soil. It holds more moisture, crowds out weeds, makes a nice environment for living organisms that help enrich the soil, and requires less water and effort overall. With this in mind, I hope to fill in the garden as much as I can before the heat of summer hits. Plus, it’ll be much more attractive for me to enjoy while doing dishes!