I have a large area (30 x 9) on the west side of my house. It has clay soil. It only gets about two hours of sun. What can I grow there? Weeds do well, but I want something pretty even if it’s bushes, or something that requires minimal attention.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, John in Kentucky: Unfortunately weeds will grow in just about any environment, and as gardeners we just have to deal with them. So the first thing to do is tackle the existing weeds and get the area ready to plant. Hand pulling is the best option, just make sure to get the root system as well as all the foliage. Some weeds have tap roots so a weeding tool may come in handy. Also keep in mind that there are cool- and warm-season weeds, so you may see warm-season ones pop up later in the season after you get the area planted. This is not a big deal, just a bit a maintenance on your part to keep them from spreading. As for planting options, you have several different choices. If you want an evergreen shrub that will give you year-round interest you might consider aucuba, mahonia, pieris japonica, taxus, boxwood, or evergreen azaleas. Oakleaf hydrangea would be another good option but is deciduous and would not provide any winter interest. There are many shade-loving perennials that would thrive in the area you are going to plant. Of course, we always think of ferns and hostas when it comes to a shade garden, but heuchera, tiarella, hellebore, columbine, epimedium, plumbago, acanthus, and spigelia are just a few perennial options. The garden centers will soon be full again and visiting the shade section just to walk around is a great way to become inspired. A grouping of shrubs is very simple with clean lines, but you have enough space to incorporate shrubs and perennials if you want to give the space a sense of depth. Creating a space with different colors and textures is a nice way to add interest to the garden. As with any new addition to the garden, these plants will require additional moisture if Mother Nature does not provide it, but after they have become established all of these options are considered low maintenance.