How could I have even considered taking out our apple tree?

This is why you shouldn’t make big decisions after you first move into a place. Ms. Mulch Maid discouraged me mightily, and I’m glad she did. No matter how determined I was at times to get that tree gone, Ms. Mulch’s opinion always held sway.

This old tree could well throw apples at you. You've been warned.
This old tree might well throw apples at you. You’ve been warned!

Without the apple tree, there’d be no shade at all. Not to mention the trunk of the old tree is magnificent. It’s loaded with apples this year, but I’ve been fooled by that trick before. The first year, they all fell off in none-too-tasty of shape.

Apples growing on the tree.
Apples growing on the tree.

This may be the year I learn how to care for the apples tree–especially if it’s going to go to all that trouble in producing apples. It’d be great if we could actually eat and share. But enough with the asides. Back to the topic of shade.

And as it turns out, I like shade gardens, which I had aplenty in my Alameda garden.

Alameda shade garden and peek of the patio.
Alameda shade garden and peek of the patio.

Bill and I spent countless hours on the patio in our front/side shade garden, often with neighbors. It was our nod to the days of front porch communities. We built it ourselves, with tumbled bluestone. (It turned out terrific. They also were heavy and difficult. In the process, we did all but exchange gunshots. We’re loaded up with 5 pallets of new 2′ pavers for our Flamingo Park garden, and this time, we’re hiring help.)

This garden was west facing. When we moved in, it was completely exposed and so darn hot. This was our only grassy spot, and it was perfect for picnics, kids, and visiting puppies.

Megan with a litter of her foster pups.
Megan with a litter of her foster pups–in her gardening shoes.

Don’t get me wrong, I quite like plants that adore sun. The bananas shown below were a gift from friends Dennis & Kathy–out Cistus Nursery way. The bananas had next-to-no root when I got them, and I thought, that’ll never work. But it did. I planted them at the back of the garden, a beeline from the patio doors. I wish I could say I planned it that way, but it was quite the happy accident.

Hardy bananas for instance, need full sun and water. Lots of both.
Hardy bananas for instance, add plenty of pizazz–and need full sun and water. Lots of both.

Still, when it comes to lusciousness, methinks, it’s hard to beat plants that lurk in the shadows. Hakonechloa aka Japanese Forest Grass is probably at the top of my list. I LOVE this plant, and have added a few more to a new bed. Those are getting more morning sun, so we’ll see.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' -- this really is a different picture from the one atop.
Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ — this really is a different picture from the one atop.

Here are a few more favorites.

Lysimachia paridiformis var. stenophylla
Lysimachia paridiformis var. stenophylla

This Lysimachia survived a move from my former garden. The first year it was quite torpid, but this years, it’s built up steam. I supposed I’d be remiss in not showing you the before picture–from my Alameda garden. I loved this combination of cramscaped plants. So glad I brought some of these plants with me, because the rest of that original garden is caput.

Here's the mother plant from the Alameda garden.
Here’s the mother plant from the Alameda garden.

I wish I could go back and get a clear shot, but there you have it. Three old Laceleaf Japanese Maples provided shade for this bed.

Lace leaf maples providing shade in the Alameda garden.
Lace leaf maples providing shade in the Alameda garden.

The Lysimachia’s friends included NoId Epimediums, NoId Ferns, and Saxifraga stolinifera ‘Maroon Beauty’.

Saruma henryi aka Wild Upright Ginger.
Saruma henryi aka Wild Upright Ginger.

Another shade plant on my favorites’ list, Saruma henryi. This plant was another voyager from Alameda and before that, a start in Megan’s garden. A well-travelled and cooperative plant.

Fatsia japonica 'Spider's Web'
Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web

And then there’s a recent heartthrob, Spider’s Web Japanese Aralia. It really lights up a shaded area.

The Fatsia japonica 'Spider's Web' lights up.
The Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ lights up.

I’ve just added a variegated Jasmine, and have an Asarum splendens in waiting to nestle in at its base. Then, of course, Farfugiums. I think I’ve raved about those a number of times.

Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum' aka Leopard Plant.
Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’ aka Leopard Plant.

How does it know to strew about those little dots? I first noticed this plant in a bed at Portland Nursery on Stark Street. That was before I was a serious gardener, and I couldn’t even imagine growing such a beautiful plant. Turns out I can, and in several places. (Hey, that gives me an idea about another spot that will likely work!)

Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum' and companion Farfugium japonicum 'Cristata'.
Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’ and companion Farfugium japonicum ‘Cristata’.

And this x Fatshedra pleases me. We’ve added one the trellises I wrote about a couple weeks back. More on that later.

x Fatshedera lizei 'Variegata' aka Variegated Aralia Ivy.
x Fatshedera lizei ‘Variegata’ aka Variegated Aralia Ivy.

My sincere condolences to those who live colder than Zone 8a. Evergreen and takes full shade. Pretty cool, no?

Epimedium, how I love them. Epimedium wushanense with its elegant spiny leaves is easy to identify, and there so many others. Since I’m enthralled, it wouldn’t hurt to up my identity game. Our contributing nurseries say they grow in zone 5, except for the ones that say zone 6. (Maybe there’s a testimonial out there to fill us in.)

More Epimedium with NoId. They colonize, if you're lucky.
More Epimedium with NoId. They colonize, if you’re lucky.

Apparently, I could go on and on. But see what I’m saying, so many fabulous shade plants.

Disporum 'Green Giant'  transplanted from Alameda garden with aplomb.
Disporum ‘Green Giant’ transplanted from Alameda garden with aplomb.

I’ll leave you with this big leaf beauty, Aralia californica. It dies to ground in winter. This is its second season, and it’s putting on height.

Aralia californica aka Spikenard and Elk Clover.
Aralia californica aka Spikenard and Elk Clover.

By all means, add your favorites in comments. I’m never above–or is that below–borrowing another gardener’s good ideas.

Cheers.