Gardening In The Shade is the New Utopia – Ron Stevenson, Fergus Horticultural Society
Once established, gardening in the shade has many benefits. Obviously in the shade, water does not evaporate as rapidly. The need for watering is greatly reduced, especially during the heat of summer. Insects proliferate in moist sunny gardens, but seem less of a problem in the shade. Weeding is considerably reduced, as weeds do not germinate without heat. With these major tasks out of the way, a shade garden can be considered to be low maintenance.
The biggest challenge in shade gardening is choosing the right plants. The selection does not have to be limited to Hosta and Ferns. At a recent meeting of the Fergus Horticultural Society, guest speaker Barry Vanderveer asked the imposing question: ‘Why do we garden?’ Vanderveer certainly lives for the plants that grow in his garden, openly referring to them as his ‘children!’ The botanical Latin name of each one rolls off his tongue, with a critique of the merit and growing requirements soon to follow.
By means of a PowerPoint presentation Vanderveer allowed for the audience to be a part of his small plot. He is not an ordinary gardener! He seeks out the rare and unusual that are not readily found in neighborhood garden centres. Of his numerous personal photographs, a stunning Lady Slipper Orchid [Native] – Cypripedium reginae, and ‘Blue Panda Fumitory – Corydalis flexuosa ‘Blue Panda’ are a must for any shade garden. Also included were ‘Molly the Witch’ Peony [Paeonia mlokosewitschii], Indian Pinks [Spigelia marilandica] Pink Fawn Lily [Erythronuim revolutum] and Umbrella Leaf [Diphylleia cymosa] each one considered a worthy inclusion to a shade garden’s repertoire.
Being a lover of all blue flora, he seeks out little-known, off the beaten path nurseries, to seek unique ‘must have varieties’ to add to his collection of 230! He spends winters scouring catalogues from destinations near and far, just so he can add another of his ‘must have’ selections! Vanderveer believes that gardening, ‘If not for the opportunity to indulge in the re-creationist philosophy that resides deeply within each of us,’ can be practiced in any accessible piece of ground. Simply by removing unnecessary materials, carrying out soil testing and pushing the limits of growing zones , any space can be a Utopia, when continually cared for.
Vanderveer’s present garden is the product of removing wheelbarrows full of rubble from a subdivision plot. This unclaimed piece of land was evaluated and brought into a garden vogue. Only a person with a long term vision would conceive of capturing and converting such a space. He believes that all immense gardening tasks must be scaled down to manageable chunks. Starting small and bringing tiny parts into usable space made the task much easier.
‘We all want to create our own personal Eden, that sanctuary of peace and tranquility that we can call our own,’ said Vanderveer, adding that ‘if the desire strikes, we can indulge in a little naughtiness of our own!’ Every gardener has the opportunity to create their own Garden of Eden. ‘Its ironic, considering that a garden was the supposed site of the ‘original sin,’ that so many gardeners try to recreate that very setting!’ he mused.
Vanderveer is a life long horticulturalist who welcomes visitors to the local nursery where he is employed and is happy to suggest and locate plants of distinction. ‘What is an obsessed plantaholic to do when confronted with a postage stamp sized plot of fertile soil? Why cram it full of rare and unusual perennials of course!’
‘Conformity simply isn’t a word contained in this gardener’s dictionary. If there’s room to step, there’s obviously room for another plant….. or three!’ Vanderveer believes that, ‘the success of a garden starts from the ground up! Knowing your soil, and most importantly, knowing the type of soil that your plants will respond to most favorably is key to creating a successful garden.’
For a strong visual presentation of some of his plant specimens, a weekly visit to tezalizard.blogspot.com is an excellent catalogue of possible additions to any shaded oasis. He is very generous with his photographs labeled with botanical Latin nomenclature so that hopeful gardeners are able to track down species of specific interest. He has a fluid horticultural knowledge of the individual species that he coddles in both the nursery setting and his own garden. In botanical speak, his expertise in a humble demeanor makes for an enjoyable evening of the commitment that gardening can bring to the audience.
Words cannot express my humbled appreciation to Ron Stevenson for this wonderful editorial of my recent presentation at my Hort Society’s monthly meeting! Your words of praise have deeply touched me. Heartfelt thanks dear friend!