Garden Photo of the Day

Experimenting with Shade

Lots of shade doesn't stop Marlene Mullet from creating a vibrant spring garden.

"My name is Marlene Mullet and I live in northern Ohio where I enjoy gardening with perennials. These pictures are from this past spring. I have a lot of shade so I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting shade plants. It is surprising how many plants will tolerate some shade even if they are meant for sun. So I'm always experimenting and end up moving things around a lot! When people see all my gardens they think it looks like a lot of work, but it never seems that way to me."

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  1. user-4691082 06/03/2016

    That is what's meant by drifts of color! That is something I need to work on. Your gardens are just beautiful, and I agree that it doesn't seem like work...well done!

    1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Rhonda!

  2. Jay_Sifford 06/03/2016

    I've come to the point at which I use plant tags are general guidelines only. I grow lots of conifers, most of which have tags that read "full sun". I've planted them in full sun and they've scorched like crazy by the end of July here in NC. One day I started thinking: where are most of these conifers commercially grown (Oregon and Washington), and what are those states known for (um, cloudy days). If you're willing to experiment and occasionally lose a plant, you can grow a lot more variety than you initially think. I mean, I'm growing deodar cedars and black and blue salvia in shade with two hours of morning sun.
    And I agree with Rhonda... I love your colorful drifts!

    1. user-7008106 06/03/2016

      My red salvia does great with morning & late afternoon shade.

    2. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Jay!

  3. greengenes 06/03/2016

    These are wonderful pictures, Marlene! Beautiful shade gardens! Sloping goodness and color! Well done! Thanks so much for showing us these pictures!

    1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Jeanne!

  4. NCYarden 06/03/2016

    You have nailed it precisely, Marlene - gardening is a perpetual experiment. So often the accompanying tag is a general rule; as I have stated before, Mother Nature will ultimately dictate what grows successfully despite what a tag says. And often She can be quite accommodating. It appears your "lab" is paying off. That slope is gorgeous with the swaths of color. That is an impressive mound of Lamiastrum galeobdolon...This was one of the very first plants I put in my garden years ago, and for a while it really struggled to the point that I thought it had died, but as you said, experimentation has lead to a tough area now covered with it. Thank you for sharing.

    1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks for your nice comments!

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/03/2016

    You have a thoroughly delightful garden, Marlene, and I love the intermingling of your shady slope plants.Is that creeping phlox doing the yeoman's job of creating a springtime carpet of blue? And what is the plant in the first picture with the deeper electric shade of blue?

    1. Sunshine111 06/03/2016

      Yes! Quite lovely and I also want to know what that first blue flower is!

      1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

        Thanks Lily! First flower is "Crater Lake Blue" Veronica.

        1. Sunshine111 06/04/2016

          That is too funny! I used to have that in my garden… I guess it's time to bring it back!

    2. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks for your nice comments! The drifts of blue are Forget-me-nots, although there is some lavender Creeping Phlox in the garden too. The first flower is "Crater Lake Blue" Veronica.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 06/04/2016

        That veronica flower is such an awesome blue. Thanks for identifying it. Is it perennial for you? and does it bloom all through the summer by putting up new stalks. Do you deadhead it to get more blooms.

        1. marlenemullet 06/05/2016

          Yes it is a perennial for me and unfortunately it doesn't bloom very long:( Maybe 2 weeks at the most. I've never tried deadheading it. Marlene

          1. User avater
            meander_michaele 06/08/2016

            Hi, there, Marlene, hope I don't seem weird to pop back on this thread of conversation but I wanted to make mention of a salvia called 'Velocity Blue' . It is considered an annual but it does seem to come back for me in my zone 6b garden and it looks a lot like your veronica. Here's a link that shows it through the growing season...

            Below is a screen of a picture in case the link doesn't work.

          2. marlenemullet 06/08/2016

            I don't think it's weird that you popped up in this thread again:) I like debates like this! I will stick to my veronica though:) I think the salvia blooms more on spikes, and the veronica flowers are more uneven clusters. The salvia is beautiful though! Also the leaves are different which you weren't able to see that in the original picture. I have attached a picture here where you can see the leaves a little better. We are in zone 5 where some tender perennials would be a little less hardy. Marlene

          3. User avater
            meander_michaele 06/08/2016

            Oh, I quite agree that this particular salvia would most likely not act as a perennial in your zone 5 garden. I was surprised that it has come back in mine since I bought it assuming it was an annual. I just love pops of deep blue whether they only last for 2 weeks or 2 months. I'd definitely snap up your 'Crater Lake Blue' if I saw it offered for sale.

          4. marlenemullet 06/08/2016

            I have an Etsy shop where I sell plants and I do have Veronica "Crater Lake Blue" on there:) You can check it out at:

        2. willysmom 06/08/2016

          I agree with Marlene that the veronica doesn't bloom for very long (but what a beautiful blue when it does!). I have tried several times to cut Crater Lake Blue back after blooming but it never reblooms - possibly because the season is too short here in Maine.

          1. User avater
            meander_michaele 06/08/2016

            Hi, Ginny, since you are a fan of Marlene's 'Crater Lake' veronica, I just added a comment to Marlene about a vigorously blooming annual salvia that gives much the same look. It's called salvia 'Velocity Blue'.

  6. MCgardener 06/03/2016

    Beautiful! What a great job you have done. Love all the forget me nots. They help us garden by filling in spaces don't they?! What is the shrub on the second to last picture?

    1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Mary! The shrub is a Hellebore.

  7. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/03/2016

    I was excited to see your name pop up, Marlene. It looks great. The first photo (veronica?) is gorgeous and I love your attitude. There is a point that the garden ceases to be work, even though one is toiling away. (Of course, I'm never at that point in spring or fall when there is way too much to do!). Love love love your slope. I'm having a hard time telling if the large, striated thing at the top of the hill is sedimentary rock or a log: either way, it is so cool. Your Tiarella is beautiful; they really have leaf-shape going on. I think I need to branch out and start collecting Tiarella.......

    1. Luvfall 06/03/2016

      Go for it Tim. You're already two thirds of the way there...Heuchera, Heucherella, Tiarella!

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/03/2016

        Twist my arm.......

        1. sheila_schultz 06/03/2016

          Tiarella's are pretty easy to grow, Tim... esp. when you are the 'King of Ella's'!

        2. Luvfall 06/03/2016

          You have to. Otherwise it's like only hanging out with dad's side of the family.

          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/03/2016

            Thanks for the laugh. Although, if I use my kids to fulfill the simile, it's definitely preferable to hand out exclusively with Dad's side of the family, although mom's side put the 'fun' back in 'dysfunctional'!

          2. sheila_schultz 06/04/2016

            Double snort! ;) Thanks Tim!

          3. sheila_schultz 06/03/2016

            Okay... that seriously made me laugh-out-loud ;) and a snort was thrown in for good measure!

    2. User avater
      LindaonWhidbey 06/03/2016

      Leave it to you, Tim, to answer my plant question before I ask it. I actually just introduced Tiarella to my garden but it's not nearly as interesting a cultivar as Marlene's. Thanks for being the plant "whiz".

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/03/2016

        "Know-it-all" is my middle name....
        Have a great weekend.

    3. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Tim! What you see is part of a log in the garden. The Veronica is "Crater Lake Blue" and the Tiarella is "Sugar & Spice".

  8. ijz 06/03/2016

    Beautiful! I think we are all curious as to the plants you have used to create your artistry. Do share, if you can. Thank you for your post.

    1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Josie! The plants I used are Forget-me-nots(the drifts of blue), pink and lavender Creeping Phlox, Hosta, Pulmonarias(which are hard to see), Ajuga,and also there is Veronica, Columbine,Sweet Woodruff, and Lamium, which is not blooming in the pic.

  9. sheila_schultz 06/03/2016

    What a treat for the end of the GPOD week, your slope is just plain dreamy, Marlene! If anyone talk about 'drifts of color' in a garden talk/slide show, they should be using your 2nd photo... it says it all! Beautifully executed.

    Add me to the list of gardeners that don't always follow the 'light requirements' listed on the plant tags. Jay is absolutely right... it all depends on where the plant is grown. The sun is a whole lot stronger in Denver than in Portland or Charlotte and our shade is a whole lot drier without much humidity, but one tag is supposed to cover the country? I always say, one plants death is the opportunity to try another ;)
    Have a grand weekend, my GPOD friends!

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 06/03/2016

      Love your wry philosophy of "one plant's death is the opportunity to try another" for me!

      1. sheila_schultz 06/03/2016

        So many plants to try, too little body strength/stamina for another hole to dig... but that can always change with a really cool plant!

        1. frankgreenhalgh 06/04/2016

          Sheila, your not only a philosopher, but a poet as well!

          1. sheila_schultz 06/04/2016

            This has been a good day Frank... I spoke to an old friend and met a new one!
            Getting older often brings on the truth. Ha!

          2. frankgreenhalgh 06/06/2016

            Sheila - Age obviously hasn't affected your neurons! Gardening must be part of the solution.

    2. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Sheila!

  10. annek 06/03/2016

    Whew...your 'drift' photo is exquisite. It has a beautiful Piet Oudolf quality to it. Bravo for such a lovely shade garden perspective. send more photos!

    1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks Annek!

  11. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 06/03/2016

    Marlene, what you've done with your sloping garden is just so pleasing to the eye. I'm curious what the river of blue is toward the top of the drift as I can't quite expand the photo enough to tell. I'm also dealing with several shade gardens and it always seems like plants are happier if they don't have full sun, even though, as Jay pointed out, our full sun in the PNW is considered dappled shade to most parts of the world. The leaf form of your type of Tiarella is much more interesting than my recent addition so I now have a new "must have". Thank you?

    1. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

      Thanks for your nice comments! The river of blue is Forget-me-nots, which reseed all over the place! I actually went through my gardens and pulled up wheelbarrows full before they began blooming to save me some work later:/ The Tiarella is "Sugar & Spice" I believe.

  12. marlenemullet 06/03/2016

    Thanks Diane!

  13. perenniallycrazy 06/04/2016

    Your garden is phenomenal Marlene! Hands down my favorite garden is The Shade Garden so your photos really made my day. Thank you.

  14. user-947010 06/05/2016

    Such an exquisite garden. I have a shady hill and this gives me more beautiful ideas. What is the lovely mounded plant with the yellow flowers?

  15. schatzi 06/06/2016

    Beautiful! Love all the blue. I have often wondered why anyone buys forget-me-not seed - all you have to do is find some in bloom and rescue the seedheads and toss them on the ground! They can be a nuisance, but they are beautiful. I have them all over the yard. They and columbine and a tall blue Campanula seed all over the place and they are so beautiful that I let them, and pull them out when they get in my way. Your flowing slope is gorgeous - everything is.

  16. user-7008115 06/06/2016

    What a lovely and peaceful place. Thank you for sharing.

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