My name is Suzanne Hens, and I’ve been gardening for twenty years in North Carolina. I moved three years ago to Raleigh and have slowly been transforming a blank canvas with planting beds. Since our soil is mostly clay and had impermeable landscape cloth under mulch, I’ve been working to amend the beds with lots of compost to improve drainage, nutrients, and soil life. Finally I think my soil is good and my plants are happy. I have mostly shade beds, and I love gardening there for their coolness and subtle beauty.
Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, Zones 6–9) were moved into wine barrels and placed at the woodlands edge. Now they are covered with blooms, while one plant changed colors from pink to blue! (Editor’s note: Hydrangea flowers change colors depending on the acidity level of the soil they’re planted in. In acidic soil, they are bluer, and in alkaline soil, pinker.)
I’ve been planting Astilbe roots for several years now. Finally this year they are not only growing but flowering. It must be all the spring rain. This picture shows two astilbes along with bear breeches (Acanthus mollis, Zones 7–10).
This bed originally had sun-loving plants, which must have been planted before the trees grew. Now it gets only dappled light, so we transformed it into a shade bed. A few of the plants include ferns, aucuba (Aucuba japonica, Zones 7–9), hostas, Pulmonaria, and magenta New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri, annual) for a pop of color. My favorite plant is the autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, Zones 5–11) that my mom gave me. I divided the clump into two with a reciprocating saw!
I just love the color contrast in this annual container with BullsEye geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum ‘BullsEye’), purple Calibrochia, and a dark foliage dahlia.
Lastly, my newest shade bed that gets morning sun is filled with hostas, astilbe, Pulmonaria, daylilies, roses, Camellia, azaleas, irises, and pink rain lilies (Zephyranthes) under the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9).
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