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A Shade Garden in the Wildwood Neighborhood of Chicago

Throughout 2001

The rich soil of this shade garden supports flowers, grasses and sedges. Flowers include Wild Blue Phlox, Phlox divaricata, Miterwort or Bishop's Cap, Mitella diphylla and Wild Golden Glow, Rudbeckia laciniata.

Rich soil and shade from Oaks make this an ideal Woodland Garden. The beds are defined by intersecting, mulched paths. The Hostas will be the next to go.

This small, narrow bed has it all - Crested Dwarf Iris, Iris cristala, in a Rock Garden, a hollow log and other flowers and grasses. Rocks and logs add interest and character to the beds.

Wake Robin or Red Trillium, Trillium erectum, adds its color. This Trillium is easily distinguished by its molted leaves.

Miterwort or Bishop's Cap, Mitella diphylla, has delicate cup-shaped flowers containing a few hard black seeds. Wild Blule Phlox, Phlox divaricata, (upper right corner) forms large clumps less than a foot tall.

Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, with its yellow-orange-red flowers is a real crowd pleaser.

It will grow in full sun to shade and spreads readily. A great dividend is that it may attract hummingbirds to your garden in Spring. It likes average to dry soil and will grow in sandy areas.

See how the character of the shed was enhanced when the split rail fence, door posts, barrel rings and watering can were added.

Sedges are grass-like plants usually about a foot tall. They have triangular stems, neat seed heads, bloom early and stay green all year. Remember: “sedges have edges" -- the stems are triangular.

Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium, is a close relative of Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum. The two are usually found living together in rich healthy woods. The spadix (long orange narrow tongue) protrudes several inches out of the spathe.

Is this sort of medieval weapon? No! It is the Common Bur Sedge, Carex grayi. This sedge will form large clumps if planted in the sun, but is more typically found in more wet shady areas.

Elm-leaf Goldenrod, Solidago ulmifolia, Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica, and Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis, provide a symphony of color.

An old log naturally laid in a flower bed makes the whole concept of the garden more interesting. It can act as a matrix (or home) for moss and lichen to grow as well as for the wood boring larvae of many insects.

Revisiting the Garden in mid-June 2009

The garden is now mature in June of 2009, many years after its conception. It looks like we are in the middle of a beautiful forest. The talented, artistic owner added many enhancements such as the stone pathway, wrought iron bench and unique red kiln-fired pottery feature.

The entrance to the home was also landscaped in natives. It looks a little sparce here now because the deer beat the photographer to the scene.

Native woodland gardens are quieter and more subdued during the Summer. Most native woodland plants bloom either in the Spring before the trees leaf out or later on in the Fall where the woodland Asters and Goldenrods dominate. An exception is the strange looking Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus, (right photo, center) which can achieve heights of five feet or more.

Sedges look like grasses but are a different breed. Grasses have round stems but the stems of the sedges are triangular. (Sedges have edges.) Common Bur Sedge, Carex grayi, looks somewhat like the mace, a medieval weapon. The Long-beaked Sedge, Carex sprengelii, (right) resembles a bird's nest.

Although color is a very important feature of the garden, shapes and textures are just as appreciated. Sensitive fern, Onoclea sensbilis, (left) and Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium, (right) are welcome additions anywhere.

Two other ferns that go well in a shady setting are the Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides , (left) and the Lady Fern, Arthyrium filix-femina, (right).

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