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Garden Obstacles: Shady and Dry*

Many think dry shade is an impossible place for a garden. On Long Island, we have several dry woodland settings. Some are thick with Oak, Pine, and Maple trees, while others are Beech, and Hickory (for what to plant under Hickory, Black Walnut and others in the Juglandaceae family, see trees. Usually the canopy is open enough for dappled sunlight, sometimes it is not. With the right native plants, you can create a lovely understory garden with many layers. It is very important to 'leave the leaves' in this garden setting. It will save moisture and keep the soil cool for these shade loving plants. Just make sure these leaves are not smothering the crowns of young, newly establishing plants.

The layers of a woodland garden: the Canopy is your large trees like Oaks, Pines and Maples. The Shrub & Understory layer is for small trees and tall shrubs like Dogwoods, Hop Tree and Sassafras. The Field & Herb layer is for perennials like Wood Asters and Wild Columbine. The Ground & Soil layer is for ground cover plants like Barren Strawberry and Wild Geranium and leaf litter.


Actaea racemosa - Black Cohosh

Ageratina altissima - White Snakeroot

Aquilegia canadensis - Wild Columbine

Aralia nudicaulis - Wild Sarsaparilla

Asclepias exaltata - Poke Milkweed (woodland edge)

Chimaphila maculata - Spotted Wintergreen

Chrysogonum virginianum var australe (ground cover)

Eurybia divaricata - White Wood Aster

Geranium maculatum - Wild Geranium (ground cover)

Geum fragarioides - Barren Strawberry (ground cover)

Helianthus divaricatus - Woodland Sunflower

Heuchera americana - Alumroot

Pachysandra procumbens - Allegheny Spurge (ground cover)

Podophyllum peltatum - May Apple

Scutellaria incana - Downy Skullcap

Solidago bicolor - White Goldenrod

Solidago caesia - Bluestem Goldenrod

Symphyotrichum cordifolium - Blue Wood Aster

Thalictrum thalictroides - Rue Anemone (ephemeral)

Trichostema dichotomum - Forked Bluecurls


Dennstaedtia punctilobula - Hayscented Fern (ground cover)