Friday, January 15, 2016

A Bird-Friendly Shade Garden

One of the biggest transformations that marks the shift from winter into spring is the emergence of the green leaves.

Never does green foliage look as fresh and vibrant as it does in the spring! 

Today I want to share a bird-friendly shade garden where foliage is the star.


Overall, the palette of this garden is quiet and restrained. 

What stands out for me is not the layout: it's basically a green lawn with perimeter flowerbeds. This approach to design is so commonly employed, it is almost standard suburban issue.

What is worthy of note is the planting.

Green is the pervasive color here.

At first consideration this may seem like a simplistic use of color, but there is a subtle sophistication at work here that makes the appearance of fresh green leaves seem all the more dramatic each spring.


The different shades of green play off one another, and even though the flowerbed is largely a single color, the planting as a whole, reads as quietly "colorful".

In this little corner, you can see a great example of the blend of different greens. 

1 The bright green in the top left corner is fresh growth on a Yew. 2 In the centre is a blue-green Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue'. In the lower right hand corner is the ferny foliage of an Astilbe. 4 Dogwood tree 5Japanese Forrest Grass, Hakonechloa 6. Solomon Seal, Polygonatum

Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue' has blue-green foliage and white flowers in spring. In summer the flowers become white berries on contrasting red stems. This plant prefers sandy or clay soil with average to moist growing conditions. Height:60-90 cm (23-35 inches) , Spread: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa and Solomon Seal, Polygonatum


The combination of plants is quite exquisite here.

The creamy-white variegation of the hostas, the grey-green leaves of the Japanese Maple, and the sharp chartreuse of the Pagoda Dogwood all work together to lift and lighten this area of the garden. 

 1. Yew 2. Golden Shadows Pagoda Dogwood 3. May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum which is a native plant. 4. Solomon Seal, Polygonatum 5. 'Butterfly' Japanese Maple 6. Astilbe 7. Astilbe 8. Astilbe

Golden Shadows Pagoda Dogwood 


This is a bird-friendly garden. In clear view of the back patio is a squirrel-proof bird feeder. 

The homeowners have added a circle of bricks at the base of the feeder that is both decorative and practical. Not only does it mean that fallen seed is less likely to sprout in the lawn, it makes cleaning up any stray birdseed easy to do with a broom.

A bird feeder like this may just turn out to be one of my first spring projects!

Birds are also given easy access to nesting materials, which hang in a number of locations.

1. Magnolia tree 2. Astilbe 3. Hosta 4. Lungwart, Pulmonaria with spotted grey-green foliage. 5. Big Root Geranium, 'Geranium macrorrhizum'

Bigroot Geranium, 'Geranium macrorrhizum'


What makes this section stand out is the careful consideration of each plant's attributes.

The Astilbe in the foreground is quite glossy and shiny, while the larger leaves of the hostas are more matt.

Also adding complexity to the design is the combination of leaf shapes and sizes.  

In this little plant grouping, there are two Hostas and two Astilbes. The Astilbe in the upper left corner is fern-like, while the one in the lower half of the picture is so dense, it is almost moss-like.



Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart' has amazing chartreuse foliage and pink heart-shaped flowers in spring. Normal, sandy or clay soil all work for this plant. It likes average to moist growing conditions. The foliage will start to fade and go dormant in late summer. Part to full shade. Height: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches), Spread: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

As any experienced gardener will tell you, flowers come and go. A garden where foliage is given a starring role is always going to look terrific.

Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Oh how lovely and lush! Beautiful refuge for birds!

  2. What a stunning garden, we would die for such greenery, there must be plenty of rain in this area. We try to encourage birds too, but I can see what a haven this garden would be for them.

  3. Such a beautiful and peaceful garden, perfect for birds!

  4. All the shades of green surprisingly provides a lot of interest and energy in that garden. I love the idea of bricking below the feeder. I'm all about easy clean up.

  5. I never realized how beautiful a completely green garden could be, Jennifer.
    I love the combination of plants used in the groupings. So many different shades of green, and everything looks so healthy.

    Thank you for sharing, and have a wonderful weekend!

  6. The emphasis on green makes for a more relaxing garden.

  7. Absolutely gorgeous - I'm so inspired by this lovely garden.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love this garden! Yes, green is one word, but there are so many shades of green! Some of my favorites in my own garden are the green plantbeds. Thank you Jennifer!

  9. Living in such a dry arid climate makes me really appreciate green in a garden...and shade. This garden is so beautiful, I am a bit 'green' with envy.

  10. Great use of texture and variation on green. Birds do love all those leaves, great cover for safety. Beautiful place.

  11. Why would anyone want to sweep up fallen birdseed? The ground feeding birds are probably wondering where dinner went. :o) I do love all the different greens. Learning to add varying shades of the same color as well as different textures has been an interesting process for me. It gives a garden more depth and interest. Beautiful, peaceful garden. :o)

    1. I found in my own garden that fallen bird seed seemed to attract mice.
      We used to have our feeders at the side of the house hanging in a tree. The squirrels would knock the feeders and seed would fall. Mice started to show up for all the free fallen food. Then the mice started to find their way in between the stone foundation of our 100 year old house and make a home in the basement. It was the perfect location close to a ready food source. I'd find stores of birdseed in the basement.
      I would have welcomed an easy way to gather the fallen seed. A few birds might go hungry, but at least I wouldn't be attracting mice to the area.
      We lost the tree at the side of the house in the ice storm 2 yrs ago, so fallen seed is no longer an issue. Now I'd like to find a place to hang my feeders again. Next spring I might get hubby to help me make a feeder stand like the one you see in this garden. Sweeping up fallen seed will hopefully deter mice from reappearing.

  12. I agree and that's what we primarily went for when we re-did the garden in our West Coast home. I do have perennials popping up here and there, even the occasional annual but the star of the show belongs to the variety of 'greens' (plus some yellows or variegated ones too). I love how they have created such a lush base and I'm sure the birds love it too.

  13. I love a well done shade garden....I had a shade garden (it was all shade) at the old house and had such fun putting all the foliage together.

  14. About fifty shades of green - my kind of garden! This garden demonstrates that a green garden can be colorful and delightful. I think of flowers as accessories that change, while foliage is the primary dressing.

  15. Beautiful!!! Lovely photos!!! Yes there is so much that can be done in the shade- wonderful shots!

  16. Spectacular garden! I love the birdfeeder set into the brick circle. That has given me a great idea for my own birdfeeder.

  17. Hello Jennifer girl !
    This is truly a stunning garden that plays off of the variety of greens and different foliage to enhance the interest. It makes me miss my green pathways even though I love my flagstone .. I think this time of year we are starving for green so we get greedy?LOL
    I love that chartreuse of Golden Showers dogwood it packs a little punch to the scene.
    In truth I think we all need a little spot in our gardens that quenches our thirst for a calm, peaceful colour scheme as in green on green .. it is graceful and lovely.
    I am a fan of this garden hands down.
    I too am taking note about the bricks at the bottom of the bird feeder this practical decorative affect has me hooked.
    This was such a beautiful post to drink in on a cold white winter day, thank you !
    Joy : )

  18. Beautiful and a reminder that spring is on the way!

  19. Such a lovely garden. Thank you for sharing.


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