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What I Learned from Larry Hurley’s Shade Garden

With a brand new-to-me garden to fill up,  I need plant ideas, especially shade-loving perennials, so where better to look than the garden of our perennials specialist Larry Hurley?  So I paid a visit to his Bethesda garden this past weekend and saw lots to love, and learned a thing or two.

Around a large tree in the front yard, sweeps of epimediums and hostas sure look better than mulch, and more interesting than the common groundcovers for shade (I’m looking at you, ivy and pachysandra).

Above, Larry can’t keep his hands off those Epimediums.  On the right in this photo is a big favorite of mine – Euphorbia amygdaloides or Wood Spurge.  It’s evergreen!

In all its glory is the stunning native vine Lonicera sempervirens ‘Cedar Lane’.

Above, another gorgeous native plant – Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’.  It does well in both moist and dry shade.

Above, two of Larry’s many varieties of Heuchera, both paired to great effect with Hakonechloa (also known as Japanese forest grass).  Larry prefers the Heuchera villosas because they’re so long-lived.

Above, newly emerging Hosta ‘Sagea’ and a bronze-colored Heuchera with ‘Evergold’ Carex.  It’s one of the evergreen Carexes, and can take sun or shade.

Here’s a groundcover I’ve never seen before – Wood Anemone or Anemone nemorosa.  Gotta get some!

Also evident in the photo above is Larry’s practice of leaving fallen leaves in place in his perennial borders.  I questioned this practice, having read warnings about dead leaves smothering perennials, but was assured that the perennials are safe and that the leaves decompose by mid-summer or so.  Larry says that smothering may be a problem with maple leaves because they become so tightly compacted, but the leaves of his oaks and tulip poplars are no problem.   Good to know!

Love the large pots on Larry’s deck, and the informal fieldstone paths.  That’s Japanese Painted Fern in the foreground.

Notice more interesting artsy elements – the metal cranes on the left and the large pot on the right.   And how about the stunning bark on the Stewartia in the foreground? A diehard do-it-yourselfer, Larry built the pond himself.

Thanks to Larry for the tour, but I haven’t finished with him yet.  Coming soon – his favorite native ferns and Echinaceas.

Lonicera photo by Larry Hurley.  All others by the author – Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Great blog post. We live in Silver Spring and I’m interested in planting some native ferns in our shady back yard. Does Behnke carry any mid-Atlantic native ferns? When is the best time to plant ferns? Thanks!

  2. Hi Y2Kade! Thanks for your comment. We carry as many native ferns as we can get our hands on, which is typically about 12-13 varieties. As long as you are watering deeply, and regularly, especially during the hottest times of the year, you can plant any time. We hope to see you this season!

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