Talk to celebrate options for gardening beneath the tree canopy

THE WOODS ARE LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP: Landscape architect Sieglinde Anderson has created an extensive woodland garden at her Fairview property. She and photographer Ruthie Rosauer will invite attendees at a March 20 talk in Hendersonville to consider the possibilities and beauty of trees and the shaded areas they create. Photo courtesy of Sieglinde Anderson

Gardeners overlook a big opportunity when they ignore the potential of shaded places, says Fairview resident and landscape architect Sieglinde Anderson. In a Tuesday, March 20, presentation at the Henderson County Public Library, Anderson hopes to dispel what she describes as a myth: that options for plants that flower in the shade are limited to a few varieties, including the ubiquitous hosta.

Especially in the Blue Ridge, which is one of the world’s most diverse plant habitats, Anderson says, gardeners can choose from a bounteous array of colorful, interesting specimens that thrive in shaded spots. “We have incredible availability here, and there’s lots of interest. Many people like to collect plants,” she says.

What’s more, early spring is prime time to enjoy the show. To hear Anderson tell it, “The gardening year begins as early as January in shaded areas,” since soil doesn’t freeze as easily there. The year’s earliest flowering plants — bulbs and ephemerals like trillium — grow in woodland settings, Anderson explains, and can almost be observed pushing up through the leaf litter in the days before the vernal equinox. From March to May, before sun-loving flowers have spread their petals, the delicate shade-dwelling species deliver a welcome first peek at the growing season ahead.

Anderson’s talk, which is sponsored by the Hendersonville Tree Board, will introduce attendees to the different types of shade and how they correspond to markings on plant labels. Many spots that are shady in summer — those canopied by deciduous trees — are actually bright and sunny for six months of the year, Anderson points out. Planting species that require deep shade in such spots, she says, can result in unhappy specimens that fail to thrive.

In addition to sharing some of her favorite “true woodlander” plant selections, Anderson will also present shade-friendly options for “lazy gardeners” who want a less labor-intensive approach to landscaping.

Hendersonville photographer Ruthie Rosauer will share images from her recent book, These Trees, at the March 20 presentation. “I love trees because I think they are beautiful,” Rosauer says. But if more reasons to value and preserve trees are needed, she adds, there are many from which to choose, including increased property value, lower utility bills in summer and cleaner air. Studies suggest areas with mature tree canopies may even experience less crime, she says.

For those who have always lived in Western North Carolina, Rosauer says, “the landscape of their lives has been covered with the green brush strokes of shade trees in summer, multicolored palettes of deciduous trees in the autumn and evergreens in the winter.” But those, like her, who have lived in less temperate places (in her case, western Texas and Venezuela) “will never be able to take this glorious plethora of trees for granted.”

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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