Everyday Gardeners

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Landscaping Ideas

Side Yard Ferns in Shawna Coronado perennial garden

Fall is the best time to plant perennials in many locations across the country. Why not rebuild that barren side yard garden bed that has been plaguing you this fall? Several years ago I had a rather desolate area on the side of my home (see photo right)  that I converted into a flagstone walking path surrounded by shade perennials.

Side yards often come with adverse conditions. In my case, I have an oak tree planted on the side of my house that gives shade to cool our home, but is located in such a way as to prevent most light from making an appearance in the side garden. This isShady Side Yard Demolition common in side yards and I have a solution: a quiet path combined with shade plants.

Flagstone can be a large investment, however, it is also possible to make a path from old bark or mulch. I placed lots of organic matter in the soil then planted it up with a mixture of ferns, hostas, and other part-shade to shade loving perennials.

2 Awesome Perennials For Shade


Dependent upon the variety of fern, you can plant a native to your region, which can be a beneficial home for small mammals like lizards and songbirds. I have often seen frogs and turtles hide in ferns as well. In the photo at top you see Lady Ferns which can grow up to 3 feet tall in my garden. They were given to me as pass-along plants by my mother-in-law and I love them. Squirrels often romp at the base of the oak tree in the ferns. In a dry year the plants will fall to the ground in drought, but will recover in the spring and sprout new fronds reliably. Ferns typically like a rich soil and shady conditions, so they do very well here. Lady Fern, Cinnamon Fern, and New York Fern are some of the easiest to grow.


While not native plants, I find hostas to be great hummingbird and pollinator attractors. Hosta leaves can be amazingly colorful as well and do a lot to brighten up a dull space. Hostas prefer rich, well drained, and moist soil. This area of my garden can be rather dry. Therefore, I plant the hostas, then mulch well in anticipation of drier conditions. I planted several varieties along the walk way including Hosta ‘Honeybells’, ‘Guacamole’, and ‘Halcyon’ – all favorite’s within my garden.

Try one of these plants out in your side yard for an easy solution to shady conditions. Plant before the first frost and water well until established.

Side Yard Perennial Plant Garden of Shawna Coronado

Looking for a quick way to add a little curb appeal to your yard? Try a parking-strip garden!

The little stretch of lawn between the street and the sidewalk may be a great place to add color (and it’s one less area you have to mow).

First off, check for local restrictions before planting; some communities don’t allow parking-strip gardens without permission from the municipality. Others may have restrictions on how tall/wide plants in a parking strip can grow.

To keep your parking strip usable for guests who may park on the street in front of your home, consider running mulch or flagstone pathways through your garden to give them a way to walk through.

Need inspiration? Check out this stunning example, which features:

  • Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunias
  • Snow Princess sweet alyssum
  • ‘Redbor’ kale
  • ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ nicotiana
  • Variegated iris
  • Chives


Cassava and coleusThis beauty of a container comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. It’s a lot of fun, eh? And pretty simple! It contains variegated cassava (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’) and a couple of kinds of coleus. I think it’s a great example of how you create a really dramatic container planing with just a few plants.

Pinus flexilis 'Glauca Pendula'Summer is fading into fall, and that means winter (at least here in Iowa) is inevitably around the corner.

Many of my gardening friends tell me they like the idea of an evergreen for winter interest, but they don’t want to lose all the space a full-size pine tree would take up.

They’re in luck — and so are you, if you find yourself in a similar predicament. Instead of pursuing big trees, consider weeping forms. For example, I just snapped a picture of a weeping limber pine (Pinus flexilis ‘Glauca Pendula’) from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. It only grows about knee high and is spreading about 4 feet wide. It forms a stunning groundcover that looks good in all seasons.

If you look hard enough you can find weeping varieties of most of your favorite evergreen trees, including white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’), blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Glauca Prostrata’), and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Pendula’). Look for them at your local garden center or nursery as a quick and easy way to add four-season color to your landscape.

SymphoricarposThe other day I took a picture of beautyberry from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. Here’s another great shrub with fun fall fruits: Coralberry (Symphoricarpos). Native to areas of the North American Midwest, it features clusters of pink fruits in fall. It’s a tough plant that tolerates a wide range of conditions (though it does tend to produce suckers and want to form small thickets). It attracts birds and is great for use in fall flower arrangements!

SwitchgrassIf you’re looking for an easy-care ornamental grass for summer, autumn, and winter interest, look no further than switchgrass.

It’s a versatile grass that thrives in full sun or part shade, and doesn’t seem to care too much about the soil it’s in. Switchgrass thrives in clay, doesn’t mind being wet from time to time, and looks great during drought.

There’s a lovely selection of switchgrasses to choose from. Some have lovely silvery-blue foliage in spring and summer; others turn burgundy or gold in autumn. Some stay short (around 3-4 feet) while others grow quite tall (‘Thundercloud’ can reach 8 feet in height!).

Switchgrasses attract birds and their fluffly, cloud-like seedheads are great for using in fresh or dried flower arrangements.

Switchgrass is hardy in Zones 5-9, though I’ve also seen it thrive in Zone 4 when given some winter mulch.

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