MySecretGarden

U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Shade Garden Tragedy and Revival


Summer 2013: Soon after the garden tour in which my garden was featured, something happened that changed my mood from cheerful and optimistic to gloomy and depressed.
Returning from somewhere and approaching my house, I noticed something strange and different on the south side of it.
It didn't look the same way it used to look.
Sky! I saw sky where a huge alder tree's crown  used to be.

This is the spring picture. In summer, when leaves are opened, 
this huge piece of sky was barely seen through the alder's foliage.

I went that direction and stopped in shock. The tree was gone.
I remembered that my neighbor told me about the tree removal. It spread its branches toward their house and instead of trimming, the tree company suggested cutting it down. This is what happened.

Notice the difference.
Left: multiple alder's trunks can be seen. Right: the trunks are gone

Then, I saw my shade garden. It wasn't shady anymore. The shade was gone. Bright afternoon sun, now unblocked, had changed everything. The plants, which were never exposed to the direct sun and which enjoyed dappled shade for several years, were in shock just like me.
It looked like a battle scene. I couldn't believe my eyes. Where there was formerly shady coziness, now bright light and heat invaded the area.


Rhododendron, hydrangea, Fuchsia magellanica, epimedium, tetrapanax, helleborus, corydalis, groundcovers.... everything looked hurt, miserable and pitiful.

Tetrapanax

Hydrangea

The suffering of plants was bad enough for me to see. However, the worst was the feeling of loss that donned on me: I lost my shady refuge.
This corner of the garden was always cool and shady, even in the hottest days. The alder's crown created a huge canopy. Every time, when I entered it, I felt like I was stepping into my private cozy and a bit mysterious world.
After several minutes of absolute disbelief and astonishment, I started to run back and forth bringing whatever I could find to protect the plants. Umbrellas, towels... It was like trying to help something that was already dead.








And yes, I cried. And cried. And cried. Never in my life had I experienced such loss in my garden.
After several days of pure suffering, I decided that I needed to do something to return the shade and, most importantly, my sanity. I needed a new canopy!
This canopy, which was intended to replace the alder tree's canopy, would be enough to protect all the space from the sun, but at least, I'd have my cool cozy corner back.
My working table is located there, and often, if not working, I like to sit there and read or just admire the peace and quiet.

This part certainly should be covered

Different possibilities were considered and discarded. At last, the decision was made.
Arches should be built and vines should be planted to envelope them to create a canopy above part of the former shade garden.
Wooden posts would be too heavy and take too much space.
Another material was chosen, light in its weight and appearance: Re-bars which are inexpensive, relatively thin and aesthetically rustic.
My fellow gardener, Karen, who has a beautiful garden, and her wonderful handy husband, Al, came to my help. Al constacted four arches and we attached them to the house' wall.




At the base of three arches, I planted grapevines. I didn't buy the vines. They grew from the grape branches which I used as green peas' support in my kitchen garden. I believed, the branches were dry and dead, but they rooted and grew into nice plants.
My plan was to let the vines climb the re-bar arches and create shade for my plants. Grapevines are easy to trim, so I could adjust the thickness of the canopy.
Grapevines are tied to the re-bars

In the rest of 2013, there were no visible results from my new canopy. But, almost all the plants adjusted to the new light and heat conditions.  I clipped damaged parts of the plants and kept umbrellas next to the hydrangea, tree fuchsia and some others. Actually, many plants benefited from additional sunlight. Rhododendron started to grow more up than to the sides. Tetrapanax got higher and grew bigger leaves. Groundcovers, as baby tears (soleirolia) and oxalis were wilting during the highest temperatures, but jumped back after the sun was gone.


Tree fuchsia looked droopy during the hottest hours, but nevertheless it gave me an abundance of flowers later in August.


Houseplants, of course, couldn't be left here and were moved to the other part of the garden.

House plants used to stand on the working table which never had so much sun
before the tree removal.

In 2014, the grapevines didn't grow enough to climb to the whole length of the bars, but nevertheless showed good potential.





And, I got a good place to hang my rustic lanterns:



All the plants looked good, except for the hydrangea that had some of its leaves scorched.
Rhododendron and Tetrapanax were the most responsive to the sun they got.

May 2014


Tetrapanax is reaching the roof and its leaves are huge:



I am waiting for the next season to see some shade above the stone path and my seating place. I want my shade garden back,  although now there will be more light for the plants. I hope we all will be happy.

This corydalis wasn't affected much by the tree removal, but another one needed to be moved to a different spot.

Strawberry saxifrage, toad lily, ferns, native heuchera, trillium and some others stayed under protection of arborvitae and didn't suffer:


The part of the baby tears groundcover on the right managed to escape the shock, and the left part somehow adjusted to the sunny conditions. It'll get more shade under the growing grapes.


All in all, the plants demonstrated a great resilience and willingness to adopt to the new light situation.
I should mention two positive things which came as a result of cutting that huge alder tree. First, there is no need now to pick up thousands of seeds - time-consuming and irritating task. Second, Karen, being a very creative, talented lady, made a sculpture from one of the survived leaves of the tetrapanax. She took it from the plant before it got killed by the sun and now, I have this lovely piece in my garden.



It could sound a bit pathetic, but my situation also made me think about  the global situation. In my case, only one single tree was cut, and seeing what happened to the plants and to myself was pretty scary. But, every year, millions of trees are being cut down everywhere. What is going to happen to the planet? Losing the shade and comfort which they provide is not an attractive prospect.

Further, there are some more pictures of my healing shade garden in 2014.
The entrance as it looked in October:


All of the upper part in the next picture used to be green because of the alder tree.
I do love sun, but I have sun gardens in other parts of our property.


Morning sun coming to the shade garden is soft and gentle:


 Afternoon is getting hotter, brighter and washes out many colors:




 By the early evening, the garden is shady and welcoming again.













We'll see what 2015 brings. I hope there won't be any negative surprises.

***Copyright 2014 TatyanaS  http://tanyasgarden.blogspot.com/

40 comments:

  1. I can just imagine the shock you must have felt upon the realisation that the tree was removed but glad to see it turned out to be not as bad as first perceived and lots of good things came out from it. Still looking very beautiful Tatyana!

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    1. Mark and Gaz, thank you! Those several days (and nights) were very difficult! I hope my plan will work!

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  2. I'm so sorry you lost your shady refuge. I remember you talking about it when Peter, Annette and I came for the NPA tour. Most of the plants seem to have bounced back, especially that Tetrapanx. I have mine planted in full summer sun. The leaf casting that your friend made is fabulous!

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    1. Alison, thanks! I hope the Tetrapanax will be able to grow higher than the arches and get plenty of sun! Can you believe, one of its babies is staying green even now! It's very small and stays close to the ground! This winter is so mild.

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  3. I am so glad you and your gardens are surviving the loss of the tree that gave you so much shade and coolness. May the grape vines really take off this year. Your gardens are really lovely. The piece made by your friend is wonderful ~ FlowerLady

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    1. Lorraine, thank you so much! Watching Karen making that leaf was very therapeutic.

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  4. I should be so lucky to have my neighbors remove a tree. They have some species of ligustrum nearly 2 stories tall, and I am constantly pulling up seedlings. I doubt it will happen, but if it does the results will not be a disastrous as what happened to you. I am glad your garden is in recovery.

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    1. Les, thank you! You know, I heard and read about ligustrum seedlings, but I never saw any seedlings produced by my 7 or 8 ligustrums! I guess I am just lucky ... so far.

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  5. What a shock it must have been, Tatyana. I love your grape arbors -- a great solution. This posting resonated with me as I may soon lose the main shade source in my shade garden -- my beloved catalpa tree that is declining. I don't know what I will do. Love the leaf sculpture! P. x

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    1. Pam, it's very sad, because catalpa is a wonderful tree! I was considering planting one to replace the alder tree, but it'd take too much time. I wanted an instant gratification. What will you do? Did you consider buying another catalpa? Although, you can't buy a tree as big as yours! I hope you'll find a solution!

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  6. You have made this possible disaster into a beautiful opportunity to grow your garden in a different way. I will look forward to this summer and seeing how your shady refuge has returned in your always beautiful garden. The leaf sculpture is so beautiful.

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    1. Thank you Shirley! I hope the vines will be willing to cover the arches! I also hope they will be able to compete with the arborvitae roots!

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  7. Wow, what a story. And what an effect cutting down tree's can bring. I read it with very much interest.
    I have only a 10 meters long garden and behind it there is a dike which is owned by the town. In the 18 years we have this house now this dike became a wonderful place with tree's and wild shrubs. A great place for the birds. Every year the variety of specimens of birds was larger. But the neighbourghs complained at the town because of the heigth of the tree's and shrubs. This year the tree's will be gone helas. I will miss the tree's and eventhough I have also shade in the garden my garden will never be the same again.
    Have a wonderful and healthy 2015.

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    Replies
    1. Marijke, thank you! It hurts my ears and my heart to hear the sound of saws cutting trees down. There is a lot of tree cutting going on in our neighborhood. Often it is necessary, but sometimes, it's done without good thinking. What a pity!
      Sorry for what you are going to witness! And poor birds will lose their refuge!

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  8. Karen MashburnJanuary 13, 2015

    I love the quotes..."Sometimes when things seem to be falling apart they may actually be falling into place." And..."I don't have problems, just solutions I don't like." And then the Borg's famous quote, "Resistance is futile!" and last but not least, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger". I'm so glad all was not lost. Getting rid of the alder tree could have been a blessing in disguise. They're notorious for losing big, heavy limbs in the winter and who knows what damage that could have caused if that happened. Just like the plants you have rallied and pulled through...with "just a little help from your friends". Hugs.

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    Replies
    1. Dear Karen, I love each of these quotes! Thanks for them and thank you again for the beautiful leaf!!!

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  9. Everything is well that ends well :) Great story ! Gorgeous garden !

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  10. Very creative and attractive solution Tatyana. I am appalled at how quickly people agree to cut trees (I've seen it happen all around my neighborhood & town) instead of trimming or working out another solution. In our arid climate it takes so long for a tree to reach maturity that even when a new one is planted, results won't be evident for many years. I smiled at the photos of your umbrellas protecting the plants!! I would do the same! I hope this is a year of pleasant surprises and no more of the unpleasant variety. I bet your grapevines really take off this year too. They will be a beautiful canopy.

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    Replies
    1. Kathleen, thanks! We don't realize how harmful the sun could be until we lose the shade! My other neighbors wanted us to cut a beautiful fir tree just to provide more sun for their grass. I didn't think the 50 year old tree deserved to die for a couple of square feet of grass which won't grow well there anyway.

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  11. I am looking forward seeing your grapevines protecting your plants and your plants all growing stronger and I do feel same as you about many forests being cut down. This is something probably every orchid grower constantly come across - "variety extinct in the wild" together with many healing plants and other important eco-system supporters rapidly disapearing. One removed tree made such an impact in your garden, mind boggles what cutting down of the whole areas does. Nature, of course, will adapt and so did you in your garden and many of your plants were saved to give people pleasure to see your beautiful garden again and again.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Klara! How sad it is to read about disappearing orchids! I always enjoy looking at your plants. Hopefully, some orchids survived in private gardens...

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  12. What a story! I shed tears with you...You came up with a very creative solution to solve your issue of sunlight. I love the re-bar idea! We lost two trees in our shade garden this past year due to natural causes and it is amazing how it can completely change the garden. In our case it wasn't as devastating because there are enough trees to still protect the plants from too much sunlight. I look forward to seeing how the grapevines grow and create a new look in your garden.

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    Replies
    1. Karin, thanks! It was the hottest time of the year and it was nerve-breaking. I might use umbrellas again in summer 2015, but 2016 should be better. I'm glad your garden didn't suffer much from the loss of two trees!

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  13. Tatyana this has been an amazing post. I would have cried as well .. to lose such a profound feature that regulated shade and temperature .. basically giving life to this shade area ... shock would be the least of my emotions.
    You were able to think quickly and start a new type of shade construction .. the rebars are a great idea .. grape vines are something I use as well for shading .. it is just a little frustrating with how long it takes for them to fill in.
    I love the "ducks" buried in the baby tears ? .. that is such a sweet scenario. These giant leaves are amazing and the sculpture is a wonderful keep sake.
    Your point of how this single tree made such a powerful impact on your garden as compared to the deforestation of the world in general is spot on ... when will the breaking point finally set in is anyone's guess ... but we do what we can as gardeners .. creating small patches of life like little bandages on mother earth ...
    This was a wonderful post girl !
    Joy : )

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Joy! I had no idea how much shade that alder provided! It's amazing! Rebars are wonderful and, if needed, I can hang some type of curtains on them. I agree, the ducks look funny. First, they stood almost on the top of the grouncover, but baby tears grow fast, and they were swimming by the end of summer!

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  14. Happy New Year Tatyana! I experienced a very similar situation this spring. An ice storm damaged three trees in my garden so badly that they all had to come down. Suddenly there was sun where there used to be shade. The area worst effected was right under the trees. We planted one new tree, but it will be years before it provides shade again. In the meantime, I have lots of changes to make!

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    1. Three trees for one garden - it's a lot! I feel for you, Jennifer! I hope 2015 will be kind to us and our gardens!

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  15. Oh, Tatyana, I could feel your pain! As a shade gardener and one who truly loves trees, I know the tears that come with such a loss. ( A tornado once took out almost all the trees in the center of our property; it took long years to recover.) Your solution is a creative one. I am glad that many of your plants have adapted. The tetrapanix sculpture is amazing! I enjoyed also seeing the plants in your shade garden. It is a peaceful, lush place, which reflects your talents and skill as a gardener.

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    1. Thank you Deb! I'm glad we were home that time, didn't travel and I had a chance to shade the plants from the sun. A tornado... It's difficult to imagine a loss of many trees at once!

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  16. That's a pretty dramatic change, Tatyana! So sorry you had to go through that! I would have cried, too. It sounds like you have a great solution with the grapvines and the rebar structure--I'm sure it will become more beautiful and shady as the years go by. The leaf cast is gorgeous!

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    1. Beth, thank you! How attached we are to our gardens! The leaf is beautiful, I agree!

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  17. What a shock to come home and find your shade gone! You came up with a creative solution and your plants showed great resilience in adjusting to their new light situation! The concrete tetrapanax leaf is beautiful. I hope your grape vines fill in rapidly this year and give you back your peaceful shade!

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    1. Thank you Peter! I needed a quick solution, and I'm so glad that rebars are readily available and very inexpensive!

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  18. The Tetrapanax leaves are huge! I was just thinking what a great leaf casting one of these would make, and then you showed what your friend made--what a gorgeous piece! Your garden covered with umbrellas would be funny if it weren't so sad. Yes, I hate to see the loss of any big tree, too, whether it affects a garden directly, as it did yours, or not. But you have certainly made the best of the situation, Tatyana. The rebar structure is such a clever idea. I hope the grapevines grow and grow and provide some shelter for your garden this year.

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    1. Rose, thank you! I'm eager to see how grapevines will grow next summer! We live in the beautiful area, but every year I see the whole forests being cut and new developments appear. People come here because of the area's beauty, but this beauty is shrinking.... It's sad.

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  19. I love the way you solved this problem and bounced back form such a shock. But I would have cried, too. Your grape arbor will be wonderful once it fills in.

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    1. Tammy, thanks! Fortunately, there is also a huge branch of the Western hemlock that provides some shade to that corner of the garden. And, I'm glad that I have several umbrellas!

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  20. This really looks like a wonderful place! We do not often have a heat problem here in Norway, but a natural shadow is always nice. I have a place under my huge cherry tree where I can have a rest on warm days. Have a lovely week-end. Best wishes from Anne-Kristin, Bergen, Norway

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    1. Hi Anne-Kristin! Our summers are also rarely hot, just for several days, but direct afternoon sun in July and August could be pretty intense! Under huge cherry tree sounds like a wonderful place to spend a summer afternoon! Thank you for stopping by!

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