July 29, 2013

A shade garden in Toronto

Why I love Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra "Aureola")


It's been a topsy-turvy kind of summer so far in Toronto. We're experiencing cooler temperatures now, mercifully, after being blasted with humidex readings of over 40 over most of a week. Not very comfortable working conditions!

So when you're able to work in the shade during a heatwave and the scene looks like this below, it's really not too bad.

I first posted about this shade garden in a post titled "Green is a colour too, in dappled shade" and work here once a month. It just gets better and prettier as time moves on.

This client absolutely loves H.m "Aureola" and why not? I'm using it more in my designs and there are more than few cultivars to choose from like "All Gold", "Albostriata", "Nicolas" and "Sunny Delight." 

Criticisms? Mild ones at best:  this grass is slow to form substantial clumps, a little pricey (but then again, didn't you blow a wad of cash buying all those annuals back in May?) and does best in part-sun (gets bleached-out, I find, in full sun) but the form always is a winner. 

Want to soften a hard line of interlocking paving or really make a garden bed curve more curvey? Try massing Hakonechloa.


The site is under some majestic red oaks so the shade is light and dappled. Soil is "clayey" with some amendments over the years.

Hakonechloa macra "Albostriata" on the left, "Aureola" on the right by garden muses-a Toronto gardening blog
Hakonechloa macra "Albostriata" on the left, "Aureola" on the right




Annabelle hydrangea Hakone Japanese Forest Grass in a Toronto shade garden by garden muses-a Toronto gardening blog
"Annabelle" smooth hydrangea and Hakone Japanese Forest Grass in a Toronto shade garden.


Hakonechloa macra Aureola Japanese Forest Grass in a Toronto shade garden by garden muses-a Toronto gardening blog
Hakonechloa macra "Aureola" Japanese Forest Grass flanking a "Paul's Glory" hosta.


Let's go off on a design tangent. When planting, try to think of the primary view the audience (homeowner, visitor, you) is looking from and think of creating layers. The picture below shows such a technique. From the foreground working back, we have the Hakone grass, "Halcyon" hosta, Japanese Painted ferns, Rodgersia with the palmate leaves, to the left a witchhazel, a patch of red daylilies and a lacecap hydrangea in the back.

This view is from the patio table near the fountain.

Not too shabby, I'd say.

Layers of perennials and shrubs in a Toronto shade garden by garden muses-a Toronto gardening blog
Layers of shade-tolerant perennials and shrubs



By Paul Jung, author of "garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog"
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