Q & A With Jenny Rose Carey, author of “Glorious Shade”

By Shelley Pierce | August 6, 2017
Image by Timber Press
by Shelley Pierce
August 6, 2017

Jenny Rose Carey was born in England to a family of gardeners, botanists and farmers. She grew up in the County of Kent – The Garden of England – where she spent as much time as possible outdoors. Decades later Jenny Rose is still gardening and is also a professional horticulturist working for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society as Director of their Meadowbrook Farm site. Jenny Rose loves to travel to give lectures and visit gardens. When she is at home she spends time at her Victorian property, Northview, where she has over four acres of gardens including a shade garden, moss garden and stumpery.  In her latest book ‘Glorious Shade‘, Jenny shows the reader how to  embrace shade as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.   Read on to learn more about this Timber Press book and enter to win one of three copies!

How did you get on the path to embracing “the darker side”?

I presume that by “the darker side” you mean shade gardening and not something to do with Star Wars! Actually have you looked at unfurling ferns recently, or the flower of a hardy ginger plant – they are a seriously cool structures that look as if they could have come from outer space. As you can tell from the title of the book, “Glorious Shade”, I really love gardening in the shade. I actually have always loved shady spaces in nature such as beech woods or bluebell woods – they almost have a magical quality to them. Influenced by those early childhood experiences I have tried to provide a similar feeling in the gardens that I have created. I have gardened where there were no trees and I was not a happy gardener. Shady gardens are often tranquil retreats – you and your plants are sheltered from the heat of the sun. The rate of plant growth may be slower but the flowers are not bleached by the sun and last longer. These spaces are peaceful places where cool colors of greens and whites predominate. They are great places for a sheltered walk, or a secluded place to sit and watch birds – with trees above, shrubs and vines to the sides and then a carpet of herbaceous plants on the ground plane.

Why do many of us stress over gardening in shady places or avoid gardening in shady places altogether?

Many of us start our gardening by growing easy annuals that do best in sun or part shade – maybe some sunflowers or nasturtiums, or even some vegetables. Gardening in the shady areas seems more complicated as there are variations of shade and sun and there may be roots beneath the soil. However, once you have figured that out there are lots more plant types that you can grow and lots of sophisticated artistic effects that can you can produce with shade-loving plants – you are hooked. There are so many foliage colors and new plant combinations. Gardening in shade is a little more difficult if you have the extreme end of full shade, but most people should not be put off – jump in and have a go.

What are some aspects about shade that we often overlook when planning a garden space?

You have to have some flexibility when planning a shade garden. Because you cannot see what is under the soil when you are laying out a new planting bed you may not be able to put plants exactly where you placed them. Try to dig the holes, but if you hit a big root shift the planting hole to the side or further from the base of the tree. Another big thing that gardeners overlook in shady areas is that the plants that grow well in shade come from woodlands or jungles where leaves fall from the trees and enrich the soil. In the book I stress the importance of adding leaves to the soil – whether as shredded leaves or leaf mold to re-create a similar soil to where the plants would grow naturally. A shade garden is a messy place with leaves and sticks falling from trees and shrubs. Let them stay in place and the plants and wildlife will thank you.

What is the key to successful shade gardening and how does your book help us to become a successful shade gardener?

One of the biggest keys to successful shade gardening is to be observant. Look carefully at the amount of shade that you have in your garden and choose plants that will thrive in those particular conditions. There are some shade plants that do well in a wide range of shade conditions, so choose those easy plants to start with. The second thing to observe is the type of the soil that you have. The amount of moisture, the pH (acid or alkaline) and the amount of organic matter in the soil all affect what types of plant you can grow. This needs to be matched to the plants that you plant. There are chapters in the “Glorious Shade” book that explain in detail how to look at the shade levels, what you should know about the soil, and what plants to pick depending on the conditions that you have.

What are some of your favorite shade garden plants and why are they your favorites?

This is a hard question for me because I have so many favorites. There are 200 genera of plants in the book. I am a fickle gardener, I really love what is right in front of me when you are asking me the question – depending on the season of the year. However, I do have a collection of snowdrops (Galanthus) and witch hazels (Hamamelis) that get me through the winter with their unusual time of blooming. Some of the witch hazels are fragrant and that is a big plus for me – you can smell them from a distance in the cool winter air. In spring I would be drawn to some of the little wildflowers such as bloodroot (Sanguinaria) or Trillium. They are so delicate and yet such survivors – matching their life-cycle to the timing of the tree leaf canopy overhead. By the summer my attention is grabbed by the fresh green fronds of ferns and the abundant blooms of hydrangeas that make the garden full and lush. In the autumn it is all about rich fall colors of Japanese maples and late-blooming perennials such as Tricyrtis which extend the growing season for as long as possible. There is a chapter in the book that is called the Gardener’s Calendar. It has some more thoughts about how to garden in the shade for year-round interest. This is an important part of my enjoyment of a shade garden as it provides interest every day of the year, even in a temperate climate.

What are some tips that you can offer the wannabe shade gardener?

Just start is the first advice. Start with a small area and work out which plants grow well for you in the conditions in your garden. Ask any of your gardening neighbors or fellow garden club members. Beg some pieces off plants that do well for them. Open your eyes when you go to a public garden and see what they have growing near walls or under trees. Make notes and start your own personal wish list of shade plants. The final advice is not to stress but to have fun. Before you know it you will be addicted – just like me.



To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, August 13 , 2017 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What is one of your favorite shade plants in the garden?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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