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Suggestions on what to plant please

10 years ago

Hi Everyone,

I was hoping that I could get some suggestions from all over you regarding which hostas and heuchera as well as any other shade plants you could recommend for me in my tiny garden.

I'll give you a little background information first. I live in Amsterdam Netherlands which is EU Hardiness Zone 8 which is the same as the US Hardiness Zone 8. My climate is most comparable to the coastal Pacific Northwest. Our summers are not very warm. The temperature get to about 84F for about a week then it is back to around 74. Our winters are relatively mild. We do get snow (this year not for some reason) and they are wet winters (snow or rain).

The garden that i am planning is my back yard. My house is a town house that is part of a complex that completely wraps around an inner courtyard type of thing which is our backyards. The building is 3 stories tall which doesn't let a lot of light in save for in the late afternoons. In the summer the sun doesn't set till almost 11PM and in winters it is dark by 4PM.

The look that I am going for for the back yard is something along the lines of a Wild Woodland Garden with plants of various colors, textures, and heights as well as plants that cascade over the retaining wall I am going to build. I want to feel as if I am hiding out in a secret clearing surrounded by big plants. Everyone likes flowers but I really have a thing for beautiful foliage all the time vs flowers that bloom some of the time. I have enclosed a couple of pictures to further explain the space.

I would like to use F. Robusta Campbell bamboo in the garden because I really find the culms beautiful. In the picture that shows all the plants you can get a feel for the type of look I am going for and where I was planning on putting the bamboo. The program I am using is just a trial version so its limited in the plants they have to decorate with but I filled it in to so people could get the gist of what I am going for. It should be noted that because of where I am certain plants, namely the types that have a trademark after their name might not be available here but common plants should be no problem.Ok enough of my blabbering. if you have any further questions let me know.

I appreciate you taking the time to consider this. I am new to gardening and i want to really make something stunning.

Comments (32)

  • 10 years ago

    Welcome Ashlie,

    Nice job describing your gardening area and needs. You may want to consider putting that bamboo in a large pot. Bamboo has a tendency to "run" in a garden. That means it spreads by underground rhizomes and will take over an area to the detriment of other plants.

    You are in a great place to grow Hosta, and there are many cultivars available to you. Marco Fransen runs Hosta Paradise in the Netherlands and it is the premier Hosta nursery in Europe. The link is below. I think it may be close to Amsterdam. BTW, at your latitude don't worry about afternoon sun.

    You mentioned that you want "big plants". Giant and Large sized Hostas will get very big. At maturity Giants will be at least 6 feet in diameter and Large sized plants about 4 feet. You can go with upright shaped plants which would help.

    That said, I think you could do worse than to start with a Sum and Substance. This is a chartreuse giant sized Hosta with enormous leaves.

    If you like variegated foliage then you should have a Liberty and June. These are two of the most popular plants on the American Hosta Society popularity list. June is a medium sized plant with blue and green edges and gold centers. Liberty is a large with a bluish center and wide bright yellow margins. It's the plant on the cover page of the Hosta Forum.

    Browse through the Hosta Alphabet threads on this forum and see what appeals to you. You may like big round leaves or long lance shaped leaves, or ruffled leaves or cupped leaves. With Fransen's nearby, most plants will be available to you.

    Have fun.


    Here is a link that might be useful: Hosta Paradise

  • 10 years ago

    Just want to add that I order from Van den Top.Great plants great prices.He is an originator of many Hosta plants.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Hosta world

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  • 10 years ago

    Thanks so much for replying. I LOVE the hosta you posted a picture of. That is exactly the type of plant I'd like. My backyard never looks as bright from the sun as it does in that picture. Is that going to be a problem? Also I appreciate the heads up on the bamboo. I understand about the running bamboo. Robusta Campbell is clumping bamboo though not a runner or so all the information I have read about it says. I'll be sure to keep browsing on the forum for more information. i am like a mad woman with my research lol. I looked into that nursery you had suggested. it isnt too far from me. It would take probably an hour or so by public transport. (I dont drive) Everything in the Netherlands anywhere in the country takes about 1-2 or so hours to get to. Our country isnt very big lol. It could fit in the state of Florida 4 times over.

    Stoc: thanks for the tip about Van den Top. I had found through a google search. Its good to know they are a reputable.

  • 10 years ago

    Have you considered vines? I'm in zone 8 in Texas, so we get a LOT hotter, but not any colder. I'm not sure which vines would work with your light situation, but Conferate Jasmine does well for me, as does Carolina Jessamine. It would be a way to get that background without using so much of your gardening space.

    If "bamboo" is in the name, I'm afraid of it. The Dallas Arboretum site had lots of bamboo from the previous owner. They finally had to remove all the soil to get rid of it. One of the original board members voted against the site because of the bamboo.

    I think you'll love any hosta you choose. I do.

    Good luck with your project.


  • 10 years ago

    Tall plants: thalictrum, lingularia, cimifuga, lobelia cardinalis, solomon seal (rare varieties to 6')
    Medium: bleeding heart, astilbe, brunnera, ferns, bergenia, epimedium, anemone, golden sedge, hakonecheloa (probably misspelled) grass, hosta
    Smaller: primrose, heuchera, trillium, corydalis, pulmonaria, polemonium, columbine, hosta
    Groundcover: laminium, moneywort, ajuga, hosta

    I garden zone 5, i am sure there are so many more available to your zone. Garden take years to mature, to feel lush. I would suggest if you want that old established garden feel, that you plant your perennials, but use annual flowers to fill in, until the perennials mature.
    Also, don't waste your money planting shade plants in the sun, or visa versa. That's the biggest money mistake new gardeners make. Read and follow the plant tags, and save yourself a bundle.

  • 10 years ago

    unbidden has given you a fantastic list of great plants that will thrive in your shady 8. You couldn't do any better than that.

    I've had great success with 2 beauties from that list: Cimicifuga (pictured on the left) and hakone grass (on the right). Added bonus - the Cimicifuga has a wonderful fragrance, and the slightest breeze blowing through the Hakone grass makes a lovely calming sound. Definitely plant both.

  • 10 years ago

    Thought I would include a photo to show you a combination that I think works well. Ignore the large round shrub (that's a Korean Lilac and it needs a good bit of sun to flower well) but focus on the hostas and heuchera on the left side of the photo. There's also baby Hakone grass just to the right of the Heuchera "Brownie" - a very large leafed variety. The large hosta above Brownie is Liberty, and the 2 green and white hostas above Liberty are Fortunei Albomarginata.

  • 10 years ago

    WOW so many responses and so many beautiful pictures Thank you to you all. I can't wait to google the names from that list of plants!

    Lush is definitely the right word to describe what i am going for. I want to feel like the plants are going to swallow me up. How long does something like that take to occur?

    I am interested in the idea about the jasmine/jessamine. Are they winter hardy? On rare occasions our winters can be as cold as 5 degrees F but the common is 10F.

    Also which ones are very fragrant? I grew up in Florida and I remember a friend of mine's mother had jasmine of some sort and the smell was intoxicating and i would love to have that if that is possible here.

    Also I promise to make sure I plant things according to their labels but full sun here is no where near the same thing as full sun in Florida. it is impossible to get tan here. Most of the time its like walking around in air conditioning in the summer with a gentle warmth when your in the suns direct light.

    Also to give a little more info on the direction my garden faces; If you were to be facing the long side of the fence that has the 3 connected planting areas you would be facing North East. My backyard and the backyard of all my neighbors is the center of a 3 story donut We do not have any access to our yards other than through our kitchens so it is pretty well shady back there not to mention the tall trees many of my neighbors have as well. I am really not concerned about there being too much sun but instead there being to little.

    What are you guys thoughts on buying more mature size plants? I'd much rather spend 1000 on plants than spend 2-3 hundred and have to wait 5 years before it really starts looking like something. I am so confused about how to plan out the garden with plants and their spacing. I know that I want the long side of the fence to be the focal point and i want it to be very tall in height in its center and then kinda wrap around in a semi circle getting shorter

    I have included a couple pictures of the monstrosity that my backyard is currently. It should be noted that these photos were taken in June in the afternoon so that will give you an idea of what kind of sunlight situation I have back there. I took the pictures from my bedroom window. Also the trees that you see in my yard are no longer there. I chopped them down.

  • 10 years ago

    I can't think of the "handle" of the poster from UK (I think) that had such a wonderful garden of hosta and more, mostly in pots... ukhostaman or something like that?

    If someone could find some of his posts/pics, his garden might be inspirational for Ashlie.

  • 10 years ago

    The saying is the first year planted, plants sleep, second creep, third leap. Sleep-creep-leap! So figure three to five years for some maturity of plants, provided you plant them all at once. Some plants like thalictrum, grew 8' and bloomed the first year, who knew! Cimifuga, took longer, but the scent!! Totally worth the wait. Even in the same species, plant growth can vary greatly. Read about you choices, look for varieties that are fast growers, cold hardy, disease resistant.

  • 10 years ago

    It's UK Hostaman that you are thinking of. His garden is fabulous, but a bit more formal that what Ashlie described. Here's a link to his blog.


    Here is a link that might be useful: UK's blog

  • 10 years ago

    Thanks for sharing that link that guy has a nice garden. Unfortunately my garden is much smaller than his but I do like his style and I want a more jungle -y look than a formal look for the back yard. My front garden however is more formal and is still under construction. I've included a picture of where it is at right now. I was going to plant boxwood but my neighbor has them and hers look like they have something wrong with them so I dont want to buy boxwood and they catch a disease from hers. Instead I should be planting lonicera nitida next month Ive also enclosed another picture of what it will look like with the hedges. In the bare spots you see in the computer program pic there will be drift roses.

    The front garden has been hell trying to get in order. I removed 5 tree stumps from the front yard by hand and the entire front yard was full of rocks and nettles as high as your waist lol. It was not fun. That stack of tiles you see in the real pic were all buried under the dirt there were 144 1'x1' tiles too that arent shown in the picture as we had given those away once we got them up out o the ground.


  • 10 years ago

    UK lost his "pom-pom" bushes a couple of years ago. Here's a link to a post since then.


    Here is a link that might be useful: Some UK Pics

  • 10 years ago

    I lived in Braunschweig in northern Germany (live now in NY state) which is about at the same latitude than Amsterdam, though has somewhat warmer summers and colder winters. When it got at 30 C = 86 F, it was very hot there, everybody thought. My parents lived in a row house like yours and had small green hostas (lancifolia?) growing in the sun in front of a hedge. Occasionally my father watered them a little. Those hostas never burned. Here in the US I live on a similar latitude as Rome, Italy, in upstate NY, and we have hot summers into the 90s and have to shield hostas from direct sun. So it seems you do not have to worry about hostas burning, but never forget to water them anyway. Bernd.

  • 10 years ago

    Hello, and welcome to the forum! By the time your hosta are mature, unless you find a source of already-mature plants, you will be totally hooked on hosta.

    A shrub which you are probably familiar with from Florida would be gardenia. In your case, feature it in a pot and move it to an interior window if you have cold winters. It does not like a lot of direct sun. The fragrance is very mellow and sweet.

    If you absolutely must have a fragrant hosta, look for the very strong growing H. Guacamole. I think you'll find many folks on here who love this particular hosta. It grows nicely, looks great, and it is not reluctant to give flowers and scent to the garden.

    Since I have only a pinch of experience growing anything in cooler climates, I'll leave that advice to others. Just wanted to welcome you to the forum. I bet you are having a ball gardening in a totally new climate!

  • 10 years ago

    'Guacamole' is quite wonderful, yes. As Mocc wrote, it certainly is tough as nails.

    Don B.

    This post was edited by Don_in_Colorado on Fri, Feb 21, 14 at 0:53

  • 10 years ago

    Thanks for the link Bkay. I love UK's garden. Also thanks for the warm welcomes from everyone and Guacamole was one of the hostas i was looking at. I'm also really considering getting 2 Empress Wu. Do any of you have experience with her?

  • 10 years ago

    You may not need more than one Empress Wu. It get very large. The Empress is the tallest Hosta on record. The original clump was 54 inches high the last I heard. Figure at least 2 to 2 1/2 times that in width at maturity. My experience with EW is that it doesn't grow fast the first two years, but takes off after that.

    If you like Sum and Substance you should know it has lot's of sports. Like Winter Snow.

    But you may want to try some montana types like On Stage.


  • 10 years ago

    Welcome and thanks for sharing your project. I agree with Steve, one Empress Wu is good. I'm glad your considering large hosta; one common mistake of small garden designs is having too many small plants. Big plants make the garden feel big and lush. For a big yellow, there are many, see the thread on favorite gold. My recommendation would be Sun Power. Hopefully someone will post a picture. It grows well, faster than Sum and Substance, and has more of a wild look to it. Don't forget the Blues, in your climate they should look pretty good. Fragrant Blue grows fast and has great color but there are many more. As for bamboo, there are clumping varieties out there that will behave themselves in small gardens and they look great with hosta. I say go for it, just make sure its one of these clumping varieties. Lastly, a plug for my other passion: coleus. They make nice filler between immature plants and can be multiplied easily by cuttings. I over winter mine in a sunny window and take cuttings in the spring. I don't have a good garden shot but I will share my potting bench which has a mix of hosta and coleus. A similar effect could be had in a raised bed like yours.

  • 10 years ago

    Here is my h. 'Empress Wu' in 2012 after I bought it in 2010 in a 1 gal pot. See the yard stick. It should be fine in sun in your climate. Bernd

  • 10 years ago

    Ashlie, if you haven't seen the "Hanging Hosta of Hampshire" yet, then you should. Talk about jungle! There are some videos on Youtube about the space. They even hang hosta on the walls of the house, or in your case it could be the fence. It is an inspirational space.

    As I recall, they have about 1500 hosta in a small space. There is a sitting area and a water feature as well, plus pathways. The link to one video is below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Hanging Hosta of Hampshire

  • 10 years ago

    I was thinking of something hanging to get the height, too. I was thinking if hanging ferns. Hostas can get large, but they aren't especially tall, so I think you need to get something tall in there., especially if you want a " jungle" feel That's why I also like the bamboo, if it can be trusted to not get aggressive. Vines too, but again many of them are aggressive. Cimicifuga/ actaea is tall when in bloom, but the foliage is pretty lacy.

    Oh, and regarding buying more mature plants- hey, if you can afford it, i say go for it! I am very impatient. Now that my garden is established, I don't mind starting with young plants, but in the beginning when it was a blank canvas, it was agony waiting on those things to grow up!

  • 10 years ago

    I do plan on using clumping bamboo F. Robusta Campbell is the type I like. The reason I want 2 Empress Wu is because I am kind of a psycho about things being symetrical so what I put on one side must also be on the other side. I know its a lil crazy. I want the Empress Wu to flank the bamboo and graduate down in height as the planter wraps around.

    We had a pretty sunny day today so I took note of the sun in my backyard and its actually much sunnier than i thought it was but I dont think it will be a problem for hostas.

    I have no idea as to exactly how many hostas i can fit into my garden. I want lots of them but I also want different ferns especially the painted ferns. Its really hard to decide on what I can have and how much of it and where to place it Do any of you have any artemisia around your hostas?

  • 10 years ago

    Holy smoke Bernd, how big will your 'Empress Wu' be THIS year?? HUGE would be my guess. Looks great.

    Don B.

  • 10 years ago

    Welcome to the forum, Ashlie!

    You asked about artemisia...I grew Silver King awhile back. Loved it and it's aggressive growth wasn't difficult to manage...the texture and colour would be a wonderful foil for your hosta. So would the 'Brunette' cimicifuga.

    If you want an instant jungle, you could choose tall and full perennials. Look up Veronicastrum and see if you like the foliage. It grows quickly and isn't a diva but has architectural detail. There are also some tall astilbes (some reach 4-5 feet). Ostrich Plume is also interesting. Once all your infra structure is in the ground, then you'll get a better idea about how many big hosta you will need. Sometimes less is more - the bigger the plant, the less plants you'll need.

    I'd like to suggest you take a peek at Mocc's you'll see what you are looking for. I'm sorry but I can't get my hands on the pic she posted in the last day or so, just for starters.

    Anyway, thought I'd put in my two cents. It's always fun to be invited to be part of the building process of a new garden. :-)

    Have fun, enjoy and most of all, please share pics with us when you are done...we go crazy for pictures! Oh and yes, two Wu!!!! :-)


  • 10 years ago

    Yes, Don. Actually it is my grandson's, grows in his garden. That 10 year old is proud to own the biggest (in the future) hosta in the world. Last year it got bigger, but this year probably still shy of 36 inches tall.

  • 10 years ago

    Does anyone know what that pretty red and green plant is on BeverylyMN's photo?

    Thanks again to everyone for the welcomes and responses I appreciate it and am learning a lot.

  • 10 years ago

    That's a coleus. Very shade tolerant and a great filler plant to include in your gardens until the others fill in. Coleus are annuals in your zone.


  • 10 years ago

    Thanks Steve!

    Thats too bad its an annual my husband wont let me do the annual thing he sees it as a waste of money and I guess I can see his point although I do think that is such a beautiful plant.

  • 10 years ago

    Well Ashlie, if you get a coleus (try the Kong series - HUGE...big enough to cover a face) grow it outside, then bring it indoors and continue growing it there for the winter, then outside again next spring, You could say to him it's a perennial....just won't stop growing, lol!

    If you take cuttings as Donna suggested, you'll never be without one! :-)

  • 10 years ago

    The coleus I keep on a window sill all winter. I have 10 varieties that I kept this year. I take cuttings, usually in March, let the root in a vase for at least 2 weeks and then plant them. I put the cuttings in a window as well until its warm enough to harden them off. Then I use them as ground covers between immature hosta, as accents where color is needed or as container plants.

    However, you may be talking about the Dracena-Marginata,var. Colorama, spike plant. It can also be wintered indoors. It needs shade outside. It is MOST spectacular with a light behind it. My husband rearranged the lighting and the pots last summer to a stunning effect in the evening. I don't know where your lighting is in your plan but you will get more use out of your garden with the proper lighting.

  • 10 years ago

    I know that I will have lighting for my garden I am just not sure exactly what it will be or where it will go. It will really depend on what actually gets planted and how it is all arranged. I doubt that the backyard will get used much in the evenings because when it is actually warm enough to be outside at night here we have mosquitoes the size of bats LOL and they are relentless!

    Also just throwing this out there incase anyone is into doing this sort of thing. If you wanted to take that photo that shows the backyard with the measurements and plot on it where and what they would plant if it iwas their backyard I'd LOVE to see what you guys would do.