Suggestion to complement Sweet Bay Magnolia and Roseum Elegans Rhodo

My garden is part shade, on a slope. The shade comes from white pine and oak trees around the perimeter, so it gets morning sun and then dappled sun for the rest of the day.

I run an impact sprinkler weekly for 20 minutes.

In each corner I have a Sweet Bay Magnolia (planted today!), which should have large white flowers.

Next to those are Roseum Elegans Rhododendron. They usually have white flowers, but I fed them two years ago and have had pink flowers ever since.

In front of the rhodos is a line of 4 azaleas. One has pink flowers, one red, one white, and one purple.

This pic was a week ago, before the rhodos bloomed and before I put in the magnolias:

You can see a dead rhodo on the far left, I took it out and planted a magnolia there (in line with the two larger trees). The other magnolia is a little to the right of the tree on the right with all of the ivy; I was going to put it closer to the rhodo, but I was concerned with it not getting enough light so I brought it forward.

I have a little bit of space between those two rhodos that I'm interested in filling. When the rhodo on the left is fully grown, the empty space will be about 15' long.

I'm pretty open minded here, but I'm thinking that I need something that maxes out at about 8' tall so that the height line goes up-down-up-down. But not as tall as the magnolias, of course.


Comments (3)

  • TBL from CT
    8 days ago

    I'm having trouble following your description. A plan view measured drawing would be helpful to get the right scale and placement.

    Your plant palette would be enhanced by using a textural contrast. The sweetbay and rhodos have a generally similar leaf texture and the appearance of the azaleas is a smaller version. The rhodies have a mounding appearance and the magnolias will be sprawling. Consider material that is upright or vase shaped with fine textured foliage. Although you have irrigation, something drought tolerant would be happier there. There's a lot of competition from all the roots in that bed. Please note if it's naturally moist there - that will allow for more options. Your floral display is spring, so if seasonal color is important, plan for a later bloomer.

    Alternately, you can add another shade tolerant broadleaf evergreen like a holly and use the foreground for fine textured shade perennials like astilbe, ferns, etc.

  • Jason, zone 7A, near Greensboro NC
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    Let me see if I can show it better... from left to right, West to East...

    This is the far West of the garden:

    There's a big Red Oak on the left with Anne Marie ivy climbing it and the fence behind hit. To the right of the oak is the Sweetbay Magnolia that I planted yesterday, then you can barely see a White Pine on the right, beside of the bench.

    In the bottom left you see Mondo Grass, then a Hosta, then Mondo Grass, then an Azalea. Two more Mondo Grass, then another Azalea.

    There are a few Daffodils and Canna Lilies in this pic, too, but they're not in bloom yet. There's also an Astilbe that you can barely see behind the second Mondo Grass.

    This picture is to the right / East of the first pic:

    The White Pine in the back is where the pictures overlap.

    In front of the White Pine is a Roseum Elegans Rhododendron with a pink flower. It's a layer from the other rhodo that you haven't seen yet. I planted it 2 years ago. The distance between the Sweetbay Magnolia and this rhodo is 8'.

    The azalea on the left is the same as the one from the first pic. To the right of that is another hosta, then more daffodils and cannas.

    On the far right of the pic is a white Foxglove. You can barely see the third Azalea behind it.

    This pic is to the right / East of the second pic:

    The white Foxglove is where they overlap. You can see the third azalea better here, and a purple Foxglove to the right of it. Then another hosta to the right of that.

    There's also astilbe, cannas, and daffodils. And false Virginia creeper on the fence.

    And, of course, the larger rhododendron to the far right. This is the mother of the other one, and around 15 years old.

    The distance from the smaller rhodo trunk to the outer perimeter of the larger rhodo is 15'.

    This pic is to the right / East of the third pic:

    You see the large rhodo on the left, followed by two large White Pines. Behind the pines is filled with Anne Marie ivy and some poison ivy :-O

    Next to the hummingbird feeder, you can barely make out the second Sweetbay Magnolia. It's the same height as the shepherd's hook and doing well, it just blends in right now. I might add a Golden Hinoki Cypress "Crippsii" to the right / East of it.

    There's also a Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) tucked in there that you can't see too well.

    This area is sunnier than the first section of the garden, so here I have purple and yellow irises, Purple Heart, Day Lilies, Peonies, Autumn Joy sedum, Speedwell, Phlox, and Butterfly Milkweed. And Mondo Grass, of course.

    This pic is to the right / Southeast of the fourth pic:

    It has the same plants as the fourth pic, but you can see a wild Plum tree in the middle. My dad gave me this as a surprise; I didn't really want it, but what do you do? LOL It was planted here until I could find a permanent home for it, but I still have no clue :-/

    To the right of the plum tree, outside of the fence, is a wild Black Cherry tree.

  • Jason, zone 7A, near Greensboro NC
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    Please note if it's naturally moist there - that will allow for more options

    It is definitely moist and soft! Planting the Sweetbay on the far left was super easy, I could push the shovel almost all the way in on the first turn!

    I suspect it stays moist because it's on a downward slope, so when it rains water pours that way naturally. But it's also worth mentioning that there's a layer of leaves here. I'm having a lot of the trees beyond the fence removed right now, so next year it won't be as leafy. So that could change the moisture level.

    Your floral display is spring, so if seasonal color is important, plan for a later bloomer.

    Definitely! I have color in the sunnier section all year long, but the shadier section that I'm focused on right now mostly blooms from February to June. The canna lilies bloom later, but that's all.

    I've been focused on Japanese maples lately, and something like a Bihou might fight fit the description you gave... upright, year-round color, different texture from the magnolias / rhodos: