Seeking suitable plants for an awkward flower bed, zone 8a.
February 23, 2013 1:45 PM   Subscribe

My flower bed gets full sun in Summer, full shade in Winter, and plenty of dog pee. What can I plant?

I have an awkward flower bed (approx 8'x12') up against the north side of our house (in a fenced backyard). It gets full sun in the summer, and is fully in the shade of the house when the sun is low during the winter months. The bed also is a favorite place for our dog to pee. We are in Central North Carolina, zone 8a. Soil is sandy clay, slightly acidic.

I would like to plant something that's cheery and relatively maintenance free here. Small trees, shrubs, and ground covers are all options.
-Evergreen is preferable to deciduous
-Bright foliage is preferable to dark foliage
-Flowering is preferable to non flowering
-Perennial is preferable to annual

Things I and my dog have killed in this bed:
azalea, rhododendron, coral bells, loropetalum, japanese holly

Thing that has thrived in this bed:
common japanese maple, acer palmatum (now too large for the bed, given the proximity to the house, and will be moved)

My only idea is to plant an Summertime bed of varying sizes of lantana. But Id like other suggestions, especially for other seasons. Thanks!
posted by reverend cuttle to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Response by poster: to be clear, the bed gets zero sun during the winter months.
posted by reverend cuttle at 1:48 PM on February 23, 2013

Roses go dormant in winter. Love a sunny spot in summer. Clay suits them fine. Not evergreen though. Train a climber upside the house? Roses can be as maintenance free as you want them (though they respond well to care).

I am not a US-ian and have never been to NC, so I don't know how off base I am climate-wise, but your basic parameters say roses to me.
posted by bright cold day at 2:05 PM on February 23, 2013

Camellia won't tolerate full sun. It won't die, but it will get sun scald. It also won't flower as you'd hope.

Not sure what you should plant, but camellias will be disappointing with full sun in the summer.
posted by 26.2 at 5:40 PM on February 23, 2013

Best answer: Nandina might work. They're quite tough and versatile.
posted by kirst27 at 6:32 PM on February 23, 2013

Best answer: Day lilies. They can survive anything, love clay, full sun is like gravy to them. The only problem is they're just not there in the winter. You can plant some other kind of ground cover around them, though, like pachysandra or something similar and they'll happily poke on up right through it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:03 PM on February 23, 2013

Re: the dog pee..... consider sprinkling a good application of ground black pepper (NOT red pepper/cayenne pepper!). You'd have to add more after it rains or whatever, but black pepper is cheap, organic, and won't damage your garden or your dog. (Also works to discourage squirrels.)
posted by easily confused at 3:10 AM on February 24, 2013

Best answer: I suspect that the reason your Japanese maple survived in that spot and other things have so far failed has a great deal to do with the dog pee situation--I assume that if it was tall enough that you decided you needed to move it, it was a large enough specimen that the dog was only peeing on the trunk, and not the leaves.

My suggestion would be to try something that tends to be invasive in more hospitable conditions, like forsythia, or a well-behaved compact tree that where you can prune its foliage up out of the pee zone, such as flowering dogwood or star magnolia (crape myrtle is also a good suggestion in that vein). Liriope is a nice evergreen groundcover that tolerates dog pee pretty well.
posted by drlith at 6:46 AM on February 24, 2013

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