Bring me. . . a shrubbery!
July 26, 2020 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I need a bushy, low maintenance, attractive shrubbery in a place that gets little to no light. And it gets worse.

My neighbors have a giant Sitka spruce in their front yard and it overlooks my front yard. I adore this tree but it does make part of my front yard very barren, since it's basically perpetual shade. My bedroom window has an eastern exposure and is shaded by the tree, so there is almost nothing growing underneath it. This makes it a bit more visible from the street than I would like. I would like a shrubbery to sort of shield my window from the street and, bonus, since my window is extremely easy to climb in, to make that slightly more difficult. As if finding a vigorous, preferably native, shrub that thrives in darkness was not hard enough, we have deer here. Lots of deer. So many deer. I like the deer too, but I'm tired of feeding them hostas. I live in Astoria, Oregon, which is on the coast - I'm not directly on the beach, but Young's Bay is 3 blocks away and the actual ocean is about 5 miles away. So you can figure that the soil is not all that either and that there is sand and salt in the air. And, I am extremely lazy and my bedroom window is located on the other side of the house from all my other gardening efforts and the hose: it's not going to get watered regularly.

I have tried azaleas, not enough light. I tried hostas, the deer ate them. I tried coral bells and they didn't make it. I tried cool looking black grass from a local and it didn't, somehow, overwinter. The only thing that seems to grow there is wild foxglove, which is fine, I have no problem with eerily beautiful poisonous plants in the window, but they're only around for a month or so. Halp.
posted by mygothlaundry to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How about a rhododendron?
posted by Mouse Army at 3:03 PM on July 26, 2020

Pyracantha us a shrub with bodacious thorns, and bright red berries after an early bloom. We have a lot of Mojave Pyracantha in Bakersfield, but I had it in Salt Lake City, and it is hardy. It completely obscured a bay window, facing east that was my bedroom window, no need for curtains. I am sure there are other variants of this bush, the one I have is next to my back door, under two trees, and maybe in winter gets some direct low light, it is booming, and I have to trim it a couple of times per year. It will host birds that cats can't get to, great site for nesting. Here are some images, the Mojave is nice it goes upward OK.
posted by Oyéah at 3:08 PM on July 26, 2020

Rhodies are fantastic for shade, especially if you can get a species rhodie. I can also recommend Otto Luyken laurels--this is a "dwarf" variety, and I don't know if mine is as well, but they have grown exceptionally well and filled in the areas I've planted them, even growing new volunteers. When they bloom, they smell like honey.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:10 PM on July 26, 2020

When I was trying to plan a native garden for my yard, I used Prairie Nursery to help me find which plants would grow in which spots (mostly shade). I planted the garden using their suggestions (got the plants at a local nursery) going on 3 years ago and it is PERFECT. So for you, I used their filters to account for: shade, hardiness zone, and height (assuming you'd want something more than ground cover), and got 4 suggestions, linked here. Even if you don't choose any of these, I hope it'll be a good reference or starting point. Good luck! Shade is the worst, IMO, when it comes to finding a plant/shrub.
posted by cooker girl at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I used Prairie Nursery to help me find which plants would grow in which spots (mostly shade).

Prairie Nursery has been good to me.

A few things I'd suggest: aruncus (goatsbeard), black cohosh, Japanese anenome, rhododendrons, mountain laurel. Stuff that flowers white is particularly nice in shady areas. Mulching the soil when planting will help with sounds like a rough place to plant.

I don't grow pyracantha but I'd love to. I have seen it growing in shade around these parts but don't know much about it, other than it's a 'poke your eye out' plant which is good if what you mainly want is something to look good and keep people away from your window. That might be worth looking into also.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:21 PM on July 26, 2020

Thank you for this post’s title. :-)
posted by armoir from antproof case at 3:22 PM on July 26, 2020 [9 favorites]

Would Oregon grape grow there? It's happy in the shade, it's prickly, and it's pretty.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:43 PM on July 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah I was gonna suggest Oregon grape (Mahonia). It’s native to PNW and deer resistant, grows in shade. I didn’t plant it because it has a reputation for getting out of control, but it might be perfect for that situation. Here’s the Great Plant Picks list for shade shrubs, BTW.
posted by matildaben at 4:29 PM on July 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Evergreen huckleberry? With bonus huckleberries and prickles to deter deer and burglars.
posted by momus_window at 6:04 PM on July 26, 2020

Maybe something like a cinnamon fern? or a few?
posted by Sublimity at 8:17 PM on July 26, 2020

Another vote for Rhododendron. They don't get out of control like Oregon Grape and they don't hug the ground like Oregon Grape, Salal or other native shrubs. They also won't eat your house like a Madrona.

Also, what's a deer? Is that the same thing as a stilt rat? Where'd you get that weird "deer" name for them?
posted by loquacious at 1:26 AM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

A cast iron plant would grow there too, but I'm not sure it would be much of a deterrent. They are nice - full shade, and once planted basically require no supplemental watering Cast Iron Plant
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:08 AM on July 27, 2020

Mahonia/Oregon grape holly has been left alone by deer and has three seasons of color in our yard. Prickly, leathery leaves are a deterrent. It grows slowly so there’s not a lot of pruning/maintenance.
posted by childofTethys at 9:40 AM on July 27, 2020

Thanks everyone! I think I am leaning towards Oregon grape - I'm off to the garden center tomorrow!
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:23 AM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

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