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For me (and I'm no expert), it's hard to say what you should do. HOWEVER, a visit to a local library or to your local Horticulture Society should help. Read around and ask around for guidance.
Look around your neighborhood for homes that have the vegetation (growing in shade) that you'd like to plant yourself. If there's a day that you see someone outside, go and ask them what it is that's growing. (Of course, introduce yourself and tell them where you live and what you're trying to do.) If they don't know what it is they have growing, go back to your car and get your camera. (Initially, I'd leave the camera in the car in case the homeowner knows what they have. Then, all you need is a pencil and paper; NOT the camera. Besides, if you bring it right up to them, it might 'spook' them.) Once you've identified what you've seen, then go 'look them up' at the library or Nursery. Be sure the plants you select are 'intended' for the environment you have around the house. Soil, light, temperature, and so on WILL make a difference.
I'd like to add one more thing. Be sure that whatever you plant, that you have a 'full size plan' on how large you want the plant to grow. For example, if you want it to grow 5' high where the 'base' of the plant is 3' across, then plan on keeping it at that height and width. In this example, you want to plant the plant 3.5' from the house. The diameter of the base of the plant is cut in half (where 3' / 2 = 1.5'), and you add 2' for distance to the foundation. In other words, cut (in half) the FULL size DIAMETER of the base of the plant (In this example, the full size diameter is 3' -> 1.5') THEN, add 2'. Hence, plant the plant 3.5' from the foundation.
The reasons you want about 2' from the foundation are few, but important. Sun: The 2' space will allow the sun (what little there might be since you're planing in the shade) to dry the ground. Air: The 2' space will allow air to dry the ground, and allow the air to CONTINUE moving around the house (unobstructed.) Working Room: The 2' space will allow you (and Maintenance People) to have some 'working room' on ALL sides of the plant.
All too often, homeowners plant trees, bushes, and plants TOO close to the foundation, and they let them grow 'wild'. In doing this, they 'invite' termites, mold, mildew, and other problems associated WITH THE ABSENCE of sun and air movement. And in your case with the absence of sun, you are already at risk of the aforementioned, and you haven't planted anything yet.
Have you considered a rock garden? Artificial plants too??? I'd stay away from anything that grows 'on the ground', like ivy. (It promotes dampness and certainly prevents airflow.) Try to stick w/plants that are 'lean' and grow kindof above the ground. Use the 2' Rule based on how large you'd like the plant to grow. Your research should help you in determining this info. (Pruning information is usually provided w/the plant information.)
My best to ya and hope this helps.
Jay J -Moderator
PS: Look into Dendrums ...
[This message has been edited by Jay J (edited August 15, 2001).]
Have you thought of buying some garden planning software? I recently purchased a Sierra product that has a plant encyclopedia that one can search for plants that meet specified criteria. (e.g. shade, flower color, perennial)
You can even layout your garden and take it through the seasons and years to get a VERY rough idea of how your hard work will look in a few years.
Just a thought...