MAKING THE MOST OF SHADE, Larry Hodgson offers hundreds of ideas about working with the trees you now have or actually creating shade. My all-time favorite book on shade gardening has been George Shenk's classic as it was he who first pointed out the virtues and sins of various trees and bushes regarding their roots and foliage, but one of the criticisms I have of Shenk's book is the dearth of color illustrations. Hodgson's book more than makes up for this shortcoming, and he adds enough text about each possible entry to actually inform the user. I have been shade gardening for some years now, and am in the position to say...yes, that works for me, or no, that is not something I can do.
For example, I tried Tiarella (Allegheny foamflower) a few years ago and failed probably owing to its sensitivity to the heat and light in my yard (as it's name implies this denizon of the forests prefers something other than the hot Virginia sun in July. Well, Hodgson says there are plenty of hybrid Tiarella plants "pushing" the original into the background". So even though I am careful about invasive vegetation and try to plant native or local fauna where possible, I will probably try the `Eco Running Tapestry' but only after I check with the local VA extension service. Those creeping stems in the new hybrids may not be the best thing in my garden, and Hodgson says the `Wherry' foamflower is a "natural that doesn't produce creeping stems" so I may try that again, now that I am a more experienced gardener and understand the value of mulching annually with leaf compost. I have Creeping Woodruff (Galium odoratum) coming out of my ears leaving few places to plant Tiarella. The Gallium is a wonderful carpet that dies back along August and smells like sweet bedstraw (its common name), so I am not likely to remove it. In the spring it mixes well with Solomon's Seal or "fairy bells" (Polygonatum), Astilbe, Hellebore, and bulbs. In early summer, the Hosta lillies look swell with the Galium.
I like this book very much, and it just might replace Shenk's book in my affections, although it never pays to own only one book on shade gardening.