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How can I build a shade garden around a tree with large rooots?

I would like to have a small shade garden around a tree in my yard. However, there are large roots extending from tree. Any ideas on how I can accomplish this without injuring roots?


  1. My neighbor used compost and has a lovely shade garden under her big pine.
  2. By starting with small plant starts. I did the same thing under a large Silver Maple in my back yard. Too many roots to dig a large hole anywhere, but small (as in 3 or 4" pots) starts of dead nettle, ferns, hostas, and even a couple of small starts of shrubs (azalea and pieris) have slwoly spread and grown, and I'm getting a pretty nice garden coming up. I also popped in some spring flowering bulbs like tulips and crocus...again, here and there, where I could fit them in.
  3. I have one of these that just sprung up, bit by bit. Find reseeding plants that thrive in such conditions and spread the seeds nearby, or root and transplant small pieces. I recommend columbine, lamium, some ferns, like aspleniums (these can be tough to manage if you have no experience, though), thymes, the less robust sedums, celandine, and very small bulbs, like siberian squill. Plants like this reseeded from a nearby garden in little nooks of soil between the roots of an old silver maple in my yard, and are now spilling around the trunk of the tree. Another key is moss. Weed carefully, preserving any moss that springs up. It makes everything look so much nicer, and chokes out some weeds in the future.
  4. I had the same problem and solved it by acquiring many, many potted plants, some of which I started from cuttings, corms, bulbs, rhizomes, seeds, etc., which I placed at the base of my huge tree which had such a large canopy that it provided shade for such plants, too. I found that epiphytic plants, especially did well -- plants like bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias, epiphyllums, etc., as well as shade loving succulents and cactus. I also planted bromeliads and tillandsias at the base of the tree, in between rocks for support, as they do not need to have roots that are in the ground, and they look beautiful. By the way, one way that I was able to acquire so many potted plants (I now have hundreds of them) -- is that I started trading what I did have in my garden with other gardeners looking to enhance their gardens by trading what they had with others. I joined the Yahoo online group, called PLANTSWAP GROUP, where the members are all very friendly and caring, and very generous about sharing their bounties with others, everything from seeds, to rooted plants, sometimes for nothing more than postage. If you wish to check it out, I provided the link below. It's a very quick way to expand your garden, economically with a variety of new plants that you've never tried before!
  5. I had the same problem. I used a small hand held shovel/trowel and loosened the soil between the roots as far down as I could go and added mulch, then I planted hostas and ferns that were dormant and bare root because the root systems were smaller than potted plants. Under another tree I made a raised bed out of field stones and filled with dirt and plants. Both gardens look really nice.
  6. Here you go. http://www.helium.com/items/1847769-shade-trees-for-landscapes