The rest of the shrubs are finally planted--that only took a few weeks (including two very long days of digging and pulling English ivy)! We now have two large beds where there was basically nothing before.
At the rear end of the fence, Clethra and Itea join an existing oak-leaved Hydrangea. The Clethra and Itea both have white flowers in long stalks or racemes: Clethra in summer and Itea in spring. The Hydrangea sort of has blown-up versions of that flower. All have great fall color.
At the front end of the fence, Itea and Clethra join the newly planted serviceberry and an existing red-twigged dogwood (you can barely see the red twigs on the left in this photo, and the maroon Itea blends in with the mulch at the base of the tree).
In between the two beds, there is a pile of the grass (and weeds) I removed to make the rear bed, along with fallen leaves. That pile will break down to make a good base when we connect the two beds in spring. I'm thinking a large Fothergilla will be a good choice there (a cousin of witch hazel, another small tree I was considering).
I really want to get some sweet shrub (Calycanthus) in there somewhere too.
Maybe some Aruncus (goat's beard).
But I'm far from finished. I have a list of smaller scale plants to finish out this native garden bed. All of the spaces between the shrubs will be filled with an assortment of the following shade lovers:
Pologonatum (Solomon's seal)
Tiarella (foamflower) and/or Heuchera (coralbells)-- more white racemes (do you sense the trend?)
Actaea (I know this as black cohosh, but it has many common names ... and more white racemes)
Anemone (the native white one)
and definitely some ferns and other interesting native ground covers. Yes it looks sunny in these photos, but this is fleeting morning sun. For most of the day, this area is shaded by surrounding houses and trees.
I have given this bed much more consideration and planning than any before. Starting with the larger plants (one tree and several shrubs of various sizes) was vital. Next spring the test will be to place the new groups of plants appropriately and in the right numbers--repeating elements such as color and flower form. I just have to not overdo it with the white racemes. It is hard to resist buying one of everything at the garden center, but having large clusters of the same plant is important.
This is in contrast to the rear garden bed, which is a hodgepodge and more of a "test garden," where I figure out what works. There will likely be lots of improvements to that garden next summer, including creating continuity with this new garden. I think the flower forms of the lavender, blazing star, and butterfly bush will tie in nicely, but I am fine with having a riot of color for cutting back there. Now what will I do until spring?