Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery, Inc

Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery, Inc

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Caragana Arborescens

Chicago Tribune
Home & Garden
April 1, 2001

Shining in the shade
Careful choices can bring sparkle to places with scant sunlight

By Nina A. Koziol

For many gardeners, a shady yard is a struggle.  For Rich and Susan Eyre of Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, Inc. in Woodstock, it’s an opportunity to create a woody wonderland adorned with unusual conifers and perennials that thrive in spite of reduced light.

Their ingenious display at the recent Chicago Flower & Garden Show featured a small, intimate space packed with 150 different forms of hosta that include miniatures, moderate, size specimens and large cultivars with 4-foot wingspans.  Best of all, many of the plants can get by on four hours of direct sun a day, Rich Eyre said.

It was one example of the opportunities gardeners find for information and inspiration at the annual show.

Spectacular conifers in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors – not just green, but gold, green and white, or silvery-blue – created the walls, canopy and focal points in this garden setting.

Mary and Rich Orga of Tinley Park were among the thousands who stopped to admire the display.  “I was looking to see what hostas they’d used. I’m especially interested in combination of blue and gold hostas for our shade garden.  This was just gorgeous,” Mary Orga said.

Shade can be a limiting factor in urban, suburban and even some rooftop settings, said Rich Eyre, a self-proclaimed conifer collector turned nurseryman.

“There is a palette of plants, however, that you can use to paint the shade garden and make it more interesting.  There’s a tremendous visual potential in colors and textures for shady areas that we don’t often think about,” Rich Eyre said.  At the exhibit, visitors found hostas in yellow, silvery gray, dark blue, chartreuse, and new bicolor and crinkly-leaved varieties.

And while the shade garden’s floor also features Virginia bluebells, bleeding heart, heuchera, tiarella, astilbe and sedums, the denizens of this garden included an array of stunning evergreens that accept shady sites.

Think beyond the everyday garden-variety yew, Eyre suggests.  His nursery touts eleven different hemlock cultivars with intriguing names such as ‘Golden Splendor’, ‘Gentch White’ and ‘Slenderela’.  There’s even a dwarf weeping hemlock, ‘Cole’, that is suited for small spaces.

“Hemlocks are the most shade-tolerant.  But you’ll also find arborvitae, Douglas fir and Swiss stone pine,” Eyre said.

Eyre’s shade garden included the Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora), chosen for its windswept appearance.  “There are various artistic forms, such as prostrate forms that could trail over walls and narrow, columnar plants for a strong vertical accent,” Eyre said.  Among several varieties of Japanese white pine, you’ll find ‘Pendula’, ‘Green Shadow’, ‘Contorta’, and ‘Pygmea’.

“Conifers give you an ability to create an outdoor room.  A unique specimen plant becomes a garden-maker.” Rich Eyre said.  He suggests that gardeners splurge on one or two eyecatching trees or shrubs to make the garden space unique.

“By using a structure of larger plants – even in a small space – and grading them down by size, you’ll have a mature, layered landscape,” Eyre said.

In the garden show exhibit, “We created a seating area in the center so you are surrounded by the garden with various islands where a special bed of small or dwarf plants might be,” he said.  “With these miniature plants, you can bring the landscape right up to the house.”