Do you have tall mature trees in your garden under which you'd like to grow a few perennials? Do the hostas and astilbes you planted wither and die one after the other? Here's a solution that can help you have a beautiful shade garden, even if conditions are inhospitable.
The perennials we plant under mature trees have a hard time growing and developing properly. Obviously, the lack of light has something to do with it, but it's mostly the intense competition for water and nutrients with the trees' roots that is the major factor.
In such conditions, I recommend placing your perennials in large containers buried in the ground. The black plastic pots in which shrubs are sold in nurseries will do the trick (you can also use fabric pots such as smart pots); they will prevent the trees' roots from invading your perennials' root system.
Make sure to cover the drainage holes with a piece of geotextile to prevent the trees' roots from penetrating. Bury the containers so that their top is slightly higher than the ground level, and place your plants.
Finally, fill in the space between the root balls and the containers' sides with your favorite potting soil.
By Albert Mondor, horticulturist
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