Where can I buy ground covers for shaded area in Toronto?

(Question)

I live in the Dufferin / St. Clair area of Toronto. I am replacing my grass lawn with a clover lawn in the sunny area of my back yard. I also have a semi to deep shaded area under my large cherry tree surrounded by ferns and Japanese bamboo. I am after the “natural forest” look. Please advise on the best ground cover for the shaded area that could be planted at this time of year. Also, please suggest a location where I can buy it in Toronto as my landscaper has not heard of the ground covers featured in your article about alternatives to grass lawns. I will have a heavy layer of top soil for planting. There will be minimal traffic in the shaded area. Many thanks. Elaine

(Answer)

Hi, Elaine,

I’m assuming that the article on lawn alternatives you’re referring to is this Gardening Guide:

http://66.209.177.85/~torontom/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Lawn-Alternatives1.pdf

Any of the plants we mention in that guide should be  available at any larger garden centre, especially during the spring planting season. For a natural look in shade, you might try some of the suggestions such as sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), big-root geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) or epimedium (Epimedium spp. and cvrs.). White clover will also grow in shade, although not as densely as in sun.

The challenge in July is finding plant material that is still in stock – but this will vary from centre to centre. Phone around for availability at the larger centres, especially those who are also growers, to save yourself some steps. Unfortunately, we are unable to make specific retail recommendations.

Plants you purchase from a nursery at this time of year might be root-bound, so before planting gently loosen and pry apart any roots that have wound around each other inside the pot. You want them to reach into the soil to build a strong root system, not be stuck inside a pot-shaped root ball.

And anything you plant during the midsummer months needs extra attention to watering during very hot or dry weather. Watch the foliage for signs of drooping. Once cooler fall temperatures arrive, the plants should be less stressed.

Hope you find this helpful. Best of luck with your garden.