Schexnider discusses shade gardening

By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY - When Kirk Schexnider speaks at clubs, such as the Rotary Club on Tuesday, he likes to focus on one particular topic.

Tuesday, Schexnider focused on shade gardening, or gardens planted and grown in areas with little or no direct sunlight during the day, either under trees or on the shady sides of buildings.

According to Schexnider, if the shade garden is set for a location under a tree; the tree must first be cleaned up with 15 to 20 feet being left clear to give the plants some sunlight.

He also recommends layers and lots of textures and reminded Rotarians that blooms are not always the most important thing.

“If you use a variety of levels and textures, your yard will always be interesting,” he said.

Schexnider explained that a shade garden can be broken down into three main levels and a fourth level of seasonal plants.

The highest level can actually be smaller trees such as camellia japonicas, little gem magnolias, D.D. Blanchard magnolias, brackens brown beauty magnolias, Japanese magnolias of the Jane, Ann and Soulangiana varieties, red and sliver Japanese maples and dogwoods.

In the next level of shade gardens, Schexnider recommends evergreen shrubbery such as azaleas, rhododendron, japonica and sasanqua camellias, gardenias, pittosporums, nandinas (also known as “heavenly bamboo”), carissa, yaupon and helleri hollies, mahonias and curly wax plants.

The final basic level is made up of perennials, grasses and vines. The lowest level of basic plants is made up of a wide variety of flowers, such as forms of lilies and jasmines, and other plant life, such as ferns and mondo (which is commonly referred to as “monkey grass”).

“In the front, I always suggest leaving some spaces for seasonal plants,” said Schexnider.

He also cautioned against using tropical varieties, such as the bird of paradise, red and green banana and dwarf shell, shell and variegated gingers.

“Even though this is the south, tropicals just don’t do well in Louisiana. So I don’t and I recommend not using them much,” said Schexnider.

As he turned his attention toward questions from the audience, Schexnider was given the opportunity to reiterate why grass doesn’t typically do well under trees, particularly large trees like live oaks.

“Trees just suck up too much moisture,” he explained. “Think about how much moisture we need, now imagine if you were 50 feet tall by 50 feet wide or 100 feet tall by 100 feet wide. That’s a lot of moisture.”

Schexnider also added that he likes to make sure his clients are taken care of once the initial work is done as well. He either makes sure the client has the tools and knowledge to upkeep the landscape or, as is the case with some of the larger rental properties he has done, he adds the maintenance fee into the original quote and comes out and does the work himself. Something Rotarian Ted Carmichael was very complimentary of.

“Kirk doesn’t just do your yard,” he said, “he comes back and helps you keep it up afterward.”

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