Q: I have repeatedly tried planting along the front foundation of our house (it faces north and there are three large maples about 4.5 metres away), but everything dries up and dies. What plants do you suggest?
-- W. Fuller, Langley, B.C.
A: The soil along a foundation is often infertile as well as dry and, with your trees, any shrubs must also be able to tolerate a lack of sunlight. Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood), Rubus odoratus (flowering raspberry), Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood), V. lantana (wayfaring tree) and V. rufidulum (rusty blackhaw) are good choices. Before planting, cover the bed with a 10-centimetre (4-inch) layer of compost, then dig it in. After planting, lay a soaker hose along the centre of the bed and cover it with a 10-centimetre layer of compost, then one of shredded bark (renew these layers each spring).
Go for the gold
These hits of yellow-gold will glow in your garden right through the season. The sedge likes moist soil, but the others tolerate drought once established.
1. Name: Echinacea â€˜Sunrise' (coneflower)
Characteristics: Rose-scented yellow flowers fade to cream around a cone that turns from brown to gold.
Where to plant it: Plant in full sun in well-drained soil that's not too rich.
Size: Up to 1 metre tall.
Care: Deadhead to encourage blooms, or leave attractive seed heads in place.
2. Name: Carex elata â€˜Aurea' (Bowles golden sedge)
Characteristics: Golden grasslike leaves, striped with green, grow in dense clumps.
Where to plant it: Plant in well-drained soil in sun to full shade. The colour is most intense in sunny sites.
Size: Up to 70 centimetres tall.
Care: Cut back each spring.
3. Name: Verbascum 'Jackie'
Characteristics: Apricot flowers with dark eyes grow on spikes above a rosette of downy leaves.
Where to plant it: Plant in full sun in well-drained soil.
Size: Up to 45 centimetres tall.
Care: Deadhead for more flowers and propagate more (each plant lives only two to three years) with root cuttings.
Hardiness: To Zone 5, 4 and 5, respectively.
Price: About $13, $14 and $15, respectively.