Question: I’m putting up an eight-foot cedar fence to shelter a brick patio area from the north winds. What can I grow on its shady side?
Answer: We assume you’re looking for a climbing vine, as opposed to a ground cover or shrub, although you could certainly use all three. To climb the cedar poles, your best bet might be winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei radicans), which can extend up to 12 feet and is a hardy evergreen vine for Zone 5 (and even somewhat north of that). It shows a glossy, variegated leaf and thrives in partial or full shade and ordinary soil. It’s a member of the bittersweet family, but it displays a pale pink fruit and greenish white flowers. If you want something more fragrant, you might try a shade-loving clematis vine. Unlike the large-flowered clematis plants that love sun, ‘Sweet Autumn’ clematis is well adapted for shade and known for its autumn fragrance and small white flowers. It likes rich, well-drained soil. Prune it back for winter; you’ll want new growth in the spring. As for shrubs and ground covers, there’s no end to the shade-loving varieties.