You know that if I could, I'd help you. I hope you know that; but I know just as much as you do about this. Good Luck hon. :)
I could help, but too bad I'm away from your range.... You can try researching lilac bushes on google to see what their needs are, hardiness zones, etc...
From my own experience I've seen them grow okay in part shade. They get pretty moldy and sickly if grown in full shade, but then that could be because there was something else going on. There was some kind of blight going around my parent's house and it killed most of the lilacs.
I noticed at least two kinds of lilacs, one having broader leaves. That one smells the best. They come in both lilac and white. We used to have both.
Then there is one with a thinner leaf. That one seems more resistant to disease and tolerates shade, but its smell is not as sweet.
As far as gardening goes, find out what hardiness zone you are in:
Then look for perennials that grow in that zone. If you go for "wildflowers" they should be lower maintenance than fancy cultivated hybrids.
Some perennials I like (that grow in WI/MN):
-Purple cone flowers: I've seen them grow in mostly shade to full sun
-Mallow (pink form grows like a weed but very pretty when in bloom) Part shade
evening primrose (grows like a weed. Blooms at night and attracts moths) Part shade to most shade
-Spiderwort: I've seen it grow in part shade to mostly shade.
- daisys: the shasta white ones and wild type grow pretty well in part shade.
- asters (both wild and cultivated) grow okay in part shade. The wild ones grow like a weed, but attract lots of bees, butterflies, etc.
- goldenrod - makes a lovely splash of yellow in the late summer/early fall. There are several varieties from the wild type to cultivated varieties. Attracts tons of bees and other insects that enjoy pollen. If you want something to attract bees and butterflies, this would be a good flower. Same with the wild aster.
Hollyhock -biannual (watch out for weevils. It seems prone to insect attack)
calendula - annual, it reseeds itself and comes back every year if you're in zone 5, possibly zone 4. Takes mostly sun, but may grow in part shade as well
Morning glory: Like the calendula, it reseeds itself. Grows best in part shade with something to climb. In full sun it can get wilty. I haven't seen it grow in all shade.
Sunflower: Annual that reseeds itself. The "bird seed" kind seems to be especially stubborn. This requires part to full sun. In the shade they tend to grow considerably smaller. They don't take mostly shade well.
- milkweed: some varieties are pretty showy, but the one that seems the most durable is the "common" milkweed. It isn't very showy and it's more like a weed, but if you want monarch butterflies, this is a good one to plant. It tolerates part shade pretty well. It will probably grow broader leaves than it would in the sun. Takes about 2-3 years to get it established.
- dill. Not a very showy plant. it's an herb that smells...like dill. You can use it if you want. Otherwise it grows pretty well on its own. Black swallowtail butterflies enjoy the plant. If you're lucky you may attract a few and they will lay their eggs on the plant. They feed off of dill as caterpillars. Something to keep in mind if you want butterflies in your garden.
I hope this helps a little.
I love gardening...I am just learning about some flowers it took me a couple of times to get some right...bit I did plant a butterfly bush they get tall about 13 feet...I could be wrong on the height...I love it to see the butterflies come and visit...We had huneysuckle growing on our fence its smells so nice...We put a new fence up tryed to get rid of it only because of the fence...its hardy...In the front I have some black eyed suzies...good luck
Girl, I SOOOOO hear ya. I'm a confessed plant murderer! =[ It's awful!!!! I am such a huge lilac fan, and would love to plant some, but I've killed so many plants now that I have a plant phobia! LOL
I am glad that MJ came on to help, because she's the plant expert!
Good luck! If you find out how to KEEP them alive, please let me know. LOL
First you want to research the plants you like and make sure they are good for your area. Morning glory and, Honeysuckle can be very invasive very fast. Mix some annuals like petunias in with your perenials. Add different texture like russian sage, or a ground cover like Miss Nancy which is a green and white varigated plant and fast growing.
ZQ, lol. It takes trial and error. I've killed a number of plants too. If one fails, try another. If you tend to overwater your plants, look for varieties that need water. If you tend to neglect them and they dry out, then look for plants that can take periods of drought.
teko, Amen to the invasive morning glory.... Somewhere I have a picture of one trying to grow in the cracks of our driveway. It didn't get bery big, but it did put up a bloom. It's a tough thingy...
A lot of those I listed are pretty invasive but as far as maintenance goes they don't need a lot of active care. Juat a little watering once and a while, and they tolerate a range of soils.
The main problem is to keep them contained. Morning glories will try to wrap around any plant that is within their reach. They will pull down a sunflower to ground level. That's why they need a sturdy support. Grown along a tall fense or walkway they look really stunning in the morning hours and if they get part shade, the flowers last a little longer. They come in a variety of colors but I've found the purple variety to be the toughest.
At grandma's house since I have a small garden area in the front of the house and we didn't know where the city was going to plant a tree in the area, I settled for annuals for two years.
I used the "Low growing mix" that was sold in Walgreens. I found out that California poppies come back and are pretty invasive...
Flax are another perennial. You can get them in blue or scarlet. They attract bees. (amusing sight when a huge bumble bee tries the delicate flowers)
Phlox are yet another one that come in a variety of colors. From personal experience I've found them prone to powedery mold if they are grown in mostly shade. Lilac is also suseptable. Maybe you can find varieties that are resistant. I hope.
We can't forget daylilies. There are several varieties in several colors. I've found them to grow pretty well in part shade/mostly shade. Those will bloom for the about the first half of summer.
If anything you want to mix up your garden with varieties that bloom throughout the year. Some will finish off in the spring like tulips, crocus, daffodils, etc, others early to mid summer, daylilies, etc... and some will not bloom until near fall, asters, goldenrod, mums, etc...
Most of the ones I listed tend to bloom most of the season. Russian sage smells nice, but it can easily get crowded out if you grow sunflowers..
Hostas are another good shady type perennial. You can find them in a variety of leaf colors and patterns.