Your Year Around Flower and Garden Guide

Shade Gardening - A Quit Place in a Hectic World

More Garden Design Articles

It's easy enough to create a shady spot in your garden. Plant a tree, build a garage, garden shed, or even a simple structure like a garden wall or fence and voila! Your fertile garden soil may as well be sandy desert!

shade gardenUnder the spreading chestnut tree… nothing grows! The same goes for under the stately pine, and any spot in your landscape that has a northern exposure - along the garden wall or an exterior house or garage wall.

What to do and how to create Shady Places in your Garden

Unfortunately, these empty spaces are the exact places where we would love to escape from the heat, relax, and enjoy our blooming plants on a hot summer afternoon. Well, you could buy a patio umbrella. However, the real solution is to use these naturally shady areas and create an oasis. A shade garden fills vacant spots with beautiful plants that add both comfort and value to your landscape. Often overlooked, many plants not only tolerate shade but thrive in a shade garden environment. In fact, some plants, like ferns, prefer deep shade to any other place in your garden.

Soil Structure and quality

If your shady area is a recent acquisition (because you planted that tree or built that garage), consider changes in the soil moisture. Because shaded areas are the cool spots in our gardens, soil tends to retain more moisture.

Before you plant, you may need to amend the soil to provide better drainage for your shade loving plants. Also, take note of the amount of time your shady area spends in the shade. Is your spot a "deep shade" or "partial shade" area?

  1. Deep shade areas receive little daily light. An urban example might be a spot where a house and detached garage sit closely side by side. Tall mature evergreens often create deep shade areas as well. Ferns and mosses are both plants that prefer deep shade and the moist soil conditions that frequently go along with it.
  2. Northern exposures are often referred to as "full shade". These areas get plenty of light, but little direct sunshine. Hostas, with their broad leaves in varying colors, variegations, and textures are excellent candidates for full shade gardens.
  3. Partially shaded areas average about four hours of direct sunshine per day. Generally, when a plant is sold as "part shade", it means the plant requires a minimum of four hours of bright light per day. Tuberous begonias are plants that actually prefer partial shade to partial sun. The columbine is a climbing perennial that decorates many a partly shaded garden wall.

Other plants that thrive in shade gardens are coral-bells, lily of the valley, bleeding hearts, lady's mantle and astilbe. Shady garden groundcovers include periwinkle, English Ivy (also another great wall-climber), and plumbago as well as a variety of mosses.

Shade gardening lets you take advantage of the natural shade in your landscape. Moreover, your structures create a natural windbreak to shelter your shade garden plants. Sunshine won't mottle their colors and summer storms won't tatter their edges or turn them inside out like a patio umbrella. So forgo buying that new patio umbrella and invest your money in planning and planting a shade garden. Shade gardening offers you years of enjoyment and comfort in the coolest spots of your yard!