Four Easy Steps to a Beautiful Shade Garden
As our gardens mature, we find ourselves gardening in more shade.
This can sometimes be discouraging as sun-loving plants fail to bloom or become leggy and sparse. When this happens our plant palettes must change.
There are plenty of colorful plants that thrive in shady spots and appreciate the cooler temperatures a leafy tree canopy provides. A simple way to think of creating a shade garden is in layers. Below your shade canopy are four opportunities for planting in shade: understory trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, and groundcovers.
1. Understory Trees
Here’s where you can provide color and interest at eye-level. Japanese Maples can provide graceful texture and beautiful foliage color. Dogwoods and Redbuds are sensational spring flowerers.
These plants provide the background architecture for more colorful, seasonal plants. Hydrangeas are the dramatic, colorful go-to shrubs for shade.
3. Perennials and Annuals
In the hands of hybridizers, coral bells have undergone a stunning foliage transformation—you’ll find them in purple, golden, russet, peach and blends in between. Winter blooming hellebores are experiencing a similar makeover—only with this plant, in flower color. The primula family offers wonderful seasonal color. For damp shade, nothing beats the colorful spikes of astilbe in late spring. Hostas are bold and dramatic shade plants—but you’ll need to watch for slugs and snails.
Brunnera makes a wonderful carpet of foliage above which hundreds of tiny, blue flowers seem suspended in air. Ajuga varieties are great choices to cover large and small areas with little care. Perennial violas scamper around other plants to fill in the blanks (and not overpower other plants) with dainty foliage and flowers.