Sometimes gardens that were designed for and planted in full sun when they were first established transition into shady environments as the trees matured. Successful growth is what gladdens our gardening hearts! It also gives us an opportunity to freshen up the garden where sun loving plants are no longer getting as much sun as they prefer to thrive. Time to relocate them to a new place and install shade loving plants in the vacated space.
Shade is a great garden opportunity if you are lucky enough to have it. Many interesting plants grow and bloom in the shade or on a forest floor making for a delightful under-story full of color and greenery. Keep in mind “The Right Plant in the Right Place at the Right Time” and you’ll be amazed at the choices that are available to you with just a little investigation. Many times the color, texture and interest from shade plants comes from foliage instead of just the flower blooms so the shade garden stays vibrant before the flowers bloom and long after they’ve gone.
Just as there are different levels of sunlight, there are different degrees of shade. Dappled shade? Part shade? Full Shade? A sunlight meter can calculate exactly what you’ve got if you want to precisely determine how much shade or sunlight a spot receives. Areas that receive less than 4-6 hours of sunlight can be considered for a shade garden. Filtered daylight is desirable and woodland areas can also be used.
There are other considerations as well that make a shade garden an extra special spot. Our summers can be intense and it’s cooler under the canopy. Retaining soil moisture is a bit more manageable out of the sun’s glare too, requiring regular watering, but usually not extraordinary measures unless we’re in drought conditions. While plants are generally in the business of “farming sunlight” from photosynthesis, shade plants tend to grow a bit slower with less “farming” work to do.
From eye-catching Astilbe to fanciful Brunnera and whimsical Epimediums to striking deep burgundy trilliums there are plants to spice up the shade. Reinvent your garden, add some paths and seating and renew your rapport with nature. Gardening in shade has real potential to create your own cool and relaxing retreat.
For more information about which plants are suited to moist shade or dry shade, take a look at the listing found at Shade Gardening.
For thematic ideas about different planting designs suited to shade gardening browse the North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Also, for selections that add the “wow factor” in the shade garden during different seasons take a look at the information found at: Shade Garden
Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.