Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shade Gardening-Designing For Shade

Shade Garden
Over the years, I have received questions on what to plant in a shaded spot. There are many different plants available to create a lovely shade garden that will provide interest throughout the seasons.  I will stick to the varieties of plants which I know from personal experience to be hardy and long lasting for years of enjoyment in your garden. 

Western Arborvitae
For starters, I would suggest the use of evergreens as  the first element in your shade garden. Use taller shade loving evergreens to provide an element of privacy or smaller evergreens for a foundation area. Some of the shade tolerant evergreens that I use for privacy screening are Blue Holly, Dragon Lady Holly, Fastigiate Holly, Oakleaf Holly, Nellie Stevens Holly, Skip Laurel, Western Arborvitae and Leyland Cypress. The Dragon Lady and Fastigiate forms of holly tend to stay more on the narrow side whereas the other varieties mentioned tend to become larger and fuller.  Western Arborvitae and Leyland Cypress are both shade tolerant and fast growing; however, Leyland Cypress are prone to wind damage and drying due to their shallow root system. 
Liriope Variegata
Western Arborvitae are deeper rooted and look similar to Leyland Cypress without the risk of damage. 

As a smaller evergreen backdrop, I often use Cherry Laurel 'Otto Luyken', Ilex 'Compacta', or Boxwood 'Wintergem'.  For added interest, some flowering shrubs I would recommend are 'Little Princess' Spirea, Hydrangea or Vibernum.  (The last three flowering shrubs are shade tolerant but do need some amount of filtered light in order to bloom correctly.) 

Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Once the foundation of your shade planting is established, perennials can be added for additional color. Some of the best shade perennials I have encountered are hosta, liriope, hakonechloa (japanese forest grass), astilbe, heuchera, japanese painted fern, golden sedge and ajuga.  These perennials combine beautifully with cherry laurel. rependans yew, boxwood, variegated boxwood, leucothoe, holly, skimmia and aucuba.   There are many forms of hosta to choose from as well as heuchera.  My personal favorite is Hosta'Patriot' combined with Heuchera 'Palace Purple' or 'Plum Puddng' . The variegation of the hosta along with the deep burgundy color of the heuchera combine beautifully with variegated liriope or golden sedge.  Astilbe can be another desired addition and is available in a variety of sizes and colors.

Additional interest can be achieved in your shade garden through the use of hardscape. There are various hardscape elements that can be used to complement your space, such as the addition of large boulders, stone pathways and raised walls. You may also like to add a bench for seating or other hardscape element such as a birdbath to attract wildlife to your garden. 

A shade garden can be very pleasing, providing you have the right plants.  So next time you ponder, "What can I do with this space?", there is so much that can be done to create the shade garden of your dreams! Visit the following link Shade Garden for my complete album of shade tolerant perennials.   

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Author:Lee@ A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved


  1. Thank you for the shade tips. I often find shade to be a challenge as far as getting color and interest. You have provided some good info here.

  2. Interesting and important information. It is really beneficial for us. Thanks

  3. Very interesting and informative post! Thank you for some great information!


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