Shady Solutions

Troubled by shady areas in your landscape? Very few landscapes are immune from the shade; and whether it’s a little or a lot, shady sites leave many people with the frustrating notion that either nothing will grow in these areas or nothing will look attractive. However, contrary to popular belief, shady sites do not have to be a problem. Shade gardening provides an interesting alternative for combating shade worries. There are many plants that grow quite well in shady areas; therefore, you have a variety of design options for resolving your shady issues.

Becoming familiar with the different types of shade and the plants that are shade tolerant is the first step in solving your shaded woes. Dappled shade is typically the result of open-branched trees that allow patches of sunlight to flicker in and out throughout the day. Normally, plants are not exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Light shade is characterized by little or no direct sunlight except during the early morning or late afternoon. This type of shade comes from the north sides of buildings, walls, fences, or large trees. There are numerous sun-loving plants that will actually thrive in lightly shaded areas. Partially shaded sites receive both sun and shade at various intervals. Plants may receive direct sun throughout the day with a few hours of full shade. Usually, these areas maintain at least five hours of shade a day. Plants that are labeled shade-tolerant are better choices for these areas. Full or heavy shade receives no direct sunlight. Generally, this type of shade derives from thick stands of trees, such as in wooded areas. There are many foliage plants, and even some flowering ones, that are ideal for heavily shaded areas.

Some of the most beautiful plants thrive in shady locations. These shade lovers can lighten up the gloomy mood that is often left by shade. Many small trees and shrubs do well under large shade trees. This includes flowering dogwood, viburnum, witch-hazel, oak leaf hydrangea, and winterberry. Evergreens such as American holly, boxwood, rhododendron, and yew are also good choices. Groundcovers and vines are often an excellent alternative in shady spots. Ajuga, periwinkle, English ivy, lilyturf or liriope, and Virginia creeper are some. There are also many foliage plants and perennials such as hostas, ferns, lily-of-the-valley, wild ginger, bleeding-heart, cardinal flower, ageratum, lady’s mantle, turtlehead, columbine, and foxglove. A variety of ornamental grasses can provide astounding foliage in shaded areas. Select choices include maiden grass, sedge, and bottlebrush grass. Many spring-flowering bulbs and annuals grow well in shady sites, while adding a splash of color. Geraniums, daylilies, coral bells, bellflower, coleus, pansies, wax begonias, and impatiens do well in the shade.

Plant textures, forms, and color differences are important elements of design within shade gardens. Contrasts in texture highlight the differences among plants, creating depth and eye-catching appeal. For instance, the large leaves of hostas accentuate the soft fronds of ferns. Various plant shapes provide further interest in shade gardens. Large, upright plant forms serve as attractive focal points within a shade garden and contrast nicely with round, low-spreading plant forms. Additional interest and dimension comes from the differences in plant color. Highlight darker plantings in your shade garden with a mix of light-colored flowering plants and variegated foliage. Soil in shaded sites may be moist or dry; however, most shade-loving plants require moist soil for healthier growth and benefit from well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter, such as compost.

Shaded areas in your landscape shouldn’t be a source of the blahs. Instead, these sites should be a source of inspiration for your creative juices. If you have a dull, shady area beneath some trees, you can easily add interest to the area by incorporating a shade garden filled with small clusters of ferns, spiderwort, hostas, and astilbes. Brighten up dreary areas of shade found around porches, decks and patios or along darkened fence lines and woodlands with a mix of hostas, ferns, foamflower, phlox, bleeding heart, and astilbes. A shade garden filled with greenery can be quite attractive in a shady spot. Unfortunately, many people overlook the versatility of this color. In a garden, green provides a restful appearance. Colors can range from green, grayish-green, and blue-green to purple or yellow-green. Foliage plants of varying size, shape, texture, and color add interest in these gardens. Plants to consider are Virginia creeper, ferns, Jack-in-the-pulpits, lady’s mantle, variegated hosta varieties, and Solomon’s seal.

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