Shade gardens – Designing with shade-loving plants

By Rick Cozza, The Italian Gardener

The ground cover Sweet Woodruff is contained by a shady walkway.
The ground cover Sweet Woodruff is contained by a shady walkway.
Newer varieties of hostas are breathtaking in a shaded garden.
Newer varieties of hostas are breathtaking in a shaded garden.
Hydrangeas and other shade lovers create a colorful display.
Hydrangeas and other shade lovers create a colorful display.

 

 

Shade is often frightening to gardeners, especially those new to the ‘neighborhood.’ It can be daunting to try to grow what you thought were easy plants in less than intense sunlight. And I have seen folks spend great quantities of hard-earned dollars trying, time after time, to grow sun-loving plants in shady gardens. But take heart. Shade gardens are my very favorites, and doing just a little research will pay off in a big way. There are wonderful shade plants for both small and large gardens, and I am continuing to warn unsuspecting novices about the ‘Ugly Hosta Syndrome,’ created by simply dividing Aunt Harriett’s ugly hostas because they are free. Don’t! Of course, hostas are the first thing you think of, and I wrote about them a few months ago. Great new varieties are breathtaking, so I’ll leave you to peruse the garden center for those.

If you have an area that is contained, ferns are a blessing. Older varieties such as ‘Ostrich Fern’ need to be kept in control, but newer, smaller varieties simply clump rather than spread. Combinations of hydrangeas, hostas, shade-tolerant evergreens and ground covers like Sweet Woodruff (kept contained by the walkway) create a cool and refreshing area, especially with a small fountain of trickling water. This area gets one to two hours of afternoon sun, filtered by a Crabapple Tree. Groupings of shade-loving plants such as Annabelle and other hydrangeas, Japanese Forest Grass, Virginia Sweetspire, Weeping Japanese Maple, and others make for an inviting and colorful display. Shade can be lovely, you see!