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Home Landscape Design Designing With Plants Planting for a Shady Aspect
Planting for a Shady Aspect PDF Print E-mail

by guest writer, Geoff Wakeling, for Brookside Patio Furniture


One of the areas in gardens which is often perceived as difficult to plant by gardeners is that of the shady aspect. Whilst sunny borders are easily filled with blooms and foliage that can readily be found at many nurseries, a bit more care has to be taken to find plants that will thrive in shady locations.

This point is crucial as, whilst many plants will happily thrive if dug into a sunny border, gardeners will not succeed if these same species are placed in dappled or deep shade. However, some careful planning and research can uncover a wide number of fantastic plants suitable for areas which do not gain as much light.

And as such, as long as the appropriate plants are used, a shady aspect can be just as thrilling as a sunny one.

Shady areas in the garden normally come in one of two extremes. They are either incredibly moist with a rich loamy soil, or they are dry and sandy. Often caused by the situation of a large tree which draws all available moisture out of the earth, the latter is often the hardest area to plant. Even for these areas though, there are a range of plants that can be used.

In addition, gardeners can take steps to improve the soil quality in shady aspects to help plants get a better start to life. Moisture retention is vital, so using a surface mulch such as bark chippings or homemade compost is ideal. Meanwhile, enriching the soil on a yearly basis is essential, so as the winter season approaches and plants become dormant, horse or cow manure can be used to lay on the surface ready for digging in the following spring.

Planting in Dry Soils

There are range of fantastic plants that will thrive in dryer, shady soils as long as gardeners take care to enrich the soil throughout the year and take steps to improve moisture retention. Whilst plants specifically suited to these aspects will not need incredibly wet conditions, it is important to ensure that they have enough moisture to grow.

This is especially needed when they are initially planted and the first roots are struggling to take hold.

Bergenia, often referred to as Elephant’s Ears, is a great plant for shady, dry soils. Offering a huge expanse of rich green foliage these plants can quickly cover areas in lush greenery. In addition they offer abundant pink or red flower stalks at the start of the growing season in spring, bringing much needed color to the border.

There are also a large number of Heuchera species which are ideal for shady locations, especially ‘Obsidian’ which is perfect for a dryer aspect. Sprawling pale and white flowers of geraniums including ‘Album’ and ‘Mount Olympus’ will offer a delicate ground hugging treat, whilst creating a huge show of Cyclamen, particularly under a tree, will offer a stunning woodland scene.

Meanwhile, the huge spikes of Acanthus will create some much needed height for a shady border, whilst species of Vinca will quickly creep over the ground and offer beautiful purple blooms.

Planting in Moist Soils

For gardeners lucky enough to have shady soils which are moisture retentive, there is a wonderful array of plant species that can be used to create stunning borders. Ferns in particular are a popular family of plants which thrive in some of the darkest shade, especially where moist conditions are found.

To create a beautiful contrast amongst foliage, gardeners can use species of different leaf shape and color, whilst adding species of Heuchera such as ‘Ebony and Ivory’ offers a deep purple foliage alternative.

A number of species can also be incorporated for their wonderful flowers, with pink and white Japanese Anemone’s thriving in partial shade.

Meanwhile the Himalayan Poppy will provide a rare and exotic stalk of beautiful blue blooms. And for winter periods, inclusion of both Cyclamen and Hellebores will lift an otherwise flowerless area.

Planting a shady aspect is not as hard as many think, as long as the correct approach is taken. Taking care to research appropriate plants for the area, taking extra time to enrich the soil, and ensuring that water retention is as good as possible, may just find gardener’s having a shady aspect border to rival their full sun extravaganza.

About the Author:
Geoff Wakeling is a London gardener, blogger and a guest writer for Brookside Patio Furniture, which specializes in Wicker Patio Furniture.  Browse for an outdoor chaise lounge or an outdoor loveseat at www.brooksidepatiofurniture.com