Shady Places – Cool and Calming Gardens

Halton Master Gardener – Allyn Walsh

You love flowers and colour in your garden! You picture yourself seated amidst a sea of blooms with pollinators whizzing by, the sun warming your face and arms while clutching a glass filled with a delicious cooling drink. But the reality may be that, instead you’re gazing out at a dark, dank patch of soil and straggly greenery. You have dreaded-by-all shade rather than sun. Don’t despair!

Shade gardens can be delightful havens filled with movement, texture and, yes, even colour. Shade gardens repay your hard work with respite from the heat and sun, a welcoming spot of beauty and a truly rewarding display. The key principle of shade gardening is to shift your focus from blooms to foliage. While traditionally we think flowers when it comes to our gardens, we cannot depend on a constant supply of blooms to provide interest and beauty in a shade garden. Instead, consider the tremendous variation of colours, textures, and forms of foliage, stems, and branches of shade-loving plants. With careful planning, you can create a wonderful sense of movement with contrasting colours, shapes and textures.

Note the contrasting colours and textures in the foliage of these popular shade loving perennials: Species of Hosta species and Heuchera
Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay.

First, consider your current garden. What do you want to keep or must keep such as trees and buildings and their effect on shade? Different areas likely have different types of shade and which differ at various times of day. While definitions vary, the following is a useful guide:

  • Deep Shade: less than two hours of sun per day
  • Partial Shade: 2 to 4 hours of sun per day
  • Partial Sun: 4 to 6 hours of sun a day
  • Full Sun: More than 6 hours of sun a day

Some plants are even sensitive to the time of day they receive sunlight so also take note of how sunlight changes over the day in your site.

Blooms are possible in shade and partial shade gardens, particularly in spring before trees leaf out to block the sun.

The purple flowers are a Nepeta species; the chartreuse is a Euphorbia species (most likely Euphorbia cyparissias) with white Galium odoratum and the fuschia coloured flours of a Geranium, likely Geranium ‘Patricia’. This garden receives about 3 hours of sun a day in mid-afternoon. Photo: author’s personal collection.

Next, consider the soil conditions. Is the soil wet or dry? Commonly the soil is very dry under large trees particularly those like Acer species with shallow root systems. Moisture also drains very quickly from sandy soil. On the other hand, wet soil could be due to poor drainage, nearby bodies of water or the presence of a heavy clay subsoil. While it’s ideal to continually improve the soil in our gardens, we must recognize that we can only go so far in pushing limits imposed by the setting. Gardening is much more successful (and enjoyable) if we work to improve rather than try to change what we have.

Continue to Full Article: Shady Places – Cool and Calming Gardens in July’s Cross Pollination from Halton Master Gardeners

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