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Tricks of the Trade for Dynamic Shade Gardening

March 30, 2013 2 min read

Tricks of the Trade for Dynamic Shade GardeningWith today’s wide variety of shade loving plants, yards that are ‘sun challenged’ can be just as gorgeous, dynamic and interesting as their sun-soaked neighbors.

Here’s somewhat of a trade secret… the ‘art’ of landscape design is not only about color… it’s also about size and texture. The textures of leaves, stems and bark is often an underutilized aesthetic component in a landscape, but can be a shady gardener’s best tool for adding diversity and contrast. When you’re selecting plants that will grow near each other, consider their leaf texture. Are they glossy, leathery, ruffled edges, smooth edges, etc.?

Now consider size… but not just in the sense of tall, medium and short plants, which you will need in order to add diversity. But also consider the size of the leaves, which adds to their texture. For example, small needle-leaved evergreens, can contrast sharply near broader-leaved perennials and shrubs. Especially when they are different….

Colors! Yes, shady gardeners do need to consider color and hue, but you will likely get less frustrated if you focus on foliage color rather than bloom color. Blooms can be scarce in a shady area, so it’s best to consider them a bonus!

Now put these three components together and you’ve got yourself the start to a wonderful shade garden!

Examples of part shade to shade loving plants with interesting characteristics (be sure to check specific varieties and compatibility to your climate zone)…

Medium to Tall: Japanese Maple, Pieris ‘Mountain Fire’, Hydrangea, Boxwood, Rhododendron

Medium to Short: Azalea, Huechera ‘Purple Palace’, Dwarf Mondo Grass, Hostas, Nandina ‘Firepower’

Short/Groundcover: Sweet Woodruff, Periwinkle, Labrador Violet, Lysimachia, Lamium, Liriope

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