How to plant a shade garden

The perfect spot for a shade garden is underneath some big, leafy trees. With a little bit of planning, the area transforms into a lusciously green oasis that may just become your new favourite part of the garden.

As you begin mapping out the design of your shade garden, a good thing to consider is whether to decrease the size of a possible lawn. Bright green lawns quickly get covered with moss in the shade, so it’s worth adding greenery to the area with plantings instead. If the shady area is large, it can be divided with a path. In addition to being practical, a path serves as a beautiful garden element. It doesn’t have to be the straightest and quickest path, but can slowly curve around the garden, showcasing beautiful plants on each side of it.

If the area is already inhabited by some native, shade-loving plants that you like, let them stay where they are and let them inspire the rest of the design. This will give your shade garden a natural look.

Perennials with big, dramatic leaves look beautiful in the shade. Ferns are a classic shade garden choice for a good reason. The feather-like ostrich fern, male fern, hart’s tongue fern and Aleutian maidenhair are just some great-looking option to try. A large collection of ferns creates an almost rainforest-like feeling.

In the wild, ferns usually make up the undergrowth, but in the rich garden soil they grow big and strong. Accompany ferns by moss or rocks, or other plants that like the shade, like rodgersia, hostas, astilbe, umbrella plant and common astilboides. Under big ferns, you can fit a layer of perennials underneath as underplanting; for example, periwinkle, Japanese spurge and asarabacca.

To bring blossom to your shade garden, add shade-loving flowers, like plant anemones, bleeding heart and Japanese wood poppy. Fucshia, euphorbia hypercifolia, impatiens and begonias also enjoy the shade and bloom for the whole summer. Pelargoniums tolerate the shade surprisingly well and white ones look particularly elegant in the shade, bringing light to dark green areas. If you want bushes, hydrangeas and rhododendrons are options that bloom beautifully in the shade.

Create visually enticing contrasts by mixing leaves of different shapes and textures. Bold-leaved hostas look great next to more fine-textured plants. Also try contrasting green plants with pops of more colourful ones, like heucheras. White variegated leaves and plants are a great way of lighting up dark areas; try redtwig dogwood ’Elegantissima’ for this purpose. Plant densely and in layers to create an impressive arrangement and and to keep the weeds away.

The best part of a shade garden is the calm and peaceful atmosphere, which can be enhanced in different ways. Uneven numbers of plants tend to be harmonious, so pick 3, 5, 7 or 9 plants of a kind. Avoid using lots of single plants, as it may create a busy feeling. A few well-chosen single plants can work very well as eye catchers, though. Japanese acer palmatum is a beautifully conspicuous addition to any garden. Finally, to finish off the area in a soft and gentle way, encircle it with a border of smaller perennials.

As you begin mapping out the design of your shade garden, a good thing to consider is whether to decrease the size of a possible lawn. Bright green lawns quickly get covered with moss in the shade, so it’s worth adding greenery to the area with plantings instead. If the shady area is large, it can be divided with a path. In addition to being practical, a path serves as a beautiful garden element. It doesn’t have to be the straightest and quickest path, but can slowly curve around the garden, showcasing beautiful plants on each side of it.

If the area is already inhabited by some native, shade-loving plants that you like, let them stay where they are and let them inspire the rest of the design. This will give your shade garden a natural look.

Perennials with big, dramatic leaves look beautiful in the shade. Ferns are a classic shade garden choice for a good reason. The feather-like ostrich fern, male fern, hart’s tongue fern and Aleutian maidenhair are just some great-looking option to try. A large collection of ferns creates an almost rainforest-like feeling.

In the wild, ferns usually make up the undergrowth, but in the rich garden soil they grow big and strong. Accompany ferns by moss or rocks, or other plants that like the shade, like rodgersia, hostas, astilbe, umbrella plant and common astilboides. Under big ferns, you can fit a layer of perennials underneath as underplanting; for example, periwinkle, Japanese spurge and asarabacca.

To bring blossom to your shade garden, add shade-loving flowers, like plant anemones, bleeding heart and Japanese wood poppy. Fucshia, euphorbia hypercifolia, impatiens and begonias also enjoy the shade and bloom for the whole summer. Pelargoniums tolerate the shade surprisingly well and white ones look particularly elegant in the shade, bringing light to dark green areas. If you want bushes, hydrangeas and rhododendrons are options that bloom beautifully in the shade.

Create visually enticing contrasts by mixing leaves of different shapes and textures. Bold-leaved hostas look great next to more fine-textured plants. Also try contrasting green plants with pops of more colourful ones, like heucheras. White variegated leaves and plants are a great way of lighting up dark areas; try redtwig dogwood ’Elegantissima’ for this purpose. Plant densely and in layers to create an impressive arrangement and and to keep the weeds away.

The best part of a shade garden is the calm and peaceful atmosphere, which can be enhanced in different ways. Uneven numbers of plants tend to be harmonious, so pick 3, 5, 7 or 9 plants of a kind. Avoid using lots of single plants, as it may create a busy feeling. A few well-chosen single plants can work very well as eye catchers, though. Japanese acer palmatum is a beautifully conspicuous addition to any garden. Finally, to finish off the area in a soft and gentle way, encircle it with a border of smaller perennials.

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