Love your Shade
Sometimes I hear people despair that their garden is too shady.
However there are wonderful designs and planting combinations you can do in shady areas. After all shade is a natural part of the landscape and plants and wildlife have adapted to these areas. Indeed some plants can’t thrive without dappled or deep shade.
Rather than fret about the darkness you can embrace it and go for a woodland theme, choosing traditional English or European woodland plants. With a nice thick bark mulch over the soil amongst your new plants you can create a space that could have been there for decades full of mystery that invites you towards it. You can even create a path of bark that runs through the planting.
You can make the shady part of your garden a place of lush coolness and simple life where your eyes, tired from looking at screens, mobiles and lists of things to do, can relax and dream of the forests.
Because darkness absorbs the light the shady borders, especially if there are trees above, often appear deeper and further away which can enhance a garden’s size. But if that is not a consideration you might want to enliven the area with bright flowers or even a bright metallic sculpture.
Japanese anemonies are brilliant for creating sparks of light in the gloom and they also tolerate dry soil. If your soil is moist you can go for the delicate heart shaped flowers of Dicentra or Astillbe or the proud early and late season red and pinks of Cyclamen which can be planted between the roots of craggy old trees.
If you wish the area to have a civilized, classical look you could purchase some great Cretian terracotta urns that will catch any light going which will contrast with the deeper darkness behind. They will also tie in the area to any hard materials in the rest of the garden like paths, patios and the house itself.
For perennial planting there are the bullet proof choices of Alchamilla Mollis, Astrantia with their papery flowers, Epimedium (Bishop’s Hat), Hellebours and the purple flowering Geranium phaeum.
As well as checking out the moisture content of the soil make sure you check out the soil acidity. If you are lucky enough to have acid soil you can try Rhododendrons and Azaleas.
Bulbs are great in shady areas and often thrive as they can come and go before the deciduous trees have come into leaf. As well as obvious contenders like Narsissi and Blue Bells you could try the weird dutch hats of Erythronium as well as Chionodoxa and Scilla.
For ground cover try Euphorbia amygdaloides (if you have a larger space and don’t mind them spreading about), plus Persicaria superba( flowers forever it seems), the achingly delicate Corydalis plus Ajuga and Violas.
With a little research ( garden centers will often have a shady plant section) and good plant combinations you can turn this often neglected area into one of the main feature of your garden.
Deadhead the old sweet pea flowers to encourage the plant to keep flowering
Prune shrubs that flowered in the spring so that the new growth of this year, which they will flower on next year, is contained.
Lastly if you mow your lawn every week rather than every fortnight you will have a summer of pleasure looking out at your neat green space rather than living with a shaggy lawn for half the time. See it as free gym membership.