Under the shade

June 13th, 2010

 My garden is full of shade and old trees, and sometimes this can be a problem.  They are beautiful, my tall old lady trees, and there is nothing much more delightful than to sit under the shade that they provide on a hot summers day.  But, these lovely trees also cause other problems.  There is root competition for nutrients and water; matting roots under the trees that restricts the growth of anything else; toxic effects of the Cyprus trees out the front affect the growth of adjacent plants and debris such as falling leaves, sticks and bark that may cover understory plants.  The truth is there are some plants that just simply won’t grow in the shade.  These are the plants that I have to sadly leave to other gardeners.  I find that if you have a shady garden, you need to work with it.

Of course, shade is a comparative term.  I have learned that some areas are more shady than others and have divided my garden into areas of full shade, where there is no direct light at all during the growing season, semi shade, where sunlight is received for part of the day and light shade, this is the area beneath trees with lighter foliage where little plants get dappled sunlight most of the day. 


In the deep shade plants need to be tough and adaptable.  Ferns will grow here and the tough Clivia, or Kaffir Lily.  Little spider plants can brighten up the dark shade and they are one of the toughest little plants you can find.  Helleborus, Hosta and the pretty little impatiens or busy Lizzies are a good choice for that dark spot also.  Once you have Impatiens in your garden you will never again be without it.   For, as the name Busy Lizzie suggests they grow very easily and you can plant small cuttings which take very readly.

rhubarb doesn't mind semi shade

For the semi shade you can’t go past the beautiful Japanese Anemone, the Windflower these are beautiful old-fashioned flowers which grace any garden.  Begonias too will thrive in the semi-shade; then there is of course the hydrangea, there is nothing like a white hydrangea flowering to brighten up the darkest corner.

In the light shade, you can’t go past an azalea or two or a Camellia.  For perfume in a garden nothing can surpass Daphne flowers, particulary in winter.  The Daphne tolerates semi to full shade, although I think it does best where it can get a little morning sunshine in the winter months. 

So, gardening in the shade, while sometimes being a challenge is also very rewarding!

Happy gardening!

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