Plants for the shade

Date
Published in
Various local newspapers (UK)
Written by
Kim Wilde

During hot summer days, there can be nothing better than finding an area of your garden, which is shaded by tall trees or buildings, in which to relax, take a sip from your favourite drink and keep cool. Although these areas of the garden are great if we happen to have very hot weather, for many gardeners growing plants in this environment is a big problem.

The growing conditions under trees and adjacent to many buildings means that the soil in this environment tends to be either dry and impoverished or damp and heavy, and insufficient sunlight means that some plants will not grow successfully. However, if this is a problem in your garden, there is no need to despair as these types of conditions present you with a wonderful opportunity to grow some truly exciting shade loving plants for all year round colour and interest.

Most ornamental shade loving plants originate from moist, cool woodlands and although many produce exquisite flowers they tend to be grown in British gardens more for their attractive foliage. If you have a dry shaded area that you wish to plant up, the first thing to do is to help improve the soil by digging in plenty of good organic matter, such as well rotted manure, leaf mould or composted bark, as this will help your soil to hold moisture and provide nutrients.

Good plants to grow in these conditions include: Ajuga, Alchemilla, Bergenia, Euphorbia, Pachysandra and Vinca, which are excellent for ground cover as well as taller shrubs such as Aucuba, Berberis, Cotoneaster and Mahonia to name but a few. For areas of damp and heavy soil good plants to choose include: Astilbe, Gunnera, Hosta, Polygonum, Eleagnus, Fatsia and Hydrangea.

If you live in an area where your soil is lime-free and you have dappled woodland shade, then you will also be able to successfully grow Camellias, Pieris, Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

Ferns are a natural choice for shady areas and although they do not flower, they have a wonderful variety of form and shape. Some are suitable for boggy areas while others enjoy dry soil conditions or even wall crevices. Evergreen varieties will also provide interest throughout the winter for a dull, shady position. Two good varieties to choose are Dryopteris felix mas, which is extremely tolerant of dry and impoverished soil, and Matteuccia struthiopteris, which is fast spreading and ideal for moist boggy situations.

Do not forget also that some bulbs are good for shaded areas and will flower year after year. They are useful for pushing up through smaller plants to give an extra season of colour. Good choices are Bluebells, Alliums, Erythronium and Cyclamen.

Shade in the garden should no longer be a problem, as there are now many plants that adore and flourish in it, be inspired to grow some shade lovers for those dull and forgotten areas.