A shady garden, or a shaded spot in your garden, can often seem like a major challenge to overcome. But when you take the right approach, shade can be beneficial too. A shady garden can be a wonderful space – beautiful, functional and productive – as long as you make the right choices and design decisions.
These general tips for a shady garden should help you to make the most of your space:
Consider the Degree of Shade
If you are dealing with a shady garden, the first thing to look at is the degree of shade. There is a big difference between an area of deep shade, a partially shaded location, and an area with light or dappled shade.
You will select different plants depending on how deep the shade is, and how long it endures from each day, and throughout the year. And the choices you make about your design and layout will differ depending on these things.
Consider the Type of Shade
It is also important to realise that as well as different degrees of shade, there are also different types of shade. A particular spot in your garden might be an area of damp shade, where moisture is readily available, or an area of dry shade, where water is in much shorter supply.
This is another important thing to consider when you are making your plant and design choices.
Match Plant Choices to the Specific Environment
Of course, once you have a clearer idea about the specific type of shady garden you are dealing with, you will be better able to make the right plant choices. It will be easier to find the right plants for the right places.
When choosing plants, however, it is also important to remember that shade is just one factor. There are a range of other things that you will have to think about when choosing the right plants for a specific shady spot.
As well as thinking about sunlight and where it falls (or fails to penetrate) throughout each day and throughout the year, you should also consider:
- Water availability and natural rainfall in your area.
- The prevailing wind direction and whether the area is sheltered or exposed.
- The soil type, and its characteristics. (Does it drain freely or become waterlogged? Has it an acidic, neutral or alkaline pH? Etc…)
While it is also important to create a garden you love, remember that choosing the right plants for the right places is key to achieving positive results, and should be considered before you delve into aesthetics or achieving yields.
Incorporate Varied Foliage Plants & Layer Planting
Foliage plants are often well suited to shady spots. But too much green of one particular hue can have a flattening effect, and too little variety can detract from the visual appeal of the space.
Choosing a wider range of leafy plants which differ in their colour, form, and texture can enliven any planting scheme that you decide to employ in a shady garden.
Layering planting, with trees, shrubs, climbers and a wide range of herbaceous plants and ground cover can also help you make sure that you have variety and interest in shaded spots.
Brighten Dim Areas With White or Pale Flowers
There are more flowers than you might imagine which can cope in a shady garden. These come in a wide range of different spots.
For dim zones, however, it can be beneficial to consider those which have white or pale flowers, since these will shine out and brighten up what could be a dingy bed, border or corner of your space.
White flowers are not only appealing aesthetically in a shady spot – white flowers, along with purple ones, are also great for bees, which can see these colours more clearly.
Use Mirrors or Reflective Surfaces to Bounce Light Around
If you have a smaller garden you may struggle to obtain enough light for the cultivation of as wide a range of plants as you would like. You may also find the space a little dark and oppressive.
As well as carefully considering the planting, you might also consider adding other features to your garden. You might use mirrors affixed to walls or fences to reflect light into dimmer spots. Mirrors in the right locations can also help your garden feel bigger.
Another idea is to add other reflective surfaces – such as water or metals – to bring a more lively feel and a little more light into a shady spot.
Consider Edible Plants for a Shady Garden
Remember, making the most of a shady garden does not just involve thinking about style and aesthetics. Great gardens are also practical too, and can provide you with food, and many other things you need.
Gardeners often imagine that a food producing garden needs as much sunlight as possible. And for many typical crops and food producing plants, this is indeed the case.
Most fruits and vegetables and many herbs will perform well and yield best in a sunny location.
However, there are also plenty of edible plants to consider growing in more shaded spots in your garden.
If you are dealing with partial or dappled shade, you will find that you have a wide range of edible, shade-tolerant plants to consider.
Many perennial vegetables and green leafy edibles and herbs can thrive in somewhat lower light conditions. And some can even cope with areas of much deeper shade.
Consider Other Forms of Cultivation
Another interesting thing to consider is that you might try other forms of food production in a shady spot – ones which do not involve plants at all, but rather fungi. A shady garden could be the perfect spot to experiment with mushroom cultivation.
You might, in a damp, more deeply shaded spot, consider placing some mushroom logs, or inoculating wood chip mulch with mycelium.
This is just one example of a situation in which shade becomes a benefit, rather than a problem, in a productive garden.
Have you created a shady garden you are proud of? Let us know using the links below. We’d love to learn how you have made the most of all the shady space you have available.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.