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What's Up Magazine

A Radiant Shade Garden

Jan 12, 2011 06:24PM ● By Anonymous

Most likely, you will have to add compost to your soil. To find out, conduct this simple test: Scoop up a handful of dirt from the area, squeeze it, and drop it to the ground. If the soil stays compact, your soil type is heavy clay soil. Adding compost will help it drain properly. However, if your soil falls apart completely, it is most likely dry and sandy. Compost will fix this problem, too. If the soil splits into pieces, it is composed of mixed, silty loam, meaning that the soil is draining well while still supplying ample water for your plants. If this is the case, a trip to your nursery is not necessary.

Secondly, all shade is not created equal. You must respect those subtle but crucial differences between “deep shade,” “dappled shade,” “partial shade,” and “part shade/part sun.” Also, do not forget to take sun and water into account. Some plants thrive in dry shade and others flourish in moist shade. To help you assess this, locate large roots and trees in or near your garden.

Some of the moisture your plants receive depends on how much is being pulled away by these larger perennials. Something else to keep in mind when placing your shade garden; large roots make digging spots for plants more difficult.

Now that you have assessed and amended your soil and know your shade levels, you are ready to select your plants. The key in choosing them is to plan a variety of texture, contrast, color, and size within your shade garden. “My two favorites are Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’ and Epimedium pubigerum ‘Bishop’s Hat’,” says Mollie Ridout, Director of Horticulture for the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

In full, moist shade, lungwort’s spotted leaves, in a variety of colors, stand out from under the shadows. Partial shade is best for blossoming hyacinth, hostas, periwinkle, ‘Sweet Alyssum’, and ‘Deutzia’. You may also want to make space for azaleas and hydrangea, especially ‘Oakleaf’ hydrangea. Their gorgeous colors and vivacious blooms make them the stars of the shade garden. Each year, they will grow at least one size larger, so dig deep and give them plenty of space to shine.


Shades of Meaning

Full Sun: Plants in this category require at least six hours of direct, unobstructed sunlight a day.

Medium Shade: Plants require three to five hours of direct sunlight.

Full Shade: Full shade occurs when your plant receives three hours of sun or less a day. North or northeast sides of building, walls, and fences usually receive full shade.

Dappled Shade: Dappled shade refers to flecks of light that reach your plants by filtering through leaves. Usually, this occurs under the canopies of ornamental or more open deciduous trees, such as dogwood.

Deep Shade: These plants do not need any direct sunlight to thrive. They exist on ambient light and occasional, filtered light. Deep shade plants are perfect for woodland gardens and tricky areas, such as underneath decks or a flight of stairs.

Emma Hall, an intern for What’s Up? Annapolis, is wary of sunburn, therefore appreciates
all the shade she can get.