How to design a magical garden (you won't believe it’s in the shade)
Housing density in the suburbs is increasing and that means more houses closer together and smaller gardens. Because they are so close together, single houses, semi-attached, and townhouses are increasingly shade gardens. Even if you have full sun, chances are you won’t have it for the entire day. The neighbour’s house will block the sun in the front, back or side yard.
Here’s the good news: you can have a fabulous and magical garden that thrives in the shade.
First, you need to work with the light you have, not the light you wish for. That is the secret: do your homework on what plants need sun and what plants will tolerate—or better yet—thrive in the shade. Most large flowers, such as roses, lilies, sunflowers, and gladiola need tons of sun. Similarly, most vegetables and herbs need full sun, meaning 7 hours or more of full sun, to do well. At the same time, a shade garden still needs some sun, or partially filtered sun, for about 4 hours a day.
There are plenty of perennials that grow in the shade. And, the trick to a shade garden is to use plenty of white flowering plants, variegated leaves with lots of white and silver in them. That said, there are lots of plants that contrast well with each other.
Here comes the magical part: At night, white flowers are the only ones that you can see. So, if you can only sit in your garden late at night during the week, white flowers and variegated foliage are your best friends.
Here is a list of plants that thrive in the shade:
Perennials: dicentra, hosta, fritillaria, euphorbia, fern, hellebores, cyclamen, bergenia, lady’s mantle, ivy (many variegated types), Solomon’s seal, astilbe, false spikenard, lungwort.
Ground cover: pachysandra terminalis, periwinkle, lily of the valley, dead nettle, sweet woodruff.
Annuals: alyssum, begonia (try the Dragon Begonias), fuschia, impatiens, trailing lobelia, nicotiana (attracts night-flying moths), snapdragon, calendula. NOTE: all these are available with white flowers.
Shrubs: euonymus, skimmia japonica, daphne (smells divine), pieris japonica, hydrangea, mahonia aquifolium (grape holly), azalea, rhododendron, viburnum, goat’s beard, honeysuckle, witch hazel.
Small trees: Cornus kousa (dogwood), Japanese maple (especially the varieties with deeply cut leaves), redbud, European beech.