Discovering the Benefits of Shade Gardening
By: Tanya Hein

When Henry Austin Dobson wrote of íshadows large and longí in A Garden Song, he could have been referring to many of our garden spaces. Trees, walls, fences, buildings, and even directional aspect, can all interfere with the amount of sunlight received in a given area, particularly on urban properties. Despite the challenges a lack of sunlight may present, an enterprising gardener can create an attractive, useful, and relaxing garden in the shade.

In fact, shade gardens can have advantages over more traditional open sun gardens. The same tree that is blocking the sunlight is also providing a year-round structural focal point to enhance and complement your plantings. Walls and buildings offer a lovely backdrop to your beds while moderating temperature changes and protecting your plants from punishing winds. Just as sunny gardens allow you to grow certain plants that shady areas do not, reduced light areas permit growth of plants that cannot tolerate direct sunlight.

Finally, from a personal comfort perspective, maintaining a shade garden spares the gardener from toiling under the hot sun. This benefit can be particularly important for very young, elderly, or heat-sensitive gardeners.

Consider the opportunities put forward by the presence of a mid-size tree in an area in which you want to plant: you can leave the tree as it is and work around it; you can install a lovely little bench or patio for keeping cool in the summer; you can add shrubs and smaller plants to give the illusion of a more substantial garden; or you can reduce the amount of shade by trimming and pruning the tree. Deep shade can present challenges for any gardener, so keep in mind that it is much easier to lessen the amount of shade you have than it is to increase it. Itís also important to remember that most deciduous trees will erupt into autumn color, extending your vibrant seasonal display time, while coniferous trees maintain their shape and color year-round.

A shade garden created by the presence of a wall or building presents a super opportunity to create a gorgeous backdrop while hiding unsightly areas by growing clinging vines that will adhere to brick and similar rough surfaces or by installing other climbing plants on trellises. Such additions create height and visual interest in your shade garden.

Depending on existing vegetation and on the amount of light reaching your site, you may not have to water your shade garden as often as you would an exposed bed but take your individual conditions into account when planning a watering and feeding regime.

Shade gardens look particularly striking when planted with white or silver annuals and perennials. These colors can appear washed out in a fully exposed garden plot but will shine against the darker backdrop of a shade garden.

There are different densities of shade, and it is important to map your gardenís lighting conditions to determine which plants will work best under the conditions in your garden. Itís easy to misjudge the light levels in your garden, so take careful note of how long your proposed shade garden actually is sheltered from the light before planning to take advantage of the benefits of shade gardening!

Contact Information

Gardening Know How
57 Wandle Ave
Bedford, OH 44146
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