Shade Garden, No Problem

Adding a Japanese Maple to this filtered lighted spot gives you a focal point in the mass of green.
Adding a Japanese Maple to this filtered lighted spot gives you a focal point in the mass of green.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on some great spaces over the last few weeks.  Most of these city gardens are shade gardens.  The light is filtered through overhead trees, or it is ambient light in a canyon of buildings.  All these spaces can be made just as beautiful as full sun gardens.  They may even be a bit nicer without the sun burning down.  Peaceful places with lots of greens and soft hues.

This tree has shallow roots, planting small helps keep every plant happy.  Choosing a variety of hues help moves the eye around the garden.
This tree has shallow roots. planting small plants helps keep everything happy. Choosing a variety of hues moves the eye around the garden.

Let’s say you have a tree with shallow roots, and you want things to grow under it.  Your best bet is to take a cue from the forest.  What grows best there?  Ferns, toad lilies, or Japanese forest grass.  With an established tree, you want to work carefully as to not disturb the tree’s roots too much.  Buy small plants.  I know, you see these big beautiful established plants, but just think of the hole you’ll have to dig to get them in.  You will end up cutting through some roots, but the less you cut through, the better.

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This was a vacant canyon between two buildings. Adding soil amendments and full shade plants like ferns, Solomon seal, and hosta give it life!
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A small spot that was cracked, dry dirt between two sidewalks. I added ginko craig hosta, which gets to be about 10 inches high and spreads, along with soil amendments.

Another thing I have run into is just nothing really there, compacted soil and dead space.  With this, you’ll need to add amendments to get the soil into good health.  Worm castings, compost, organic plant food are all good options to add when you plant.  Adding mulch will also help the soil retain moisture.

nothing sweeter than bleeding hearts in the spring.
nothing sweeter than bleeding hearts in the spring.

Think of color.  Maroon, green, yellow green, variegated leaf patterns, and annuals like fuchsia/begonia/caladium can all brighten up a shaded spot.  Some plants do flower in the shade, like bleeding hearts, hydrangeas.  Need height, try Japanese maple.

Satisfaction hosta grown from root stock.  Mature height of 25 inches.
Satisfaction hosta grown from root stock. Mature height of 25 inches.

If you do a little research, any spot can be made beautiful.  I had the time and space to grow these hostas from rootstock.  This allowed me to decide which hosta would look best where.  I did the same with many of the ferns too.  Always nice to grow your own plants!

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