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.
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.
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.
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.
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!