The Shady Side of Gardening
Gardening is not without its challenges, and for some it is landscaping that shaded area of the yard. It can be a little more difficult, but it is certainly not impossible and is well the effort.
It requires some planning and plant knowledge, as there are not too many plants that thrive in shady conditions. If done right, that shady spot can be a very attractive area. It becomes a cool oasis, where one retreats after a hot sunny day. It could become your favourite area of the yard to sit back in the lawn chair and enjoy the cool summer air.
There are different types of shade. A shaded area can be the north side of a building or fence, that blocks the sun, and that area that only receives the early morning or late afternoon sun. These areas tend to be the last area of the yard where spring arrives as the snow does not melt as fast, and the soil remains moist for longer periods of time.
Before you plant, visualize what you want to do. You may want to use that fence as a backdrop to the landscape or hide that side of the building.
Trees and shrubs such as Coralberry, Dogwood, Rhododendron, ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea, Alpine Currant, along with several Viburnums all tolerate shade and should do well.
Perennials such as Astilbes, Bleeding Heart, and Lily of the Valley have attractive flowers, while others such as Creeping Jenny, Ferns, Heuchera, and Hostas are better known for their attractive foliage.
To add seasonal colour, annuals such as Coleus, Fuchsia, Impatiens, Imponea, Lobelia and Tuberous Begonias can be planted for that burst of colour!
There is also dappled shade, caused by tree canopies. Sometimes these areas can be altered by removing a few of the lower branches to let in more sun, but you want to be careful when doing this as you don’t want to ruin the shape of the tree. Areas under trees tend to be a dry shade as the leaves of the tree prevents the moisture from getting to the soil and the moisture that does make it to the ground is taken up by the roots of the trees. It may also be harder to plant under trees because of the trees roots. Add lots of compost and peat moss to the area to build up the soil and improve the soils water retention. Also look for plants that have a shallow root system.
There are very few perennials that will grow in dry shade. Bergenia, Goatsbeard, lady’s mantle, Lily of the Valley, Pulmonaria and Solomon’s Seal are the better choices. These perennials need to be watered over the first season so that they become established, before they can handle some drought, as will shrubs such as Dwarf European Cranberry, Snowberry, Snowberry and Sumac will tolerate and grow in dry shade.
To help with moisture retention, add a good layer of mulch to the landscape. This will also help keep any weeds down, making it a low maintenance landscape! If you want to add some colour, place a few containers of shade loving annuals under the trees, or add some statuary, or other colourful garden ornaments.
Working with the shade, by using plant material that thrive in shady conditions and amending the soil when needed, will result in an attractive landscape. When you look at nature, some of the most beautiful areas are those that are lush, green and shaded!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road