Connecticut Garden Journal: Throwing Shade

Jan 25, 2018

More and more gardeners are having to deal with shade in their yards from buildings and large trees. But shade doesn't mean the end of gardening. Here's some basics on shade gardening.

First, know your shade.

Light shade offers only a few hours a shade a day where even some sun-loving plants can thrive. Filtered shade is dappled light through deciduous trees with smaller leaves such as birch, honeylocust, and mountain ash. Half shade is often found on the north side of a house. Deep shade is under evergreens such as hemlock, decks, and large shrubs. Few plants grow well in deep shade.

But you can also change the amount of shade you have. Removing some trees, limbing up large oaks, or thinning branches from large maples can open up the ground to more light and more plant options.

When planting around old trees, don't add topsoil to the planting area. This can smoother the tree roots. Instead, pop in plants between roots amending the small holes with compost.

Some good flowers for this dry shade include columbine, lungwort, and tiarella. Keep plants well-watered and fertilized as the tree roots will provide lots of competition for nutrients and water. You can also place containers filled with colorful shade flowers under trees. There will be little root disturbance and the plants will thrive without competition from tree roots.

Select varieties of flowers with white, yellow, or variegated leaves to brighten the area. Dark-colored leaves disappear into the shadows. Also, look for plants with interesting leaf colors and textures such as Japanese painted ferns, begonias, and hostas.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about butterfly gardens. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.