Garden Shade Plants

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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By no means are planting groupings in the cool retreats afforded by trees with high and dense canopies restricted to the garden shade plants we think of first. Ferns and hostas and evergreen ground covers thrive there, of course. More often than not, even in the shady areas of our yards and gardens, the shade is only partial.

Quite a number of perennials and annuals do well in dappled light, far better, in fact, than they do in the unremitting heat of full sun. Among the perennials that thrive in the full shade are lily-of-the-valley, bleeding heart, dwarf forget-me-not, and monkshood. Shrubs and bushes that enjoy either partial or full shade include weeping forsythia, flowering dogwood, azalea, and rhododendron.

The list of flowering garden shade plants--whether annuals or perennials--that prefer a mottled sunlight is long enough that a shade garden design is by no means limited to variation of a theme of green. Snapdragons and sweet alyssum and coleus are annual partial shade plants worth considering. Particular favorites among the perennials that favor partial shade over any direct sun are astilbe, columbine, foxglove, and butterfly lily.

Designing with Garden Shade Plants

Imagine a soft Costa Rican hammock suspended between two trees in the back corner of your garden before the brick wall lined with rhododendron. Shade comes from an ancient dogwood and a maple. Ferns and hosta cluster around their trunks, broken by deep red astilbe and bleeding heart. The ground between the paving stones covered in thick spreads of lungwort. The air is slightly cool and quiet and open to the breeze. This is your shady retreat.


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