If your yard is shadier than you’d like, you may feel a bit jealous of gardeners with lots of sun. But a shade garden offers some unique design opportunities. Here are a few tips to help you turn those shady areas into places that are as beautiful and exciting as any sunny garden.
Focus on Foliage
Design your garden around leaves rather than flowers. The color palette for foliage can include dozens of shades of green as well as grey, blue, gold and burgundy. Include variegated foliage, too. In a shady garden, all the leaves in sight, from trees to ground covers, play a role in creating the complete picture.
Accessorize With Bursts of Color
Aim to make your shade garden a tapestry of green and then weave in bits of color here and there to draw the eye. Include plants that will be in flower at different times during the season. Colorful shade-loving candidates include spring-blooming bulbs, midsummer perennials such as foxgloves, dicentra and astilbe, and late summer bulbs such as caladiums and colchicums.
Make the Most of Texture
When selecting plants for your shade garden, choose a variety of leaf textures. Plants with shiny surfaces reflect the light. Velvety leaves absorb light. Rough or crinkled surfaces invite closer inspection. Pair thick, coarse leaves (like hostas) with lacy leaves (like ferns). Contrasting textures are easier to see in the shade than in the sun, so play up these differences.
Create Interesting Shapes
Your tapestry of green plants should include a combination of upright, pyramidal, rounded, weeping and spreading forms. Group like plants together to create flowing, irregular shapes and repeat these shapes through your shade garden to create rhythm.
Let the Paths Be Informal
Straight paths with smooth surfaces and hard edges are appropriate for sunny gardens. But in a shade garden, paths can be more irregular. This is an opportunity use unexpected materials such as stepping stones, ground covers, shredded leaves or bark. Encourage a slower pace and invite meandering and exploration.
Add a Water Feature
The flashes of light and soothing sounds of a fountain or stream make shady gardens come alive. If moving water isn’t an option, fill a ceramic pot or bowl with water. Like a mirror, it will reflect sunlight from above and attract everything from dragonflies to songbirds.
Add a Bench
Emphasize the restful feeling of your shady garden by including a place to relax and take a break. A garden bench creates a focal point that can be the inspiration for a special destination within the overall garden design.
Most home gardens are not designed or created in one season. They evolve over time and that’s part of the fun. This spring, as you get back into your yard and garden, look for ways you can incorporate a few of these design ideas. You may find yourself falling in love with the tranquil beauty of your shady garden.
Shop our selection of shade garden plants HERE. To learn more about gardening in the shade, you may be interested in reading: Design Tips for Shady Gardens, Easy Summer Bulbs for Shady Containers, Landscaping with Caladiums, Summer Bulbs for Shady Gardens, 10 Easy Perennials for Shady Gardens, and Spring-Blooming Bulbs for Shady Gardens.