Almost all gardens will have a bit of shade, areas of shade are often created by large trees, the base of a wall or tall building, fencing or simply the aspect of the garden (i.e. north facing). In addition hedge bottoms are shady places that are notoriously dry with impoverished soil.
You may think that there are limited plants to use under these conditions, but that’s not the case. There are in fact a wide variety of trees, shrubs and plants that will do well in shady areas.
Plants in shade may flower and fruit less freely, however they more than make up for this with their foliage shape, size and texture. A significant number of plants that like shade have evergreen leaves. Evergreen plants tend to have a shiny leaf (wax leathery), which will brighten up any dark corner of your garden. Plants with variegated foliage work particularly well in dark areas and close to buildings.
Plants beneath trees have to compete for food, moisture and light. One way to solve this is to introduce moisture retaining material, for example; leaf mould, garden compost, and well-rotted manure. These substances increase the amount of organic matter and thereby improve the ability of the soil to retain moisture.
Different shade loving plants will thrive in different shade amount areas.
Plants that are to be grown in a dry shady site should be provided with generously sized planting holes, and these holes should be filled with plenty of the type of organic material mentioned above. Growth can become slightly patchy in dry shade, restrict to several specimens of a single species of variety of plant that can really tolerate the conditions.
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Shiny foliage, rich green, large leaves, glossiness and variegated foliage will enliven densely shaded areas. Many plants that do well in dense shade are woodland in origin.
When selecting suitable plants include ones that contrast with one another. Differences between plants can be based on leaf size, shape, texture and colour, or they may involve variety in habit of growth. For example Iris foetidissima and Polygonatum x hybridum are two distinctly shaped plants contrasting well with Vinca minor.
Note: in dense shade, plants may become taller and lankier than usual, as they reach upwards towards available light.
You could include bulbs by way of adding colour in a shaded garden, in particular under trees. Those that hail from woodland habitats are natural choices, as they are adapted to the environment. For example; Narcissi, Muscari armeniacum and Crocuses. Also Cyclamen hederifolium and Colchicum autumnale for autumn interest.
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