How to Design a Shade Garden
If you are looking for something to do with that patch of lawn under a tree that just won't grow, a shade garden is your answer. Shade gardening is a way to solve this problem while also adding unique beauty to your yard. Below are several factors to consider when you set out to design your shade garden.
What Kind Of Shade?
It is common to think that all you need to do to start a shade garden is buy plants that survive well without light and plant them. However, shade comes in varying degrees. Make sure you find out exactly how much light your garden receives before you decide what to plant. Full shade occurs when a location receives less than 4 hours of sunlight a day, while partial shade areas get 4 to 6 hours a day. However, full shade under a tree that has wide spread branches and leaves provides more ambient light than partial shade under a dense tree. Consider all the variables before assessing your shade levels and choosing your plants to match.
Treat The Soil
The most common place to plant a shade garden is beneath a tree. If you start your shade garden under a tree, understand that your plants will have to compete with the trees for water and nutrients. The soil might also be clogged with roots from the tree. Some locations it may be all but impossible to dig a hole. For all these reasons, proper preparation of the soil for your future shade garden is imperative.
Add nutrients to the soil before planting, then continue on regular basis. Always remember to water your shade garden. Remember, trees will be competing for this water as well, so you may have to water more than you expect to keep your shade plants healthy.
Check the pH of your soil. Most shade loving plants prefer acidic soil.
If your area is root bound, consider waiting a few years and building up a layer of good soil. Scatter a layer of organic material, add chopped up leaves and grass and some compost activator. Keep the area moist and repeat this process annually for a few years. This will give you a good layer of rich soil to plant your garden in.
Because a shade garden has less light, the visual effect is different than that of a standard garden. Rather grabbing attention with bright colored flowers, many choose to shape their garden with a variety of textures and leaf shapes. Many shade gardeners seek to emulate natural environments, recreating the look of a deep forest or forest verge. Try combining hostas with ferns and experimenting with plants that might not flower in shade, but have interesting foliage. Combine plants so that the eye is drawn around the garden. You can avoid a choppy looking garden by planting a new plant every few inches.
When choosing flowering plants for a shade garden, remember that light colors will stand out better than dark ones. White flowers are most popular for shade gardens, but pale lavenders, pinks, and yellows will also stand out. Also, think about what kind of effect the foliage of your flowering plants will have when not in bloom.