“Nothing grows in the shade” is a common phrase I hear all the time, or “I have shade so I don't know if you can do anything”.
It might seem like Mission Impossible, but really I love shade gardens. There are so many plants that thrive in shade (yes, really!) and really are stellar from a visual perspective, and I don't just mean the flowers! For me, the shade is all about foliage, flowers are just a bonus.
Shade is an excellent space to make a statement. Combine plants with contrasting foliage colors and textures. Look at how bright and interesting this combination of perennials is. As we move counter-clockwise in the image to the left, there is the Japanese Painted fern with the fine, silver-burgundy foliage. It contrasts nicely with the wider, broader leaves of the hosta, and the bright green/yellow color of this hosta is eye-catching in the shade. There is the green foliage of the woodland fern and then finally, just beside the Japanese Painted Fern to the right is a Caramel heuchera. Again, the rounded foliage combined with the
caramel colored foliage is a great contrast in both color and texture. The combination is very appealing and really draws your eye into this garden.
Another way to add appeal to a “bland” shade garden is by adding a bench. It can be stone, wood or wrought iron, but it's a very inviting way to bring more appeal to the shade garden. It's a great spot to seek reprieve from the merciless summer sun and just sit and enjoy a cold glass of lemonade or iced tea.
Shades of yellow and gold really shine in the shade so take advantage of some plants like Hosta, Japanese Forest Grass, Heuchera and the hauntingly beautiful white/silver foliage of Japanese Painted Fern 'Ghost'. Take advantage of what Mother Nature has to offer by layering your colors and textures. There are also variegated plants of green and white, or green and yellow that do well in the shade.
Utilize shrubs with brighter blooms like a white rhododendron or a light pink azalea. There are limitless combinations. You can also use annuals in some spots to keep it fresh every year and be sure you have blooms all season.
Soon, your shade garden will no longer be troublesome, it will be your go-to spot.