Traditional Shade Garden Ideas

Here's a garden idea: Make the best of the shady spots in your garden with a traditional shade garden. Traditional shade gardens thrive in the spots in your yard that you might have thought couldn't support a garden. While sunshine and good drainage are usually two of the most obvious prerequisites for laying out a garden plot, you can still achieve remarkable and breathtaking displays in spaces that lack either or both.

It is possible to get a lovely display of flowers even from a small plot on the north side of a building, an exposure that often gets little if any direct sunlight. Even consistently damp ground need not foil the garden-maker.


The secret lies in choosing plants carefully: Roses and delphiniums may languish in too much shade, but many equally beautiful plants love to hide from the sun. Hostas, ferns, and mosses will thrive in the shade, while flowering plants such as hellebores and rhododendrons are all much happier when out of the direct sunlight. Additionally, lilies and many other plants like to grow with their roots shaded but their tops in sunlight, which allows for a variety of placements.

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Ferns and hostas are some of the best and most reliable choices for traditional shade gardens because they are hardy, lush, and vigorous. The elegant leaves of Hosta Francee and Dryopteris marginalis are here complemented by the all-white flowers of bleeding heart, tiarella, and sanguinaria. The light-colored flowers stand out especially well in the deep shade of this garden.

Light is brought to a dark corner in this English garden through the inspired use of foliage plants. The white-edged leaves of the variegated shrub shine so much against a dark brick wall they almost appears to bear branches laden with blossoms. Several species of ferns unfurl gracefully, and the ground cover is composed of baby's-tears in shades of lemon and lime.

Perennial geraniums are beginning to receive due recognition as amazingly versatile garden performers, and they are a great idea for traditional shade gardens. With a long season of bloom and no strong preference for sun or shade, they can be planted nearly anywhere. The pale blooms of Geranium sylvaticum Album dominate the foreground in this shady nook; background plants include penstemon, iris, and Rodgersia tabularis.

You can include your house in your traditional shade garden ideas. For many homeowners, having the screening and cooling benefit of shade trees on the property as well as the beauty of a blossom-filled flower garden represents the best of both worlds. By selecting plants that thrive in lightly shaded conditions, this gardener has created a harmonious picture in pink and white underneath a mature deciduous tree. Foxgloves, violas, impatiens, and some varieties of roses are among the species represented here.

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Impatiens, roses, and hanging plants create a beautiful display of color when grown against a house. Integrating plants with your home's exterior is a useful and creative idea for making the best of traditional shade garden plants.

Ground cover arrangements work beautifully as borders or to fill shady spots against a house or wall. Explore our next section, where you'll find ideas and photos of ground cover ideas for shade gardens.

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