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Top 10 Tips for Shade Gardens
Got shade? Don't look at it as a detriment...but as an opportunity!
Different areas of shade allow freedom of plant selection. A spot that gets morning sun will dry dew and allow plants that prosper in drier conditions to grow. A bit of afternoon sun lures reluctant blooms into developing buds.
Lousy soil is the leading cause of poor growth—not lack of sun. Add organic matter in late spring or early fall when the ground is neither soggy nor frozen.
Intermix shade plants as artistically as you would in a sunny spot. Position taller growers like astilbe in back, shorter ones like foam flower and hosta in front, and low-growing ground covers to fill in your display.
Shade doesn't mean your color choices are limited. Experiment with different plants and color schemes. A few to try are the white wands of astilbe flowers along brunnera's sprays of little blue flowers, or bugleweed's sapphire-blue spikes next to a light-hued rhododendron.
Another great way to liven up a shady spot is to pick plants with varying textures. Combine the fine leaves of ferns against bold hostas. Or mix leafy bergenia with spiky ornamental grasses such as hokone grass. Even in complete shade, you'll still have visual appeal.
For a low-maintenance, attractive shady spot, try ground covers. Plant seedlings in staggered rows rather than straight lines. They'll expand, fill the area and form a nice carpet.
Want flower color in late summer or early fall? Several plants are adapted to this. Rhododendron blooms from midsummer to late summer with an array of color. Toad lily produces adorable violet-dabbed flowers.
Don't overpamper your shade garden in fall. If you allow the leaves to break down, they'll contribute valuavle humus to the soil. Only if they're smothering your plants should you rake them out.
Consider how changing seasons affect sun and shade conditions in your yard. Even a yard filled with shade trees can support bright, spring-flowering bulbs, as long as they emerge before trees leaf out fully. Pick up hints from previous seasons. If sun lovers like marigolds died where astilbe thrived, you've likely found a hot spot for a shade garden.
Resist the temptation to give shade plants a nudge by overwatering or overfertilizing them. Shade slows plant growth, so your plants in low light need less water and energy, not more. Mulching will also keep your workload light. It retains soil moisture and minimizes weeds.
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