Seeing Garden Shade in a Positive Light – by Karen Ashton

For those of us fortunate enough to have a garden, there will inevitably be an area which is in shade at some point in the day.  This could simply be created by a boundary wall/fence or by trees and hedges, or given that the size of gardens are getting smaller as more houses are being built, could simply be from the house itself.  More often than not, those of us that are faced with a shady area in the garden see them as difficult and uninspiring, rather than an opportunity to grow a variety of plants that would otherwise be overlooked.

In my own garden shade is created in an area that receives sunlight for only a few hours a day, and is generally an area of ground which is open to sunlight earlier in the year, but as summer draws nearer and the hedge gains leaves the sunlight is blocked out.  In this instance it may be best to grow spring loving plants, which will take advantage of light and moisture in the ground whilst it is available.  When the border was created it was found that the ground was full of roots, but you can get around this by raising the soil level a few inches and then planting up the border.  By the time the roots of the trees have grown into the new space, the plants will be established and will be able to survive through the months when the soil would be much drier.

I recently read a book by Keith Wiley, called “Shade, Ideas and inspiration for shady gardens”.  The book basically covers all different types of shade and the characteristics of shade loving plants.  He turns all the familiar preconceptions on their heads by presenting garden shade in a positive light, showing how you can create tapestries of colour using wild woodland flowers from around the world, as well as modern varieties derived from them.

Keith Wiley’s passion for plants is obvious throughout the book and it gave me the boost to sort out my own shady border, which I had already made a start on.  What I decided was to mimic a woodland edge.  All this basically meant was that rather than have a few large clumps of the same plant, which would look unnatural for a woodland edge, I would plant in a more singular fashion, but more frequent throughout the border.



 The border in question starts the year off with Cyclamen and Primula Vulgaris (the native primrose).  Then the Rhododendrons come into flower early May followed by Aquilegias, Dicentra and Brunnera.  These are then joined by Astrantia, Violas, Clover and Foxgloves in June.  The border is generally looking its best at this time but will remain green over the summer months until September/October when the Japanese anemones will come into flower.  So what was once a dry, root filled area is now full of plants and interest for the majority of the year.




It just goes to show that if you assess the conditions of your garden you could grow a larger range of plants than you would ever have expected.

This post was compiled by Karen Ashton, Client Manager at Balance Accountants.

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