Shady Solutions

While full-sun gardens of riotous colors get all the attention, a shady garden can be a soothing retreat on a summer's day. With layers of green, interesting textures and accents of white, a shady solution to that problem part of the yard can become a focal point. Work with your garden shop specialist, who can recommend the best cultivars for your geographic area to transform any shady spot into a welcoming oasis.

Trees and shrubs

Shrubs and small ornamental trees are a good place to begin a design for a shade garden. Dogwood trees, also known as understory trees, grow best in shade and reward the gardener with spectacular spring flowers. The blossoms last several weeks, and layered branches offer a pleasing architecture throughout the summer. In the winter, the dogwood's red berries attract birds to the garden.

Next add smaller shrubs. Good choices include rhododendron, viburnum and hydrangea for flowers from spring to late summer. Hollies, boxwoods, yews and hemlocks are good foliage shrubs that do well in light to medium shade. Since these are evergreens, they add pleasing color in the dead of winter, too.

Fill plants

These can be tall perennials such as the feathery astilbe and ferns. The ferns alone offer tremendous variety in height, texture and color. Many annuals will also be happy in a shade garden. Placed in decorative urns or hanging baskets, they provide mid-summer focal points. Shade-loving annuals include pansies, impatiens and begonias.

Ground cover

One of the most prized of all flowers, lily of the valley is also a shade lover. The familiar tiny, bell-shaped flowers are often associated with bridal bouquets. Other ground covers for a shady area include ivy, hostas, periwinkle and ginger.


Winding pathways leading to different galleries of shade-loving plants are attractive year round. Whether you put in permanent paths of brick or flags or add pathways of bark, you can tie the garden together and draw visitors to explore what's around the bend. Perhaps a small pond, fountain or pergola awaits.

Add to the seclusion and the retreat with garden art. Unusual objects used in new ways create whatever flight of fancy you desire. Seeing the garden from different vantage points is part of the appeal. Add large containers of miniature trees for a formal look or overflowing with vines for a carefree appeal.

Whether you are working with a shady spot or an entire yard of heavy shade, you have many options. A well-planned shady solution could become the best spot in the yard.

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