Planning A Perennial Shade Garden, Part 1

Reader Contribution by Karin Eller
article image

Spring is on it’s way. There is an area that you would like to create a perennial garden. You are faced with a few challenges — how to create the bed, what to plant in it and the shade. Do not worry! There are so many wonderfully under used plant varieties for shade other than impatiens or begonias. Besides all the beautiful flowers and foliages to brighten any shady spot, there are many perennials to choose from and many varieties are deer resistant. Shade perennials are definitely worth a try. Understanding the various conditions will clarify and issues you might have with shade gardening.

What is the definition of shade? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary one of the definitions of shade is, space sheltered from the light especially of the sun. This definition is easy to understand, but as gardeners, we all know there are many variations of shade. High, low, dry, wet partial and full. Now let’s clear the confusion and start creating your shade garden.

First you must observe the planting area. How long and when is the sun in the garden area. Check the soil. Is it moist, dry or somewhere in between. What is the area like. Are rocks to contend with. How big will the garden be. How much time do you want to spend on your new garden. What type of bed are you planning- raised bed or digging holes. Since shade gardens lend themselves to naturalizing an area, use the materials available. Rocks and stumps can create a wonderful planters, and a great way to control the cost of your garden. These questions will be the first steps in planning a successful perennial garden, shade or sun.

Now it is time to consider the light conditions. This will determine the variety of plants that are compatible for your zone and planting area. Low or deep shade is less than four hours of direct sun. The soil is usually damp and humusy. Partial shade is what most gardeners are familiar with. Partial shade is morning sun or no more than three to six hours of direct sun. The soil requirement for these plants is usually moist but well drained. A raised bed works well with these conditions. Soil too dry amend with compost.  High shade is dappled sun through out the day. A good example would be planting under a tall tree. This type of bed would definitely require amending the soil with compost and a raised bed. When done planting the bed, mulch it to retain moisture and to control the weeds.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.