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THE SHADE Shady areas in the garden are too often neglected. Almost all of us have an area of full shade in the garden. Far from being a problem, deep shade provides a wonderful opportunity to grow a huge and diverse range of plants that relish it. Found under evergreen trees and hedges, and at the base of north-facing walls, fences and buildings, deep shade can be brightened by plants with different foliage colours, shapes and textures.

A shady spot in the garden can be difficult for plants as it creates a cooler, darker environment but there are so many plants which will love those conditions

This all depends on what’s casting the shade and which aspect your garden has. The ‘aspect’ is the direction your garden faces – north, south, east or west. This affects which areas get plenty of sun and which ones are in shadow for all or part of the day. HERE ARE SOME CHOICES OF PLANTS WHICH WILL BRING COLOUR AND STYLE TO THOSE SHADY AREAS:

Many people imagine that the only way to tackle a shady patch is to turn it into a foliage garden filled with box, ivies or ferns. But too many dark greens can make a shady area in the garden look gloomy.

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae has lime-green spring flowers and glossy, evergreen foliage, giving this plant a long season of interest. It is the perfect plant for dark areas of dry shade. It is very easy to grow and brings colour into the garden from early June through to October.

Instead, step back and use those areas for background structure and texture, then bring the area alive by making use of pale, pastel colours. White, cream, pale yellow, lilac, light mauve and pale pink show up best in these darker area of the garden.

Dryopteris wallichiana is a strong evergreen fern which is very much at home in the damp shady corners of a garden and will survive the hardest of winters. The subtle bronze of new fronds in spring turn dark green in summer and then flowers in June and July.

There are of course various degrees of shade in any garden and this affects what you can plant. Light shade means slight shade for all or most of the day; partial shade means plants are in sun for some of the day; dappled shade is blotchy shade created when the sun filters through overhead foliage.

Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ is a soft, leafy woodland grass well suited to growing in deep shade, and the golden foliage and sprays of tiny flowers provide a bright splash of summer sunshine.

For shady places with dry or damp soil it pays to be selective – some plants thrive in these conditions. You can even find plants that suit really difficult situations such as shady watersides or areas under large trees whose roots suck all the moisture out of the ground in summer. If you have borders of moist but well-drained and humus-rich soil in light shade, you can grow choice woodland plants which need exactly these conditions. It’s vital to understand what kind of shade you have, so you can choose the right plants. Are you dealing with dry shade or damp shade? And what degree of shade have you got?


The shuttlecock fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, is a particularly attractive fern, bearing large, pale green, lacy fronds. It’s an excellent foliage plant for moist, dappled shade and works particularly well when planted in groups. Oakleaf hydrangeas provide large, dense clusters of flowers which last all season, even through autumn and winter to provide lots of interest and texture. They come in a variety of sizes ranging from a few feet tall to eight feet tall. Left to right: Euphorbia amygdaloides; Dryopteris wallichiana; Milium effusum ‘Aureum’; Matteuccia struthiopteris; Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Country Gardener

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Cornwall Country Gardener August 2019  

The August 2019 issue of Cornwall Country Gardener Magazine

Cornwall Country Gardener August 2019  

The August 2019 issue of Cornwall Country Gardener Magazine