HomeHome & GardenAn undercover plot: Brighten up shaded spots with colourful, hardy blooms

An undercover plot: Brighten up shaded spots with colourful, hardy blooms

An undercover plot: Brighten up shaded spots with colourful, hardy blooms

Around this time, shady areas of the garden come into their own, providing a welcome place to cool down. Whether created by the canopy of a tree, or the shadow of a building, choosing what to plant in these spots can be tricky.

First consider what type of shade you have. Is it deep and dry, beneath a hungry evergreen, or a damp bed that is only in shade for part of the day?

Ground cover plants work well in most shade. In my garden pink cranesbill fills many a difficult corner. In dry weather, the leaves turn crisp and brown, and in winter it dies down to nothing much, but give it some water and it will always return.

Geranium Rozanne is a smarter alternative with lilac blue blooms up until the end of October.

Periwinkles can become a nuisance, but are useful if you have a large shady area that needs covering.

Star in the shade: Geranium Rozanne has attractive lilac blue blooms and foliage

Evergreen choices

Bergenia, or elephants’ ears, divide opinion. I grow them for their large, fleshy evergreen leaves, often tinged with red, which provide year-round interest. They are hardy and not particularly fussy about soil types. 

Hostas are a classic plant for shade, with a huge number of cultivars in all different shapes and sizes. They like fertile soil, so are one for moist, humus-rich areas rather than dry shade.

If you have a container on a patio or balcony, H. Blue Mouse Ears is a good small variety. In contrast, the giant blue hosta (H. sieboldiana var. elegans) is prized for its handsome blue-grey leaves.

Slugs and snails can be a problem, so put a bird feeder nearby to keep them away. If you have dappled, rather than deep, shade, try heucheras, which are primarily grown for their leaf colours from lime green to apricot and purple. They don’t like soil to be too wet or too dry.

H. Purple Petticoats has frilly leaves the colour of beetroot juice, while creamy peach H. Caramel looks good enough to eat.

London Pride (Saxifragum x urbium) is a low-growing evergreen perennial with mats of scalloped leaves and small pinkish white flowers in early summer. It is useful for the front of a woodland border.

There are fewer statement plants for shady areas, but in late summer the Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida) comes into its own with clumps of upright flowers that can grow to about 1.2m high. The pink variety can be a bit of a thug. I prefer the pure white A. Honorine Jobert.

Coming up roses

Some roses are suited to shade. R. New Dawn is a pale pink climber that can reach up to 4.5 m and doesn’t mind partial shade. Another choice is David Austin’s R. William and Catherine which is a prolifically flowering pure white shrub rose with a delicate myrrh fragrance.

Ferns can turn the darkest corner into a lush green paradise. Dryopteris, or wood ferns, can be deciduous or semi-evergreen, and have long-lanced fronds, although they prefer a cool, damp spot.

Good shrubs for shade include hydrangeas, which like to have wet feet, spiky leaved mahonias for dry spots and evergreen Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’, with glossy green leaves and clusters of white flowers in winter.

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