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by Wendy

Prunella grandiflora Bella Blue in flower is a perfect choice for shade gardens.
Prunella grandiflora Bella Blue (Self Heal) is one of seven different plants (16 total) included in the Serene Shade Garden.

Shade gardens can become a dilemma for gardeners. Many of us that start a new garden, are often dealing with a new home and plenty of hot, full sun areas to be planted. And inevitably, over time and as the trees and shrubs we've planted mature, shaded conditions begin to show up. And the sun-loving plants we started with need often need to be replaced or moved. For others, shade is the dominant factor in their garden from the start. Either way, the palette of shade plants, especially for Western gardeners, can be limited and the conversion to a shady gardening environment, a challenge.

Shade gardens created by shade from trees makes for a challenging planting area.
The shade from trees, such as this Chilopsis, makes for a challenging planting area.

Shade Gardens: Shaded Growing Conditions

In my experience, there are two types of shade.

  • There is shade that results from buildings and structures like walls.
  • And there is shade that occurs under large shrubs and trees.

Shaded growing conditions found under trees and shrubs (and especially evergreen trees) can be particularly challenging because of root competition and overhead branches that absorb much of the precipitation. This, in turn, creates dry, nutrient-deficient soil conditions that require dry shade-loving plants.

  • Ready your shade gardens by preparing the soil and digging deeply, removing existing roots and adding generous amounts of Yum Yum Mix and compost.
  • Keep your new transplants well watered for the first couple of growing seasons to get the perennials well established before the tree/shrub roots move back in.
  • It's very important to fertilize shade gardens regularly in the fall to provide the perennials with adequate nutrients.

Shade created by walls and buildings is generally a little more forgiving, as there are no/fewer roots and overhead branches to take up nutrients and water. As above, good soil preparation and regular watering is important to establish your new plants. For gardeners living in the Western US, where possible, direct water from the roof to your shade plantings to keep the soil more moist and reduce the need for supplemental irrigation.

Our new share gardens thrive in both types of shade, and are suitable for much of the country (except in areas of the Deep South, Florida and the Gulf Coast).

Two New Pre-Planned Shade Gardens

Serene Shade Garden is one of two new shade gardens for 2017.
Prunella grandiflora Bella Blue (Self Heal) is one of seven different plants (16 total) included in the Serene Shade Garden.

The "Serene Shade Garden" Pre-Planned Garden

The new Serene Shade Garden uses a mix of perennial groundcovers, taller upright growers and an ornamental grass to create a bright, blooming assortment of perennials to color-up shady areas of your yard. The color palette includes white, yellow, pink and blue flowers with the lovely blue-bladed Festuca grass to bring a touch of fine-textured foliage to the planting. The garden will grow in zones 5-8 and includes the following plants:

(2) - Aquilegia chrysantha

(3) - Bellium minutum

(3) - Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

(1) - Phlomis cashmeriana

(3) - Stachys byzantina Helen von Stein

(1) - Festuca Siskiyou Blue

(3) - Prunella grandiflora 'Bella Blue'

Under-A-Tree Shade Garden is one of two newly introduced shade gardens.
The Under-A-Tree Shade Garden offers the perfect solution for hard-to-grow shade areas.

The "Under-A-Tree" Pre-planned Garden

This small, Under-A-Tree Garden has been designed to add color and textural interest to areas under a tree, using a combination of two groundcovers and an ornamental grass. Lamium 'Orchid Frost' has lovely silver-variegated foliage and bright lavender-pink flowers that contrast nicely with the dark brown crinkled leaves and blue flowers of Ajuga 'Black Scallop'. Festuca 'Siskiyou Blue' brings soft textured mounds of blue foliage into the picture. The garden will grow in zones 5-9 and includes the following plants:

(6) - Lamium maculatum Orchid Frost

(3) - Festuca Siskiyou Blue

(6) - Ajuga reptans Black Scallop

Text by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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