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Shade Gardening

by Suzanne DeJohn

More and more gardeners have shady areas in their yards that they want to landscape, and our collection of shade plants just keeps growing. Don't let anyone tell you there's no way to have a grand garden in the shade — including fantastic foliage and loads of color, season after season.

On a hot summer day, a shade garden is a welcoming oasis. Set a bench under a tree, surround yourself with beautiful, shade-loving foliage and flower plants, and you've created your own garden get-away.

If you've struggled to get lawn grass to grow in a shady spot, consider creating a shade garden there instead. It will not only look better, but it also won't require the weekly mowing and frequent watering and fertilizing that lawns demand.

The key to a successful shade garden is to match the plant to the site. Some plants, like Hostas, are quite adaptable to any shady spot. Many of our Woodland Wildflowers, on the other hand, have more exacting requirements. Some need acidic soil, soil that is rich in organic matter or soil that stays consistently moist. So read plant descriptions carefully.

Types of Shade
Some confusion surrounds the terms full sun, part shade (or part sun) and full shade, so here's a rundown:

Full sun. An area that receives four hours or more of direct, mid-day sunlight is considered full sun.

Part shade. Areas under trees with high or thin canopies are usually in part shade. They may receive several hours of direct sun in the morning or in late afternoon, and/or dappled sunlight throughout the day.

Full shade. The area alongside a north-facing wall or under trees with dense foliage is considered full shade. The area may get some sunshine in the early morning or evening, but is shaded during mid-day.

In northern regions, where the sun isn't as intense as it is further south, plants recommended for part shade may grow well in full sun. Conversely, plants recommended for full sun may appreciate some light afternoon shade in regions with hot, sunny summer weather.