Plants for a shady garden?

Acer palmatum Orange Queen
Acer palmatum Orange Queen

Very probably the No. 1 Frequently Asked Question I hear deals with shade and what to plant in the supposedly inhospitable, gloomy parts of the garden.  Of course there are different kind of shade, from buildings, fences, other plants, overhanging trees, deep shade, dappled shade, dry shade, damp shade, partial shade, at different times of the year and varying times of day.

IMG_0019_3

A long view of a dedicated shade border at Syon.  Acer, hosta, herbaceous geraneum (and not just G phaeum cultivars), brunnera, ferns of course, waldsteinia, epimedium, spring & autumn flowering anemone, bergenia, cowslip, aconite, euphorbia, arum marmoratum, pulmonaria, tiarella and heuchera, periwinkle, euonymus, all manner of ivy, clematis, honeysuckle, akebia,  mahonia, the last of the hellebores, acanthus, aquilegia, dicentra, liriope, fatsia, pachysandra and polygonatum, hydrangea, rhododendron… deep breath and on –  astilbes, rheum, hemerocallis (Stella D’Oro), viburnums and – 

Clematis Pamela Jackman
Clematis Pamela Jackman

But getting a handle on what kind of shade you have and looking for the plants that fit the mantra of ‘right plant, right place’, the possibilities can be surprising.

Polygonatum
Polygonatum

It is a long list and there is plenty you can do to give the plants in your garden the best chance of survival, thriving even (see the mulch!).

Geranium phaeum Samobor
Geranium phaeum Samobor
Climber, Akebia quintata
Climber, Akebia quintata

I think this is going to be a topic I return to time and again so I’d better organise myself. In the meantime and as Spring has decided to make an appearance, I will simply include a selection recent images for a few plants whose preference is to stay out of the sun, but not out of the limelight.

The leaves of Epimedium Orange Queen
The leaves of Epimedium Orange Queen
'Gold leaf' Dicentra spectabilis/Lamprocapnos spectabilis
‘Gold leaf’ Dicentra spectabilis/Lamprocapnos spectabilis

There are plenty of resources to look at for ideas and I would recommend Long Acre Plants and there beautifully designed, well written and thorough Plants for Shade website at http://www.plantsforshade.co.uk/  Have a look too at the Royal Horticultural Society site for their plant selector feature, where you can plug in some basics about the space you are gardening in and voila –  http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/   In the meantime I will pick out some book titles that might suit those gardeners with larger plots, or more challenging shade, where some armchair research should help lift their own personal gloom!

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