A reprisals of a piece from June 2015 at Kew Gardens, as I am hosting a Shade-themed workshop today and have rescheduled several pieces to fill out the subject and which will form the basis of my updated notes. A talk on the beauty and possibilities of gardening in the shade – indeed on a warm summers’ day and with temperatures set to soar next week, (we hope, but with rain, as Karel Capek says in his gardeners’ Prayer, between midnight and three am), the necessity of shade and all that means, it was a timely visit to the woodland gardens beneath the tall trees that wrap around the lower slopes of the Temple of Aeolus. These are well tended, heavily mulched and well watered gardens though many of the plants will cope with much drier soils and some, deeper shade again.

Green is the thing – with such a variety of leaf shape, form, colour and texture that it is by no means boring. Bold, grass-like, pleated, rough, shiny, tiny, the filtered light allows all of the detail to be seen. While the over-arching colour scheme is green, the same cool light allows the flowers to stand out – they pack quite a punch despite their delicacy (Kirengeshoma, Codonopsis, Disporum, Epimedium, Thalictrum, Digitalis lutea [A Real Beauty], Arisaema, Tiarella, Saxifrage, Martagon Lily, Lychnis) while the shrubby Deutzias, bright blue campanulas and most of all, the statueque Cardicrinum giganteum, puncutate and fragrance the whole space. With the misting sprinklers set here and there, the effect was magical.

For the driest of shade, after giving the soil everything it might desire by way of a good Autumn mulch of well-rotted farm manure or home-grown compost, and paying close attention to the watering regime, perhaps  consider the following plants first…

Epimedium, Luzula sylvatica, Liriope muscari, Vinca minor, Euphorbia amydalloides robbiae, Polystichum setiferum, Dryopterix felix-mas (and D. affinis), Symphytum named varieties, Iris foetidissima, Geranium nodosum, Geraneum phaeum, Geraneum macrorrhizum, Lunaria, Tellima grandiflora, Anemone x hybrida, Lemon Balm, Cyclamen coum and hederifolium and for shrubs, some of the Viburnum (tinus, davidii), Ruscus, Aucuba, Pachysandra, Hypericum, Sarcococca…

There are detailed listings in a recent shade-oriented blog to accompany the Petersham Workshop.

Deutzia, Campanula, Hakonechloa

Deutzia, Campanula, Hakonechloa

This Japanese Hakone Grass in the photo above is my absolute favourite grass for shade – here with a golden variegation but there are plain green and white variegated forms too. Hakonechloa macra varieties….

A short video gives the merest hint of the enchantment in these wooded glades…