Friday, March 02, 2007


Shade gardening problems usually occurs when sun-loving plants are planted in shady locations. But when the proper plants are selected for shady areas the results can be beautiful and enduring.

Shady areas often are created by trees as they grow larger over the years. At some point, the original landscape will have to be modified to deal with the reduced light conditions. For inspiration, take a drive around older neighborhoods with mature trees. You’ll see how beautifully areas under and around large trees can be landscaped using a variety of ground covers, annuals, perennials, shrubs and even small trees.

The most important thing to remember when creating a landscaped area under a tree is to respect the root system of the tree itself. Avoid severing any roots two fingers in diameter or larger. Use a gardening fork to loosen the soil under the tree rather than a shovel or spade since the fork will damage fewer roots. Then work in a few inches of organic matter such as compost into the soil.

If you need to bring in extra soil to create the bed, select a high quality topsoil or garden soil, and use no more than 2 to 4 inches. Do not pile several inches of soil up around the base of the trunk, because this can lead to decay. That means you need to pull it back slightly. In addition, if you intend to fill over an area that will cover a large part of the tree’s root system (which extends out well beyond the reach of the branches), do not apply more than 2 inches of soil.

Ground covers suitable for larger areas include perennial ferns and lirope. Ground covers provide variation in plant height, texture and color in the landscape. You don’t just have to stick with ground covers, however. Indeed, gardening in a shady area provides a chance to grow a wide variety of beautiful plants. Gardens in shady areas also are often easier to maintain since there generally are fewer weed problems, and the beds may not dry out as fast as sunny ones.
For colorful bedding plants in beds that receive a few hours of morning sun, try impatiens, coleus, wax begonia, browallia, pentas, salvias, caladium and torenia in summer.
Shade-loving perennials include ferns, hostas, ligularia, ajuga, and heuchera.

Shrubs to consider include hollies, azaleas, and hydrangea, Most of these prefer a partly shaded area that receives a few hours of morning sun.

There are even small trees that like partial shade, such as hawthorn, silver bell, dogwood, Japanese maple, red bud, and white fringe tree, Many hardy ferns can be planted into the shady areas of your landscape. The different species range in size from under a foot to as much as 3 feet. The leaves of ferns are called fronds and provide the primary ornamental feature of the plants. The fronds generally are finely divided and delicate in appearance and contrast beautifully with coarser textured shade plants such as hostas.

Some excellent ferns for use in the landscape include maidenhair fern, Christmas fern, wood fern, autumn fern, lady fern, and Japanese painted fern.
If you have a shady area, consider turning it into a beautiful garden with shade-loving plants. The ground covers, perennials, shrubs, trees and ferns are all available at Greenscape Gardens.

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