Designing for shady areas is always tricky, especially when the area gets sun for some time of the day and shade for another part of the day. Areas of deep shade are also problematic and it is not always easy to know which plant species will do well in those conditions. Most plants can tolerate shade for part of the day but if the area is below a dense canopy of trees or on the south side of a building where it receives little sun throughout the day it is best to plant Shade Plants.
So what should I plant?
Shade gardens can often be dominated by large leafed plants all the same dark green colour so I like to add contrast with different coloured greens, several leaf textures and variegated foliage where possible. I also like adding a variety of ‘tiers’ or planting heights using large shrubs at the back, medium sized groundcovers in front of them, followed by low growing groundcovers in the front. Since lawn is problematic is shade conditions you can use pavers, gravel, bark chip or a combination of these floor coverings and create pathways through the beds with areas for resting such as a bench or secluded spot.
The skeleton or framework of the garden should consist of trees and larger shrubs - giving height, structure and backdrop of foliage. Examples of larger shrubs that do well in shade conditions include Mackaya bella (River Bells), Duvernoia adhatodoides (Pistol Bush), Burchellia bubalina (Wild Pomegranate), Diospyros whyteana (Bladder Nut), Plumbago auriculata (Leadwort) and Orthosiphon labiatus (Shellbush).
Middle range sized plants include Plectranthus (so many wonderful species that I will write a separate Blog showcasing some examples), Dietes, Carissa bispinosa and macrocarpa (NumNum), Hypoestes aristata (Ribbon Bush) and Ferns.
Lower growing groundcovers include Chlorophytum spp., Asparagus spp., Agapanthus spp., Crassula multicava ‘Ruby’, Zantedeschia aethiopica (Arum Lily) and Clivia miniata (Bush Lily). I often try to encourage clients to make use of Seasonal Bulbs to add colour and interest and the added delight of discovering them grow when you forgot they were there. Examples of Bulbs that do well in Shade include Scadoxus ‘Katherinae’, Veltheimia bracteata, Crosocmia aurea, Haemanthus albiflos, and Crinum moorei.
Focal plants are great for making a statement or highlighting a certain area in the garden and can include Dracaeana aletriformis (Large Leaved Dragon Tree), Dombeya tiliacea (Forest Wild Pear), Gardenia thunbergia (Forest Gardenia) and Strelitzia reginae (Crane Flower).
If you need some inspiration take a look at the images below showing a few of the plants mentioned. If you need assistance with a landscape development plan please contact me.