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How to Develop Your Own Shade Gardens

Posted by Tammy Sons on

Posted on Wednesday 6/2

Types of Shade Garden Designs

It is this time of the year, were we mortals begin seeking a shady spot in our garden for a little reprise from the full blast of the sun. First and foremost, we must all remember that all shade is not created equal. In our garden we'll find areas of partial shade, deep shade, and light shade - each of these shade garden options is determined by your landscape design.

Deep Shade Garden Design

In a partial shade area we have a broad range of interesting and colorful plants; yet, these same plants under heavy shade of an oak or pine will experience difficulty in growing or even surviving. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the type of shade you have and choosing plants for those particular light requirements is the single most important element of a successful shade garden.

Dappled Shade Garden Design

A light canopy of tree foliage produces what is referred to as 'Dappled Shade'. It is a moving pattern of direct sunlight and shade across the ground for 1 or 2 hours a day while receiving bright indirect light all day. It must be noted that not all trees produce dappled shade; evergreens and trees with dense foliage induce deep shade.

Light Shade Garden Design

From Dappled Shade we move to Light Shade, also, known as open shade, because the area is open to the sky, but wall, hedges, or other structures block direct sunlight. Although there is no direct sun, the affected area still receives plenty of reflected bright light. Many plants thrive in Light Shade, such as vines and climbers that can be used to cover stark unattractive walls or privacy fences. It must be noted that the soil tends to be dry in these areas due to the fact that much of the rainfall is blocked by the structures.

Partial Shade Garden Design

We have covered Deep shade, Dappled shade, and Light shade; where does Partial shade fit in? Partial shade is an area that receives 2 to 6 hours of sun each day. Many of our plants that prefer full sun light will perform admirably in Partial shade.

Moist Shade Garden Design

Thought we covered all of the shade conditions? Wrong. There is the Moist shade area along streams, ponds, or well watered flowerbeds. Maidenhair and cinnamon ferns, trillium, bluebells and forget-me-nots, will thrive is this particular shade condition.

Using Shade in your Landscape Design

Can we control shade? Yes, it is possible to reduce deep shade to dappled shade under trees and large shrubs by pruning. Thinning out branches opens up the canopy, permitting more light to reach the ground and increasing the air flow.

First remove the dead or diseased branches, then prune those that grow toward the center of the tree or shrub, rather than outward. Continue selective pruning until you achieve the desired amount of shade. Remember, never prune more than one-third of the branches annually. It is better to remove small branches rather than major limbs. Removal of the lowest branches will raise the tree's canopy and allow more direct sun to reach the ground.

A last resort drastic option would be the complete removal of large shrubs and trees, particularly if they are planted too closely together. This may be the only option in the case of trees or shrubs that drop leaves which are toxic to most plants, such as the eucalyptus or black walnut.

Talk to one of our online nursery experts tot ifnd out more about how to develop your own shade garden design.

  • Shade Gardens
  • Light Shade Garden
  • Partial Shade Garden
  • Moist Shade Garden