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Landscaping Tips: Making a Shade Garden Shine

Gardeners often regard shade as a negative factor in the garden. There are plenty of ways to reverse that mindset and turn a shady spot into a beautiful haven for interesting plants.

Defining Your Shady Landscape

Let's start by defining your shady spot. Does it receive any sun? The more sun you receive, the better, because it opens the space to more plant options. In general, four hours is considered "part shade" for many landscaping plants. Otherwise, look for plants that thrive in full shade.

Why is There Shade?

Then, think about what trees or shrubs are shading the area. Is it a large oak tree that leafs out in the summer? If so, you may have some luck with spring flowering shrubs, because they will grow flowers before the leaves from the tree block the sun.

Other options are azaleas, rhododendrons, and some early flowering lilacs and viburnum. Each has its own interesting colors and textures, and can create an eye-catching landscape.

If the sun is blocked by evergreens, however, don't count on season sun. Plan to attack this outdoor home improvement dilemma as an "all shade, all the time" project.

Define Your Landscaping Project

As you plan for your landscaping changes, consider how large the planting area is. One important consideration is maintenance, because plants have varying needs for water and pruning.

The Options Are Plentiful

Now comes the fun part. Grab a gardening book or wander down to your local home improvement or gardening retailer to see the variety of shade plants available.

One key to successful gardening is the ability to mix different leaf textures and colors. This is particularly important in a shade garden because you can't always rely on large stretches of bold colored flowers.

In most climates, perennials such as lungwort, brunnera, heuchera, and dicentra add a stunning base. There also are many varieties of hostas that go far beyond the standard green leaves that line many driveways. Look for blue or variegated hostas to draw attention to your garden.

The Garden Layout

Use shrubs such as yews and boxwood as anchors to effectively lay out the garden. Then group three to five of the same plants together in masses for a dramatic effect. Create a few spots where contrasting foliage or colors draw some attention.

If the project seems overwhelming, do it in stages after the initial planning. Talk with a landscaping contractor about doing some or all of the work for you. A good landscaping contractor knows what grows well in your area.

Shade gardening has really taken off in recent years, as home owners realize the vast potential that lies in their untapped landscaping. If you spend a little time at a local nursery, you might be amazed at all the options.