Many people think shade gardens are dull and boring. I definitely do not agree. Shade gardens can be your secret garden and special spot. A place where you can spend time under the canopy of cooling trees having a glass of lemonade or crisp white wine. Created with thought, shade gardens can set the mood for a mysterious yet inviting oasis. If you are blessed with a shaded yard, keep reading to open your mind to beautiful shade garden ideas.
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Where to Begin?? – In the beginning, of course!
When conjuring up a beautiful shade garden you must first take a good look at your property and where you would like to construct it. If your entire yard is shaded, consider creating a winding walkway to a garden retreat away from the house to escape the daily grind of work and monotony now associated with the home, thanks to Covid. If only part of your yard is shaded, then obviously, begin there.
Now that you have located the place, make a list of things you’d like to include in the garden. Perhaps a fountain or water feature or a metal bench or small patio. Maybe some special lighting which you could create with solar lights. How about a pergola or a winding path?
Now that you know what you’d like in it, draw a SIMPLE base map of your garden including the items from the list you just created and furniture you’d like to incorporate into the plan. Refer to it when planning your garden.
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Garden Path – The Road to Serenity
Garden paths can be made of many materials.
- Geometric slate
- Free-form slate
- Stepping stones
- Wood chips
- Natural ground cover
First think about the mood you want to create. If you would like a more traditional and geometric style like an English garden, use geometric slates or pavers. To create a country cottage effect, use a natural ground cover, free forming slate or gravel.
Once you’ve decided on the mood, mark out the pathway and build it. YouTube has many videos describing how to construct a pathway. I’ve built a brick patio and brick path before using my parents’ old bricks from their backyard. It’s not that difficult to do but will take a few days depending on the size.
Purchasing materials: use combinations
Look at some salvaged landscaping material before buying new. It will save you a lot of money and help save the environment.
Try combining some of the materials mentioned above. Use slate scattered a few inches apart and fill in with a natural ground cover. A good shade loving ground cover is creeping jenny which is yellow, or ajuga which is green with purple flowers. Ground cover helps crowd out weeds.
Another suggestion would be to outline it with a hardscaping material and fill it in with wood chips or gravel. Think outside the box. It doesn’t all have to be pavers from your local hardscaping supply store.
This is where your creativity comes into play. There are many things you can use to accent your garden. By accenting your garden with objects, you are revealing a little bit of your personality to others.
How about incorporating a fountain into your garden? They are very easy to install especially if you have a power outlet close to your garden. If you do not, you will have to hire an electrician to run a line that is properly grounded.
You could include a koi pond with some lilies in your garden. But beware, if they are not designed and built properly, they will be very difficult to maintain. I suggest you hire a professional for this.
Including streams would also be beautiful in your shade garden. All the water accents will add humidity to your garden and will create a cooling effect in the area. It also adds a nice calming sound to the oasis.
Have you considered an arbor or pergola? An arbor at the entrance to your garden adds a nice welcoming feel to the area. Plant clematis or a Virginia creeper at the base to enhance its appearance.
Pergolas have endless possiblities. You can hang outside lights from them, grow wisteria on them, and hang pots or bottles from the slats. How about a birdfeeder or hummingbird feeder? Melodious outdoor chimes would also add a bit of whimsy to the area.
Do you have an old wine barrel or little red wagon? Add shade loving flowers to these for a perfect and unusual accent. Refer to a previous post called Outdoor Container Garden Ideas for more suggestions.
Texture and colors
When choosing plants for a shade garden, focus on textures and colors. Pair leaves with opposite characteristics. For instance, think of the color wheel where opposites complement each other. Pair yellow shades with purple shades, blues with oranges. A golden aralia paired with heuchera Midnight Rose, or a blue hosta with coleus Fairway orange would make a dramatic statement.
The bright yellow and gold plants help illuminate the darkness of a shade garden. Golden coleus and golden forest grass along with golden hostas will add that extra punch of color to the area.
Ferns, lenten rose, astilbe and columbine scattered throughout the garden add beautiful texture. The walkway you created or stone walls also add textural elements.
Select large leaved plants such as as umbrella plant, whose leaves can reach 24 inches in diameter, with smaller leaved plants such as pulmonaria (also known as lungwort) to add variety to your garden. The pulmonaria will add a bit of enchantment to your area.
Interesting Plant Combinations – SPICE IT UP!
You want to add interesting combinations to the shade garden. For instance, try a dwarf Japanese Maple with a hosta or bleeding heart. This will add some magic to your secret area.
Also, plant in large numbers. Have large groupings of astilbe, or golden sedum. Remember, they do not have to be of the same variety. The same variety creates boredom in the area. Spice it up a little and again, think outside the box.
Choosing Shrubs and Shade Loving Annuals
Planting flowering shrubs that thrive in the shade adds yet another dimension to your shade garden. Azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel look beautiful all year round because they are evergreens.
Pay attention to the shape of the shrub. Adding clipped boxwood next to a looser plant looks very nice and has more of a country cottage effect. Stick to clipped boxwood and other shrubs that look best when trimmed to create your English garden look.
In order to add a pop of color to your shade garden, add shade loving annuals such as impatiens, coleus and browallia. They come in a variety of colors.
Adding Height To Your Oasis
If your existing shaded area has many tall trees, you may want to plant a shade tolerant tree underneath the canopy. A weeping willowed – leaved pear is a beautiful addition to a shade garden. It is a slow grower and has silver leaves with a metallic sheen. A redwood Japanese maple is a dwarf variety of the maple and has soft green foliage in the spring turning to golden tinged leaves with a shade of pink in the summer and has a bright red bark in the winter.
Besides adding trees to the garden for height, consider archways or an arbor accenting a creeping flower or as an entrance to the garden. Create a stone wall with creeping perennials. Anything you can think of with height will work beautifully if you surround it with plants and creeping vines.
Create a Color Scheme
Some people are very monochromatic. They like hues of the same color. This works very well in a typical garden, however it may be a little bland for a shaded garden. You need a variety of colors and textures to create interest. However, by adding annuals in containers as borders around your pathway or by a patio with a bench, you can create a color scheme if you so desire. It could be cool colors, warm colors, monochromatic, or a variety of both. Whatever suits your fancy.
Shade Gardens Bring Mystique to Your Yard
If you would like to create a cool summer oasis in your backyard, follow the suggestions given to you in this post. I know it will become your go-to place at the end of a hard day at work or just a place of respite on a hot summer day.
Please leave a comment below and let me know how you made out.