When initially planning a shade garden, as with any garden, you will want to:
- record measurements
- note different views
- consider ease of access for care, watering and enjoyment
When it comes time to select the actual plants, a mixture of textures, forms, heights, as well as bloom and foliage colors will give the most dynamic and eye appealing results. Finally, the most crucial step to a thriving shade garden will be choosing plants that are suited to the level of light and moisture available in the selected planting site.
Observe the shady area where you’d like to plant - at various times of the day - to get the truest sense of how much light it really receives. Knowing how much light is available will allow for the selection of plants that will flourish in said light. Also take note of whether the soil is dark, rich and moist, or more on the dry, sandy side. Attempting to grow moisture loving plants in a naturally drier soil will lead to a lot of hand watering and lackluster growth, and plants needing drier soil will have their roots rot in moisture retentive soils.
Once you’ve determined how much light and moisture you are working with, visit your local nursery or check out the selection at Plant Delights Nursery online to find plants suitable to moist shade or dry shade, from partial to deep. If you still need help pinpointing the level of shade you’re planting in - Richie Steffen, curator of the Elisabeth C Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle, Washington, offers this detailed explanation of the different levels of shade. He also offers the bonus of lists of suggested perennials, shrubs and ferns for dry shade.