Friday, April 6, 2012


Several times each year customers lament, “I can’t grow that, my yard has too much shade.” Starting with a new landscape usually means full sun, making homeowners anxious to plant trees to provide much needed shade. Years pass, trees grow and grow and soon that nice sunny yard is enveloped in shade.

If you have a young landscape and wish to grow herbs, vegetables, roses or sun loving ornamentals, dedicate a portion of your yard to full sun growing. Plant trees and large shrubs far enough away to ensure that this area will receive 6-8 hours of sun per day.

Having a shady yard doesn’t mean having a plain or unattractive yard. There are ornamental, shade-loving plants—some flowering, some fragrant, some with great foliage—but not as many as in the sun loving group. For early spring color, think about bulbs. Most flower before trees leaf out, so they can work in shady areas. Some herbs, like parsley, mints, chervil, cutting celery, feverfew, burnet, tarragon and lovage, will tolerate part shade. If you plant sun loving herbs in containers and move them to follow the sun, even basil, thyme, rosemary and sage can thrive. Remember to fertilize container herbs regularly throughout the growing season. Here are some outstanding ornamental plants for shade:

Bleeding heart – A popular throwback to Grandma’s garden, blooming in early spring with heart-shaped pink blossoms on arching sprays over dark green foliage. Dies back in summer.

Sweet cicely – An herb that prefers shade. Finely cut fern-like foliage with a flat-headed white flower and licorice scent.

Foamflower – Beautiful, dark-marked leaves and pink-white flower spikes in spring. Good coverage for a woodland setting without being invasive.

Foxglove – Foliage only in year one and tall, stately flowers in a spike year two. Allow to reseed for yearly bloom. All parts toxic.

Lady’s mantle – Beautiful scalloped foliage in a mound, with airy yellow-green flowers similar to baby’s breath. Good cut flower filler.

Nicotiana – A reliably reseeding annual with tubular, white flowers, fragrant at night. Plant near a seating area used in the evening.

Sweet woodruff – A shade loving herbal groundcover. Whorls of leaves topped in early spring by small white flowers. Flowers used to flavor May wine.

Anemone – Late season standout, pink or white blooms similar to a single rose on tall, wiry stem. Nice cut flower.

More shade lovers – irish moss, dame’s rocket, angelica, lily-of-the-valley, columbine and forget-me-not.

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