The Shade Garden

Martha Stewart
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A path through the shade garden.

An amazing lady's slipper.The long, hot sultry days of summer are upon us, and the garden is probably the last place you’d think of taking refuge from the heat. Maybe the option of an air-conditioned home would seem much more appealing, but if you are like me and would much prefer to be enjoying the outdoors, then a cooling shade garden may be your ticket to doing just that.

I can spend many hours in the cool, lush gardens I have created beneath the canopy of the Norway spruces. My shade garden is filled with an interesting and diverse array of woodland plants—you need not be confined to just planting hostas and ferns! The fact that most shade plants have reduced flowers allows you to really experiment with combining the shapes and textures of leaves and plants.The shade garden.

White bleeding hearts.Some shade−loving plants to consider are: trilliums, dicentra, epimediums, heucheras, tiarellas, erythonium, arum, and astrantia.

When choosing a spot for your shade garden, determine what kind of shade you actually have. Look at your garden at different times of the day; you might be surprised to observe that you have a half day of shade versus the full shade you thought you had. It is also important to consider the soil moisture and pH of your garden and choose plants appropriate for the conditions.Hostas.

When mulching and topdressing your shade garden, remember that perennials love composted leaves (leaf mold). For no cost and almost no work, you can recycle fallen leaves to emulate what naturally happens in a woodland. What you’ll get is lots of nutrients going back to the soil for your plants, as well as a kind of compost that will build your soil structure, a must for challenging soils.

Japanese painted ferns. A delicate trillium.     

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