Every garden has a few shady spots and without the right plants they can look a bit sorry for themselves! But as gardeners we don’t want to look the other way and there are plants that can fix the problem and look wonderful in their own right.
All plants need light and moisture, but for some the need is not as great as for others. Imagine a forest floor, for instance, where a canopy of trees can block out most of the sunlight altogether. Yet the ground is still covered in plants such as ferns and wildflowers. And it’s unlikely the shade problem in your garden will be quite so severe.
Evergreens often do better in shady situations than deciduous plants because they can make use of whatever light is available year round. Lighten the shade and the choice widens.
GN’s favourite plants for shady spots - try mixing them up
Bergenia - Bold evergreen perennials with fat, water-retentive rhizomes, crimson winter foliage and pink or white spring flowers. Look for ‘Eric Smith’, with beetroot winter leaves, and ‘Bressingham White’ with white flowers from pink buds.
Carex (sedges) - Slender evergreen foliage springs from steadily creeping roots, ‘Ice Dance’ has creamy edges to the dark leaves while shade brings out the best colour in the yellow striped ‘Evergold’.
Cyclamen coum - Both autumn flowering Cyclamen hederifolium, with ivy-shaped foliage, and spring flowering Cyclamen coum, with rounded leaves, grow in dry shade in the wild and come in a range of pink shades and white.
Epimedium - Steadily spreading evergreen varieties have attractive leathery foliage and dainty, spidery spring flowers. ‘Sulphureum’ is pale primrose yellow, ‘Froehnleiten’ is deep yellow – both have coppery young leaves.
Euonymus fortunei - Resilient dwarf evergreen shrubs featuring a range of bright variegated foliage, whited-edged ‘Silver Queen’ and gold-edged ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ will also slowly climb tree trunks or fences like ivy.
Hellebores - The vast variety of single or double flowered Lenten roses offer a long season of winter colour – choose your favourite colours and patterns in flower. Prepare the planting hole thoroughly.
Iris foetidissima - A narrow leaved evergreen perennial with dark green foliage, yellowish flowers followed by clusters of long lasting bright scarlet winter berries. Look out for forms with buttercup yellow flowers or white berries.
Mahonia aquifolium - Low and spreading evergreen shrub with holly-like leaves, clusters of bright yellow flowers open in spring followed by blue-black berries. ‘Atropurpurea’ develops reddish-purple winter foliage, ‘Smaragd’ has coppery new shoots.