TOP TIPS for the perfect shady garden

Most gardens need privacy in the form of a hedge or a fence, but this creates tricky areas where it's hard to grow much. Anne Smith offers her top advice to make your shady areas bloomin' lovely...

Gardening where the sun does not shine directly is not the easiest of tasks, so it is important to evaluate the shady area you wish to plant. Is it located under a tree or next to the house? Most shady spots are not only deprived of sun but also of moisture. Tree roots take up a lot of the moisture available. The average house has an overhang preventing rain from reaching to within a foot of the foundation. It is important to pay special attention to the water requirements of the plants you put in these areas and not to skimp on soil preparation. The soil may not only be dry but compacted as well. Try adding compost and organic matter, such as rotted leaves, to the soil.

It is important to understand the amount of sunlight a shady area receives. If there is not direct sunlight reaching the desired area, be sure to select plants that are suitable for ‘full shade’ such as ferns or lily of the valley. If the bed receives dappled sunlight throughout the day or may be a few hours of direct sunlight, you will be able to work with a wider variety of plants and can possibly choose plants suitable for ‘partial shade’ such as astilbe, gloriosa daisy, or a hibiscus shrub. It is worth keeping an eye on the bed for a day to make a note of how much direct sun the bed receives.

Shade cast by deciduous trees can be one of the easiest spots to work with because the tree has little or no leaves for half the year. Planting sun-loving, spring-blooming crocus or tulips under such trees is ideal. Even pansies are content in the shade provided they get some sun during the day, but don’t forget a good supply of food and water is vital.

It is a good idea to mulch shaded areas with bark or rock, or anything else suitable. Mulching will retain moisture and since it is already shady, you won’t lose moisture to the hot rays of the sun.

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