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Grow a Garden in the Shade

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Desert environments make gardeners appreciate one special place in the garden. This favorite area is the shade. Shade gardens comfort and protect gardeners and plants from the sun and heat. They are perfect to escape summer climatic rigors. Not all plants are suitable for shade. Some become weak and spindly and stop growing. Shade plants come from throughout the world and are characteristically understory plants that do not tolerate intense direct sun. Annuals, biennials, perennials, and woody shrubs, vines, and trees can all be used in shade gardens. Combine these diverse plants to create cool inviting retreats. Traditional annuals for shade include impatiens, wax and fibrous begonias, fushia, and coleus. Others that work well with some degree of shade include alyssum, ageratum, balsam, Belles of Ireland, and clarkia. Godetia, lobelia, nicotiana, stocks, and vinca add to these gardens. Useful biennials include pansies, violas, sweet williams, and Canterbury bells. Suitable groundcovers include Aaron’s beard, barren strawberry, bishop’s weed, ajuga, creeping Oregon grape, English ivy and lamb’s ear. Add leadwort, houttuynia, periwinkle, pachysandra, sweet woodruff, and winter creeper euonymus. Perennial flowers are the backbone of the shade garden. Varieties add beauty and create the shade garden. Shade environments are affected by several growing factors such as water needs. Plants that thrive in dry shade include epemediums, hardy cyclamen, lamium, vinca major, and lamiastrum. Lunaria, digitalis, and bergenias also work well. Shade gardens tend to be moist. Many fern varieties grow well and are almost synonymous with shade. Equally well adapted are the hostas. These are grown for their rich foliage. Leaf color may be gray to bright green, variegated, striped, or speckled. Flowers appear but are secondary to the leaves. Bruinnaia, berginia, and aruncus also have interesting foliage. Columbines add height and beauty. Other plants with strong vertical lines include acanthus, delphiniums, monkshood, digitalis, garden phlox, lupines, and ligularia. Add different shapes with corydalis, coralbells, hellebores, bleeding hearts, pulmonarias, Japanese anenomes, amsonia, lady’s mantle and many campanulas. Shrubs that flourish in shade include the native red twig and yellow twig dogwood, ninebark, thimbleberry, mountain lover, and snowberry. Introduced shade tolerant shrubs include barberry, boxwood, euonymus, laurels, yews, kolkwitzia, Oregon grape, mock orange, honeysuckle, and some viburnums. For something more unusual try hydrangeas, Japanese maples, and some hardy azaleas and rhododendrons. Shade tolerant trees grow in the understory of the forests. This excludes the invaders and most large conifers. Use these plants to create the shade for your garden. Within the garden itself use tricolor and selected weeping beeches, serviceberry, Japanese, vine and hedge maples, alder, white and river birches, redbud, and some willows. Shade tolerant conifers are larch, Douglas fir, and arborvitae but these outgrow most shade gardens quickly. Shade is a valuable commodity that protects tender plants and tender gardeners. Never be too lazy to learn more about the plants that flourish in shade.

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