Shedding light on shade gardens

Shedding light on shade gardens


Appropriate plant choice and hardscape treatment can make a shade garden very interesting, writes Surabhi Johri.

We all know that sunlight is imperative if one wants to grow a colourful healthy garden. Sufficient duration of sun in the garden ensures that you can grow a greater variety of flowers and variegated plants.

In addition, sun rays keep the overall health of the garden in good shape because it dries the excess moisture of plant and leaf surface which if left wet may become a breeding space for plant infections and garden pests.

However, in a majority of gardens in the urban set-up. there is not enough sunlight for plants to thrive. This should not discourage you from aiming for a green space at home, though. The most common mistake is treating a shaded garden in the same manner as a sunlit garden. It is bound to make your plants fail and your garden will end up looking poorer for it.

The good news is that appropriate plant choice and hardscape treatment can make a shade garden very interesting and attractive. In fact some of the most mesmerising foliage plants grow in shade. In addition to plant choices one can add colour and stimulation to the garden in other forms too.

It is crucial to understand what kind of shade is required for different plants. The amount of shade ranges from light shade, partial shade and full shade.
Woodlands and forests are shade habitats. Some gardens can be sunny in one season and remain in shade during rest of the year.

Existing trees and buildings may be huge contributors to the light and temperature situation in a garden.

When five to ten hours of sun light reaches your plants, then it is a light shade condition. Less than five hours is partial shade and less than one hour is full shade. Shade loving plants are mostly plants that can be found in the forest under the canopy.

Moisture and shelter from winds also affects the choice of plant. It is important to take into account the cause of shade. For example, a tree in the garden will give tough competition to the undergrowth so you need additional measures to ensure water and nutrition are just right. In the shelter of walls it will be cold so flowering may be impacted.

Choose right

While foliage plants dominate a shade garden, it is possible to grow flowers as well. Small ground covers, bushes to climbers, a full range is available to inhabit your garden.

Shade loving foliage plants are no ordinary plants; these have coloured, textured, and uniquely shaped leaves.

If you want such uniquely shaped leaves, then you can grow philodendron, schefflera, dieffenbachia, aglonema, dracaena, coleus, ferns including the unique birds’ nest, syngonium, monstera, pepromia, tradescantia, ivy, aloe vera, maranta, episcia, certain varieties of palm, some bamboos, alocasia, liriope, mondo grass. You can also get flowers from anthurium, vinca, impatiens, foxglove, spathyphilum, rhododendron, clematis, hydrangea, some orchids, begonias, bleeding heart and fuchsia.

As always, start with good soil, organically rich and with proper drainage. Garden hygiene practices become more important in shaded and moist areas because you do not want a breeding ground for unwanted population.

A very important decision in shade garden is the lawn. The most attractive of lawns can be stretched to light shade but beyond that, it is better to switch to shade loving ground cover choices depending on the traffic expected.

Switching to aesthetic hardscape, choices can bring down the work and enhance the look of your garden. Shade garden is an opportunity to fill the gaps in the colour palette by getting adventurous non horticulturally.

Bring in the colour via wall background, hardscape, pot selection, furnishing choices, architectural elements, artwork. Trickling water feature, gentle wind chime, hammock, are all beckoning features in such space.

During summers, this space can become the most sought after if it is treated suitably. 

(The writer is a landscape consultant.)