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Garden Designers Roundtable: Shade

by Andrew Keys on June 28, 2011

As I’ve mulled over what to say about this month’s post on shade, I’ve been at a bit of a loss. If there’s one topic I think gets covered really, really often in gardening how-to, it’s shade. So… Shade: I have it. Beyond that, what could I add?

Then I thought about the different KINDS of shade I have, and that is something I think deserves more attention. Because, you see, no two shady places are alike.

Oh, but to have the high, bright, filtered shade of a group of tall trees all day long. So many plants love that! I don’t have that kind of shade. My shade situations, by and large, fall into two categories:

  • Full to almost-full shade, which gets a shot of sun for an hour or less per day.
  • Part shade, which gets a good deal of sun for a while during the day, and therein lies the crux of this post.

I have this zone of part shade on a southeastern wall of my house I don’t think of as part shade at all, because the sun this area gets starts at noon and goes to anywhere from 3 to 5 p.m., depending on the time of year. It’s hotter and (seemingly?) brighter, and it is not for delicate flowers (ahem), and that’s what’s tricky about this particular type of part shade.

I grow a lot of plants I think of as sun plants in this part shade area, and indeed, it’s part of my front garden, which I think of as a sun garden. Guess what? A lot of these plants are more shaded through the course of the day than in sun, it’s just that the sun they get is more distilled. It’s a weird purgatory for a lot of plants, this part sun/part shade. If the sun hit them in the morning, it would be a different story, but as it is, they emerge in our damp, mostly cloudy springs and grow tenderly until one day in May when they get the full brunt of the sun from noon to 4, and the transition is too much. You’ll find a lot of plants described as doing well with morning sun, but nobody recommends plants for afternoon sun.

So you find yourself with one of these weird morning shade twilight zones, and what DOES grow there? Plenty, as it turns out, so not to worry. Here are some plants growing in mine, with LOTS more commentary in the captions. (Apologies for the not great photos and unkempt plants, it’s a zoo around here these days.)

Check out my fellow GDRTers posts on shade AND our extra special guest poster this month, Margaret Roach!:

Margaret Roach : A Way To Garden : Hudson Valley, NY

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

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