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Jacque Tucker: Top tips to deal with a shady garden

Publish Date
Sun, 6 Aug 2017, 1:07pm
Ligularia reniformis (Image / Jacque Tucker)
Ligularia reniformis (Image / Jacque Tucker)

Jacque Tucker: Top tips to deal with a shady garden

Publish Date
Sun, 6 Aug 2017, 1:07pm

Got a tricky shady spot? No problem! As sections grow smaller we're bound to have shadier gardens created by neighbouring buildings, fences and large overhanging trees and shrubs. The trick is learning how to deal with it.

First things first - lighten up

Thin out the canopy of large trees and shrubs, or limb them up (which means taking off some of the lower branches).  You’ll let more light in and more rain gets to the ground, increasing the number of plants you can grow – without losing too much privacy.

Bounce a bit more light around those gloomy shady areas

  • Choose plants with glossy foliage, like Ligularia reniformis, Camellias, Choisya ternata, griselinias and some of the shiny coprosmas are excellent for reflecting light.
  • Plants with light foliage and bright flowers can help lighten up the gloom, like white hydrangeas, Choisya ternata 'Sundance' with lime green new foliage and metallic silver Astelia chatamica 'Silver Spear', Japanese anemones, renga rengas, abutilons and clivias with their bright flowers and berries. And shade is one area where variegated plants can really look good.
  • A glossy pot or stainless steel sculpture will help bounce a bit of light around, also consider light coloured furniture and shell or pale gravel paths.

WHAT TO PLANT -  there are many to choose from, like hellabores, Japanese maples, tree ferns underplanted with clivias and hen and chicken fern, liriope and mondo grass as groundcovers.

If your soil holds a bit of moisture - hydrangeas, ferns like Asplenium bulbiferum and Blechnum discolor, tree ferns, Astelia nervosa,  hostas, busy lizzies,  Carex secta,  rainbow grass (Anemanthele lessoniana), rhodos, vireyas, heucheras and loads more

DRY SHADE is trickier, particularly if you have large evergreen trees. Add lots of compost and plant the toughies - renga rengas, Lomandra ‘Tanika’, Anemanthele lessoniana,  Clivias, Alchemilla mollis, groundcovers like Pachysandra terminalis or native Meulenbeckia axillaris Astelia 'Silver Spear', puka (Meryta sinclairii), kawakawa (Macripiper melchior), and the shiny native fern Asplenium oblongifolium – a lot of our natives are really tough!  

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