Designing A Shade Garden
A little pre-planning can go a long way towards providing you with an end result that you and you're plants will be happy with. When there is no plan, more often than not, you'll end up wanting to move plants around later - after they've gone to the effort of establishing themselves in their new home. And to move them is hard work, and can injur the plants.
So, at a minimum, at least do a rough sketch. Lay the garden out on paper. Use taller plants as a background, mid-size plants in the mid-ground, and lower-growing plants as a border. Choose an evergreen groundcover to fill in spaces between plants and keep the garden area looking green during the winter.
After completing your sketch, it would be a good idea to visit your local nursery and garden center. If you're lucky, you'll find someone there who is experienced in design. This person can be of valuable assistance in reviewing your shade garden plan and offering recommendations if any adjustments are needed.
After picking out your plants, and have special ordered any plants that were not available, you are ready to begin the planting process.
If you have trouble finding a local source for a plant you would like to include in your shade garden, there are online nurseries that may have what you are looking for. Plants purchased online are usually smaller and more expensive, but sometimes this is the only route to go if you want a certain plant badly enough.
Soil Fertility & Fertilization
Soil fertility can be a concern in shade gardens, particularly those situated under large trees. Some of the plants that prefer shade also prefer fertile soils that are rich in organic matter. Large trees and shrubs fill the soil with feeder roots that greedily use up nutrients as readily as they are applied. Incorporating a good compost into the mix when planting can help give your shade plants the organic matter they need to thrive well in your shade garden. Additionally, applications of compost as a mulch can help.
With few exceptions shade-tolerant plants will do best in well-drained, relatively fertile soil. Both sandy soils and heavy clay like soils will benefit from the incorporation of organic matter or compost. Such materials are particularly helpful in areas of hard, compacted soils.
If you are not working with a landscape designer who can assist you in plant selection for your shade garden, it might be a good idea to spend a little time doing some research to find and select plants that you will want to include.
Use the Plant Search to find any or all of the shade-loving plants that are listed on this site. When you get to the Plant Search, simply select your USDA Zone, then, maybe what TYPE of plant you are looking for (Shrub, Tree, Perennial etc.), then choose the SUN EXPOSURE. A listing of plants that meet your selected specific criteria will appear below the search. In the Advanced Plant Search, selections for SUN EXPOSURE include: Full Sun, Mostly Sun, Morning Sun w/ Afternoon Shade, Partial Shade, Morning Shade w/Afternoon Sun, and Shade.
Make a list of the plants you would like to incorporate in your shade garden, jotting down notes as to size, color of foliage, size and texture of foliage, and so on.