Gardening: Shade


Have you got shade covered?

Garden designer, Sally Cunis, looks at how to introduce shade into the garden this summer

Recently, taking the scenic route home from Sheffield with a couple of friends out past Loxley and through the charming villages of Low and High Bradfield, meandering along lanes edged by stone walls, overhung with majestic trees set in lush green fields fringed with cow parsley, I was struck once again by the beauty of the countryside around us.

At the height of summer it is such bliss to be able to leave the city behind and escape into the countryside or our gardens.

After an amazingly hot couple of months in early summer, lawns are already dry, roses are magnificent and gardens ablaze with colour and, if we can’t get out to the countryside, we may want to drag a favourite chair under the dappled shade of a tree or perhaps into a shady corner of the garden.


Shady spot

The two main ways in which one can create shade in the garden are either to erect a structure or to plant a tree or tall shrub under which one can shelter from the sun.

Permanent structures could include an arbour or a pergola with climbers trained up the sides. Or, for a temporary solution, a parasol or canvas sail slung across a small courtyard for shade.

If space allows, create dappled shade using a small spreading tree. Acers are fabulous for their leaf form and colour. Cercis canadensis (Forest pansy) is unusual, or maybe a crab-apple such as Malus ‘John Downie’. Cornus Controversa is dramatic and bamboo will grow tall, casting shade and catching every little breeze.


Aspect is a key consideration; if possible select a spot already shaded by a north facing wall or fence.

Whether enhancing the area around a structure or a tree, choose plants with larger leaves which will cast more shade, make the space look bigger, add an exotic touch, give depth and bounce available light back off the leaves of plants such as Fatsia japonica.

Shuttlecock ferns

Select plants happy in shade or semi-shade. Gunnera are truly magnificent with massive leaves and are most suited for rich, boggy conditions. Hardy ferns such as the Shuttlecock fern are wonderful planted en masse. Euphorbias, Hostas, Hellebores, Heucharas have interesting leaf shapes and colours and are good ground cover.

Light up the dark

Layers of foliage are refreshing but to light up the dark, use variegated foliage injecting the area with pale flowers which will show up and glow against the green backdrop.

A scent in the air

Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine), honeysuckle and climbing roses such as ‘The Generous Gardener’ and ‘Félicitié et  Perpétue’ will perfume the air on high. At ground level add white Alliums, alpine strawberries with edible fruit and dainty flowers, delicate wands of Tellima and the charming flowers of Aquilegia.

Foxgloves, Solomon’s Seal and Japanese anemones stand tall and elegant, lighting up a cool corner. Hydrangea ‘Strong Annabelle’ is a lovely deciduous shrub with astonishing, massive cream heads and grows happily in the shade.

Plant in pots

Whilst it is best to plant directly into a bed, great effects can be achieved by creating a garden of foliage plants in pots massed together for greater impact although containers require more aftercare in terms of watering and feeding. Cram a mass of different pots around seating areas to make the space look bigger.

Soothing sounds

Maybe install a water feature; the sound of running water makes one feel cooler, is soothing and has the added benefit of masking background noise.

Whatever you do in the garden this summer, enjoy your garden and have fun growing things whether in the shade or sun!


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