Not every garden in the UK is going to benefit from getting a great deal of sun - and not just as a result of the British climate! Many gardens in the UK are north facing or overshadowed in built up areas, meaning they see very little sunlight. Many gardeners feel that this can limit their ability to make the most of their outdoor space but we’re inclined to say that not enough shade is more of a problem than too much shade. As a rule, shade actually adds depth and quality to the kind of plants you can grow.
So how can you create a beautiful outside space where the sun don’t shine? Easy.
While foliage inevitably makes up a huge part of a shaded garden, you aren’t resigned to a future of only leaves as a result of your space not getting much sunlight. While summer bedding, fruit and veg or Mediterranean style plants won’t work so well, you can use evergreen foliage for background that adds shape and texture then add in pops of colour with annuals such as Busy Lizzie’s, Forget Me Nots and Nasturtiums (amongst others).
Our top design tips
- Lawns tend to struggle if it doesn’t get any light at all – even the ones which say they’re shade tolerant, probably won’t work well in a completely shady garden. Try keeping a small patch of turf in the sunniest area of your yard and concentrate on shade-loving plants everywhere else in the garden.
- A shaded garden doesn’t mean you can’t have any flowers but it’s a good idea to try and make plants with different foliage textures and colours which will enjoy the shady conditions the focus of your design.
- Hues of yellow and gold really pop when there’s not a lot of sunlight. Place plants with foliage in these colours in dim spots to help illuminate particularly dim spots
- Low-growing ground covers provide a really lovely carpet of colour in your garden, as well as crowding out weeds which will in turn make your garden easier to maintain.
- Hard landscaping is particularly useful in a shaded garden. Paths and patios can make really great additions and an alternative focal point to plants. Consider surrounding your hardscaping with contrasting grasses or groundcovers.
- If you’re really missing colour, flowering shrubs offer a really good way to combat a foliage focused garden and will add splashes of colour along with texture and height. Azaleas and Rhododendrons are particularly good for this with their burst of brightness in the spring and an evergreen foliage that keeps the garden well dressed in winter.
- Annuals are another good way to add colour in a shady spot. These tend to bloom all summer long and don’t mind not seeing too much sunlight.
- Vines can also add colour as they climb up the trunks of trees, along trellises or pergolas and potentially even across walls. Smaller vines, such as Clematis’ works well for trees while a climbing Hydrangea will make itself quite at home climbing up pretty much any surface.
- There’s nothing worse than overheating in the sun while you’re dining, so make the most of the cover offered by your shaded garden and pop a dining area in. While it’ll be cooler, you’ll be able to eat your al fresco meals in comfort. Alternatively, you can make the most of shaded areas by planting flowers and installing a bench in a cool patch, which will allow you to enjoy your garden properly, even in the heat of summer.
- Shade Gardens can, by their very nature, be very dark, so it’s important to try and make the most of any light you can. White plants “glow” in shaded areas so it’s worth considering this as a key part of your garden palette.
The finishing touches
Soil in a shaded garden can take a little more attention to ensure that the plants you’re growing get all the nutrients they need – and soil which is organically rich is key. Recreate a forest style environment by adding shredded leaves with compost and a fair amount of leaf mould, or partially composted leaves, into the soil. Regular mulching is essential too.
Fun and quirky objects will help add personality to your garden and often take particular prevalence in a shaded garden. Silver features work especially well to add spots of light and brightness within your space, as well as being an interesting focal point. Other accessories can be used to make a shaded garden look more interesting too. Think about using exciting materials as containers (remember, pretty much anything will work as a container, even an old welly boot!) and consider varying the paving materials you use to further add interest to what will already be a pretty unique garden.