Shades of beauty re­vealed

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Tino Carnevale

DEAL­ING with a shady gar­den is of­ten seen as diffi cult but this is defi nitely not the case. In fact, over our hot dry sum­mers the gar­dens with shade can fare the best.

Very few gar­dens are re­ally in full shade, there is al­ways a mod­icum of light and there are a larger num­ber of plants that will fl our­ish in shade than you may think.

In hor­ti­cul­tural writ­ings from gar­den­ing books to nurs­ery plant tags you most of­ten will see the term “open sunny po­si­tion” used to de­scribe the op­ti­mal grow­ing re­quire­ments of the par­tic­u­lar plant be­ing profi led. Nearly all plants need sun­light to sur­vive and the ma­jor­ity per­form their best in high light con­di­tions, thanks to the process of pho­to­syn­the­sis where plants turn sun­light into en­ergy – the more light, the more en­ergy.

I can’t go past the freak­ish look­ing gun­nera with its spiky stems and im­pres­sively large leaves

How­ever, there are plants that have adapted to lit­tle or no di­rect sun­light and have de­vel­oped to be more effi cient with the light they re­ceive.

There are some plants that are ex­clu­sively shade- lov­ing or sun- lov­ing but most fall into the grey area where they will tol­er­ate dif­fer­ing lev­els of light.

Many plants will tol­er­ate shade but their growth may be slowed and stretched and as a re­sult of their weak­ened state they tend to be more sus­cep­ti­ble to pest at­tack.

Some will do well in shady ar­eas but may fail to fl ower, such as the bearded iris, but a slightly dif­fer­ent species, the Siberian iris, will fl ower quite hap­pily in shade.

There are many shade plants whose dis­plays of fl ow­ers will brighten up even the gloomi­est of gar­dens. Shrubs like the waratah, the na­tive mint bush, fuch­sia and aza­leas all fl ower beau­ti­fully and be­cause of their size they can be used to cover ugly fences or walls that are in shade. Astilbe would be one of my favourite shade- lov­ing plants, es­pe­cially the Ja­panese form with its mass of crim­son fl ower spikes.

The many shades of the dif­fer­ent heucheras make for a stun­ning dis­play if you are af­ter some coloured fo­liage. There are del­i­cate- look­ing wood­land plants like anemones and bulbs such as snow­drops and lily of the val­ley. Even good old alyssum fl ow­ers well in the shade.

An­other im­por­tant fac­tor when se­lect­ing plants is whether it is dry shade such as un­der­neath large gums, or wet shade, usu­ally in heav­ier soils that drain poorly.

Daphne and boro­nia are strik­ingly fra­grant shrubs that will per­form well in dry shade. Tufty liri­opes, lo­man­dras and di­anel­las can be used to fi ll out dry, shaded beds with year- round green fo­liage.

There are many plants for wet shade like ligu­laria, prim­u­las, na­tive vi­o­let and hostas al­though I can’t go past the freak­ish look­ing gun­nera with its spiky stems and im­pres­sively large leaves.

Ferns are the stal­wart of the shady gar­dener. I like to use larger ferns like dick­so­nia or the cy­athea as a mid canopy while Blech­num species can be used to great ef­fect as an un­der plant­ing. Soft creep­ing plants such as baby’s tears or Cor­si­can mint cre­ate a beau­ti­fully ver­dant base.

For gar­den­ers with lit­tle light and not much soil, clivia, prim­rose and cy­cla­men are all great for pots.

Re­mem­ber, plants lose less wa­ter when shaded so they may need less wa­ter.

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