Discover the beauties lurking in the shadows, writes Tony Tony Fawcett Fawcett
t’s a question that plagues most gardeners at some stage: What can grow in the shade? While many plants perform magnificently in sun, it’s not so easy to find beauty flourishing in the shadows.
Unfortunately, most gardens have their share of shade. Overhanging trees, fences or other structures can be culprits, while side passages, between house and fence, are notorious for shade.
While knocking down a tree might be a solution, it’s not always desirable — and some structures simply cannot be moved.
But don’t despair. Even the darkest, gloomiest corners can be coaxed into verdant life. You just need to choose the right shady characters for the job.
There are basically two types of shady areas: moist shade, where the soil is perpetually damp; and dry shade, in places such as under an old eucalypt whose roots are sucking the ground dry.
Before doing anything, determine what kind of shade you’re dealing with — not all shade-loving plants will thrive in the same spot. You also need to know whether your shady zone is always shady as many plants, such as some camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, can cope if they receive even a little dappled light.
Often, the best solution is to look to nature. Think of a fern glen in the bush, all lush and green. If you have a similar spot, ferns are a logical choice.
If yours is dry shade, it’s a bit trickier. Some plants, such as clivias, cope in dry conditions. Or, you could put in a watering system — but they’re not always ideal in these drought-prone times. Pot plants under thirsty trees are another option, as long as you water and feed potted plants regularly.