As gardens mature and trees grow, or perhaps the neighbour adds an extra storey or a higher fence, gardens can become more shaded. Trees and side passages mean there are also areas that are just naturally shaded to begin with. Many gardeners are happy to transition from flowers to foliage but if you're a flower lover, don't despair, there is a great range of plants that not only thrive in a shaded spot but also flower.
As well as adapting your garden to external changes that create more shaded situations, it is also possible to discover a shaded planting spot in a mature garden by clearing out overgrown garden plants. I recently opened up an entirely new planting area in my garden by under-pruning some tall growing shrubs and removing the invasive weeds that had taken hold. In the midst of what’s a mainly sunny garden I had a shady bed that opened up new and exciting planting choices.
Year round flowering scheme
With careful planning it is possible to have something blooming in a shaded garden all year round. Clivias bloom from late winter to spring while fuchsias bloom from spring to autumn. For a summer highlight include hydrangeas and tall-growing blue gingers (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora), which have spires of brilliant blue flowers up to 2m high.
To inject annual colour through winter and early spring, plant clumps of flowering annuals including cinerarias, primulas and pansies.
If you were to select just one plant to inject flower colour into a shaded garden it would have to be a begonia. These plants love the shade and flower over many months – indeed many have flowers throughout the year.
The tall-growing cane begonias (also known as angel’s wing begonias) have clusters of hanging flowers in red, pink, coral or white and many have highly decorative leaves as well. Cane begonias can reach 1.5m-2m high but are easily pruned if they become too tall and leggy. They are an ideal choice for a narrow shaded growing area.
For smaller spaces, bedding begonias can be relied on for clumps of colour up to 30cm across but only 10-15cm high. These compact annuals are available as seedlings or in small pots ready to plant out into the garden. They also grow well in containers. Their flowers are normally pink or white and there are varieties with green or bronze-toned leaves.
Hellebores for winter blooms
Another must-have plant for shade is the hellebore. Hellebores not only flower in shadier parts of the garden, they also bloom from late autumn to early spring when other plants are dormant.
Hellebores have unusual flowers in tones of lime green, pink, slate or white. As the flowers age and seeds form, most flowers turn to a greeny pink colour that still looks good in the garden.
New varieties of hellebores now available have larger more upright flowers than have been seen in the past. For an eye-catching white hellebore look out for ‘Ivory Prince’ while ‘Penny’s Pink’ produces vibrant pink flowers. ‘Winter Sunshine’ combines both colours with pink buds that open to cream flowers.
These perennials grow best in a cool spot with soil that’s enriched with organic matter so it holds moisture and appreciate a regular deep watering. They also look striking planted in containers.