Almost all of us have shady spots in the garden where it’s hard to get plants to do well, let alone produce beautiful colour. This month I wanted to highlight plants that do well in shade-whether that’s on the south side of the house, under trees or areas overshadowed by fences or neighbouring buildings.
Starting with evergreen flowering shrubs, my favourites for shady spots are daphne, japonica camellias, kalmia (mountain laurel), rhododendrons, pieris (Christmas cheer and forest flame) and azaleas. There is also a pink flowering native shrub, Correa dusky bells, that handles shade well.
For winter colour in a shady spot, it’s hard to go past hellebores or winter roses. The most common type, Helleborus orientalis, throws up spikes of pink/purple/dark red flowers that generally face downwards. A newer cultivar, Hellebore Honeyhill Joy, produces beautiful clumps of green/white flowers-I’ve got a ripper one of these flowering now in a shady patch of my garden.
For groundcovers suited to shady spots, one of the hardiest plants is Lamium (common name deadnettle). They come in a range of leaf colours from dark green, to yellow and variegated, and with flowers from white to pink and dark purple. Ajuga Catlins Giant is another groundcover doing well in shady parts of my garden-the leaves are glossy dark purple and they produce spikes of blue flowers in spring. Polemonium (Jacobs ladder) is another shade loving groundcover.
Other perennials that do well in shade, die back in winter but burst forth with colour in spring and summer include hydrangeas (look for the beautiful lace cap flowering “Strawberries and Cream”), Aquilegia (Columbines), Hostas and Japanese windflowers (Anemone) which produce tall spikes of white or pink flowers.
Finally, if you’re looking for some strappy leaf plants that are hardy and will tolerate shade, you should consider Dianella (native flax lily) and Lomandra.
By Ian Rogan
Millthorpe Garden Nursery