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Landscape Design

Landscaping for Shade

Four design and plant solutions for shady spaces

By Maureen Gilmer, landscape designer, author and columnist
shady space in a garden
Shady spaces present their own set of unique challenges but can become a sanctuary in a garden with the right design and plants.

Shade grows moss, it makes a yard cold and dreary, darkens interior rooms and omits sun loving flowers. Solving an existing shade condition is not easy, and options are few. But there are ways you and your designer can use plants to make shady conditions far more appealing.

Design for shady spaces keeping these four techniques in mind:

Evaluate the Degree of Shade Before You Start
Not all shade is the same. The first task is to evaluate the quality of your shade to determine if it will grow plants at all.

Sunlight Plants
Light shade A few hours of direct sun each day. Many plants grow here.
Medium shade Little direct sunlight. A few plants grow here.
Deep shade No direct sunlight. No plants grow here.

Once you determine your level of shade, you can evaluate which plants are suitable. The techniques available for maximizing design in shaded areas will make your yard not only usable but beautiful as well.

Maureen Gilmer
Morongo Valley, CA

Maureen "Mo" Gilmer is a landscape designer, author, and speaker about horticulture topics and landscape design.

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