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Four Fresh Looks for Your Shade Garden

If you are like many who garden in shade, you feel inspired and motivated when you first walk into a garden center in spring, but your hopes become dashed when you discover that everything you want to buy requires full sun. You don’t want to have to plant those same flats of seed impatiens you’ve grown every year, but you aren’t sure what to plant instead. No problem! Here are four fun new ideas for vibrant, lively plantings that won’t just survive, but thrive in your shady garden.

This inviting nook is the perfect place to get out of the sun for a while and enjoy the view.

A remarkable variety of colors and textures were used in the containers that decorate this pergola area. It receives about four hours of direct sun each afternoon and filtered light the rest of the day. Because of the unique combination of annuals, perennials and shrubs that is used here, these containers will bloom brightly all season.

In the top left, a large container planted with a dwarf Cityline® Berlin hydrangea is paired with the new glowing yellow Dolce® ‘Appletini’ coral bells that blooms fire engine red all summer. Surefire® Rose and Pegasus® begonias, and a Sweet Caroline Bewitched Green with Envy sweet potato vine round out this container.

To complement the large combination container, smaller pots of single varieties were gathered around it. Brilliant violet blue Endless Illumination browallia glows in this setting and thrives in any degree of shade. Its cool hues are warmed with pots of additional Surefire® begonias, sweet potato vines and Rockapulco® Purple double impatiens.

Bold Toucan® Yellow cannas create drama in the garden.

After seeing amazing plantings of cannas growing in full sun, you may not realize that these bold tropical plants also will grow well in part shade. This is often true of tropicals—those with broader leaves tend to be understory plants, and their larger leaves help them pick up more of the available light. Cannas are heat loving plants too, so they will also grow in the shade in very warm climates.

The new Toucan® cannas are super easy and quick to grow in the garden and in containers. In the ground where more root space is available, they tend to grow a little taller than when they are planted in containers. When you plant them in large containers, either as a showy thriller or on their own, they tend to grow just 2 ½-4 feet tall. This keeps the pot from being too top heavy and blowing over in the wind like some of the older, taller varieties. Look for the new Toucan cannas in shades of yellow, dark orange, pink and red at garden centers this year.

You may have noticed over the last few years that your some of your local garden centers are no longer carrying flats of seed impatiens (I. walleriana), or have a limited selection posted with a warning of no guarantee. Downy mildew disease has ravaged these plants for several years now, and though researchers are working hard to develop an antidote, there isn’t one yet. That’s why garden centers are encouraging people to try different kinds of flowers for shade that are not prone to this disease.

The closest alternative to seed impatiens is New Guinea impatiens, which are not susceptible to downy mildew disease and are now becoming widely planted in shade gardens and containers across the country. The mailbox garden you see here was brightened up with Infinity® Blushing Lilac and Ruffles Lavender New Guinea impatiens that will bloom all season without having to remove the spent flowers.

Chartreuse is an essential color for lighting up shady spaces.

When sunlight comes at a premium, you have to create your own. By using glowing chartreuse and gold accents grounded in rich black and brown tones here, this shady patio suddenly seems much brighter and even more inviting than if darker tones were used instead. That’s because light colors tend to reflect the sunlight while deeper tones absorb it. The simplicity of the monochromatic look is a good match for the modern architecture of this space too.

Since these three containers include a mix of hardy and non-hardy plants, the homeowner has the option of taking them apart in fall and planting the perennials and shrubs in the ground for overwintering. The grassy textured ‘Charlotte’s Web’ spiderwort, Shadowland® ‘Autumn Frost’ hosta, and Anna’s Magic Ball evergreen will all overwinter in zones 3-9. The Sweet Caroline sweet potato vine and Lemon Coral sedum will be annuals in most climates.

Want more ideas for shade?

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