Many of us don't have a completely exposed lawn. Trees, other houses, or large shrubs can block nourishing sunlight, causing many plants to die. Perhaps it's just part of the year, or perhaps it's a constant issue, but sunlight often does not come to all sections of most lawns. Despite this, there are many kinds of plants that can flourish in the shade, creating colorful, textured, rich displays with perennials, ferns, trees, or even mosses. With proper design, a homeowner can utilize a spotty lawn and create a backyard retreat. Also, for those living in environments of extreme climate or in urban settings, small, potted shade gardens can be created indoors for the home or office.

Getting Started
The first and most important step to creating a shade garden is to observe. One must find what type of shade is in that area, whether indoors or outdoors. Is it "dappled" shade, open shade, medium shade, dense shade or dry shade? Each shade type requires a certain amount of human influence, and can utilize different types of plants. Also, hours of sunlight during the day should be taken into account, and seasonal changes in sunlight might be important to record as well. The next thing to take into account is the soil – if it is sand or clay, if it is dry or overly wet, or if it is richly dark or light. Each scenario requires a different plant choice. For instance, if your shady area is practically a swamp, you may not want to plant a shade-loving cactus. If organization is key in a large garden or lawn project, perhaps even creating a garden journal or landscaping map may be helpful, keeping track of problem areas. As a last-minute resort, changes can be made to increase small amounts of light by trimming dead tree branches, or changing the location of fences.

The Benefits
Gardens have their own benefits – they reduce air, water, and noise pollution, improve biodiversity and reduce one's carbon footprint. Some of us are reduced to shade gardens exclusively, and so having a shade garden is much better than simply having a plain office, or plain grass, which often looks sickly and dies at certain points in the year. When integrating a shade garden into a wider landscaping plan, shade gardens can bring color and diversity to otherwise dark, boring areas. An increase in plant variety is good for the eye and sometimes the plants themselves. Also, an obvious benefit is bragging rights, as fellow gardeners marvel at your skill in being able to use every inch of your gardening space.

Best Plants to Grow
A surprising amount of plants do well in shade. There are annuals, perennials, deciduous shrubs, evergreens, grasses, ferns, vines, small trees, mosses and even some succulents that do well in these environments. There are a great deal of possibilities, and the majority of them look far better than ordinary sod. Be careful when reading up on plants, and take into consideration the level of shade, the soil needs, and other factors when considering them for your garden. Create a list of five to ten plants that interest you, and try to fill the space with as much biodiversity as possible!

Tips, Ideas and Advice
Feel free to get creative when designing your shade garden. Consider having a variety of textures and colors of plants for the best look. Think three-dimensionally and vary the height of plants as well. Besides plants, shady areas can utilize water elements, rock gardens, or pathways. You can insert a water fountain or large boulders. If you have a fence that's creating the shade, perhaps hang a weather-worn, artistic focal point on the horizon line. You can use buckets, pots and containers to create height and depth of plants that have different soil needs. It's important to plan ahead and talk to other gardeners about your ideas, as their experience with shade gardening can be very helpful. For instance, be careful of tree roots if planting near a tree, and be wary of fast-growing plants like ivy or mint.
Article written by Lexi Westingate
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