By Julie Martens Forney
Gardening in the shade has become a favorite activity in my yard. My garden offers part shade — direct morning sun for about 3 hours, dappled shade for an hour, and afternoon shade. I brighten afternoon shade with splashes of light from plants and garden art. Check out these techniques to turn on the light in shade gardens.
Add metal art and white flowers. A copper obelisk infuses the shadiest part of the bed with the gentle glow of reflected light. The white flowers of gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) also brighten things up.
Many gardeners shy away from loosestrife, which tends to run amok. That’s one plus for shade gardens: Lower light levels can curtail wandering plants. Due to low light, my gooseneck loosestrife has remained a tidy clump years after planting.
Count on leaf color. Shade gardens teach us the value of colorful leaves. Some of my favorite shade plants with colorful leaves: golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’), lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina), and Japanese painted fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’).
This plant trio glows and reflects light into shady areas. Next to the Japanese painted fern is European ginger (Asarum europaeum), whose shiny, leathery leaves also help reflect light.
Plants with gold leaves also bring a little dazzle to shade gardens. In my garden they include various coralbells, such as Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’, shown here with creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’). I also plant gold spiderwort (Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’), golden oregano, and a gold-leaf hosta.
These small touches brighten a shade garden. Try a few of these shade-lightening techniques in your own shady spots to turn up the light.