The Pleasures of Bright Shade Gardening

When you think of gardening, it may be that the first thing to spring to mind is a sunny border, bursting with bright flowers.

Crocus We humans respond naturally to warmth. But think about those hot summer days when just standing in the sun long enough to water the herbacious border is enough to make you swoon! That's the time of year that I most appreciate my shade garden, beneath the cool of the plum trees and walnuts.

People often mistakenly think that the possibilities of growing flowers in the shade are limited. Though this can pose a problem in truly deep shade gardens, the filtered light most landscaping trees provide creates the ideal environment for an outstanding array of flowers and bulbs.

Hostas offer bold foliage in every shade of green with gold and white accents. They send up gladiolus-like stalks of pastel blooms and look wonderful paired with Columbines. Columbines ( Aquilegia ) come in the most charming bi-colors, offset by geranium-like foliage. And speaking of geraniums - most of them burn in full sun. But in dappled shade, all the regulars like Martha Washingtons and Zonal Geraniums thrive. And don't forget the under-appreciated species geraniums that we're always raving about here at Bulb & Bloom. Bloody Cranesbill, Johnson's Blue and literally dozens of other species geranium varieties will bloom non-stop with almost no care.

For height, try Abutilon, sometimes called Flowering Maple. Bells of gold, white, apricot and ruby glow like lanterns on these sturdy shrubs. They can stretch up to 12 feet in height, so plant where they've got room to grow. An excellent vine for shade is Lonicera, that good old Honeysuckle everyone loves for its heady fragrance.

Obviously, if your shade is the result of deciduous trees, your garden has much more sun in early spring, come bulb time. But even if your shade comes from structures or evergreens, many bulbs still suit. Daffodil bulbs can be planted by the score in dappled shade, as can snowdrops and crocus. Some tulip bulb varieties tolerate more shade than others. Species tulip bulbs are less finnicky than many of their hybrid cousins. Imagine these treasures sprouting amidst a pool of Viola Odorata, Sweet Violets.

Well, the list goes on and on. Check your local nursery or on-line nursery for more shade garden inspiration. You'll find blooms for 3 seasons of the year, we're certain. And on those sweltering days, you'll be cool as a cucumber doing the daily watering!