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Divide and conquer! That's a surefire way to improve any shady backyard. Here, simple pavers create a sense of purpose and destination among a mass of hostas and other foliage plants.
Test Garden Tip: Repeating the terra-cotta color of the pavers with coleus helps integrate the path into the landscape -- and provides a secondary splash of color.
Every lawn grass -- even those labeled as shade-tolerant -- struggles if it doesn't get enough light. So instead of fighting a big patch of fading grass, keep only a small section of turf and make it a landscape element by surrounding it with a wide swath of shade-loving plants. Or give up the grass and select shade-loving groundcovers.
Shades of yellow and gold shine in the shade -- so take advantage of them to illuminate dim spots. Here, golden Japanese forestgrass creates a perfect complement to a hosta and gold-leaf 'Chardonnay Pearls' deutzia.
Take advantage of low-growing groundcovers that crowd out weeds to make your shade garden easier to maintain. As an added bonus, many varieties provide an attractive carpet of color (such as this golden creeping Jenny, which practically glows underneath a planting of blue hostas, purple coleus, and black mondo grass).
We typically think of perennials such as hostas for shade gardens -- but don't forget about the wide selection of flowering shrubs to pack your shady spots with color, texture, and height. Here, a variety of azaleas and rhododendrons provide a big spring punch, and their evergreen foliage keeps the garden looking good in winter.
Edge your beds and borders with an interesting material. Here, Japanese forestgrass gives the border a stunning color and texture. Look for fun architectural elements, as well, such as terra-cotta pots, old boots, or other objects that reflect your personality.
Test Garden Tip: Hostas usually have a coarse texture, so you can't go wrong by mixing them with fine-textured plants.
Test Garden Tip: Planting en masse doesn't necessarily mean growing only a single variety. Here, several selections of astilbe combine for even more interest.
Grow vines to add an extra layer of color to your shade garden. Smaller vines, such as clematis, are often happy to scramble up the trunk of small- to medium-sized trees. Bigger vines are ideal for covering a wall or creating a privacy screen.
Test Garden Tip: Three of the best vines for shady spots are Dutchman's pipe, climbing hydrangea, and Virginia creeper.
Test Garden Tip: Go a step beyond this in your yard by mixing materials for a path. For example, replace a few of the pavers and use bricks, wood rounds, or other objects as stepping-stones.
Create layers to keep your garden interesting. Many shade gardens feature relatively low perennials, such as hosta, bleeding heart, and astilbe, underneath a canopy of tall trees. Bridge the gap by using tall planters or architectural features such as pillars, or grow shade-tolerant trees and shrubs to provide your garden with a variety of heights.
Maximize the power of color in your shade garden by choosing only one or two hues. This garden, for example, relies on tones of pink and burgundy from hydrangea and impatiens and Japanese maple foliage. With the wide range of shade plants available, you can create a theme in almost any color.
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