Great Garden Plans: Made in the Shade

This compact garden design brings colorful texture to a shady nook by utilizing ornamental plants that thrive on minimal sunlight.

Photo by Holly Neel

Shady garden areas are among the most challenging for gardeners. While brightly hued blooms often play second fiddle in a shade garden, the real standouts are perennials, shrubs, and trees with colorful foliage and interesting textures or forms.

For this near-symmetrical shade garden, the designer combined multiple leaf textures to create a cool, calming space meant to flank a walkway or garden path. Plant this 21-by-23-foot shady nook at the front or rear of a home, or next to a patio or deck. All the plants found in this garden require less than four hours of sun per day and are cold-hardy down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.


  1.  Emperor I® Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) ‘Wolff ’ (1)
  2. Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) ‘All Gold’ (6)
  3.  Emerald Spreader® Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) ‘Monloo’ (6)
  4.  Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) ‘All Summer Beauty’ (6)
  5.  Coral bells (Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia) ‘Palace Purple’ (6)
  6.  Hosta (Hosta) ‘Golden Tiara’ (6)
  7. Hosta (Hosta) ‘Blue Angel’ (6)
  8. Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) (12)
  9. northern Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina var. angustum) ‘Lady in Red’ (11)

Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners,” an award-winning radio program, and is a regular contributor to multiple national gardening magazines. This is an excerpt from her book Gardener’s Guide to Compact Plants (Cool Springs Press).


Gardener’s Guide to Compact Plants Edibles & Ornamentals for Small-Space Gardening

If you’re searching for plants that require less room and effort than traditional garden greenery, give compact plants and dwarf shrubs a try. This book will help you discover cultivars that are perfect for space-challenged gardens. The title is available at our store, or by calling 800-456-5835. Mention promo code MHGPAKZ5. Item #9964.



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