How to Bring Light Into Shady Garden Spaces

Some corners of the garden seem to be in a state of perpetual darkness. Cast into shade by a nearby building, shed, or even the shadow of your own house, these areas present a unique and difficult gardening challenge. If you're looking to lighten up a deeply shaded corner of your garden, here are some creative ways to use color and light that will make the whole area seem brighter.

Whiten to Brighten

Whether it's walls, arbors, trellises, or patio furniture, using dark colors in a shady space will only add more doom and gloom to the area. If you are surrounded by surfaces that you have permission to alter (walls, fences, etc.), use a white or bright color of exterior paint to lighten up the area. Not only will this make a dramatic impact on the amount of light the space receives, but it will also provide a great backdrop to showcase the color and texture of your plants. If you don't have the option to paint, you can still instantly transform the area just by adding some white or neon colored chairs, light colored containers, or even by using a removable white canvas curtain as a backdrop.

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Reflect the Light

Mirrors are wonderful design tools. By bouncing light around a space, they open them up visually and make them feel larger. Mirrors reflect light, but they also reflect views (good or bad), so when hanging them, think about what you'll be reflecting. Small mirrors are great for dark spaces, and nearby plants will appreciate the extra light. Use a light-colored picture frame to hide a mirror's edges and bring even more light into the space.

Add Light-Colored Rocks

Light-colored rocks are another way of adding color to dark spaces and a nice way to add detail to garden borders. To mulch around plants in containers, use white gravel, glass marbles, or an assortment of light-colored shells.

Plant in Pale Colors

Choosing plants with pale foliage and light-colored flowers will make a deeply shaded area seem much brighter. Examples of perennials well suited to heavily shaded areas:

  • Elephant-ears (good border plant; red or rose-pink flowers; blooms in spring)

  • Goatsbeard (tall; creamy-white feathery flowers; blooms in early summer)

  • Goutweed (variegated foliage; grows anywhere; fast-growing ground cover)*

  • Hosta (good foliage plants; use for accent plants, groundcovers, rock gardens)

  • Lamium, also called 'deadnettle' (versatile groundcover; striking silver foliage; white or pink flowers)

  • Lily-of-the-valley (sweet smelling spring flower; good ground cover; delicate white flowers)*

  • Masterwort (tall background plant; clusters of star-like red or white flowers; blooms early to late summer)

  • Primrose (available in multiple bright colors; great in rock and woodland gardens, mixed flower gardens and front borders)
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  • Pulminaria (great ground cover; striking silver spotted leaves with delicate pink flowers that turn blue as they age)

  • Snakeroot (tall, dramatic background plant; dark leaves and spires of tiny, creamy-white flowers; blooms from summer until late fall)

  • Solomon's Seal (slow growing; graceful stems with creamy-white bell flowers followed by shiny, blue-black berries)

*Can become invasive if not controlled.

Use climbers that thrive in shade to brighten up a dark wall or fence. Again, choosing plants with pale-colored flowers or variegated foliage will help make the area seem brighter.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

Comments

August 5, 20100 found this helpful

Great advice, will try some of these under our tree. I like the light colored rocks idea in particular.

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