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Spend summer in the shade

We’d like to have a perennial garden, but we’ve moved into a place that has a lot of trees in the yard. We get some sun a couple of times during the day, but there is no place that gets full sun all day. What are some perennials that grow and bloom in part sun or shade?

Hosta shade

Hosta and spiderwort are two shade-loving perennials to add to a shady landscape.

In mid-summer, many gardeners might say you’re lucky to have those shady spots, where you can be outdoors but can stay out of the blazing July sun. Landscape designers know the benefits:

“A shade garden in the summer is a wonderful place to relax,” says landscape designer Mary Higgins, who owns Lavender Blue Garden Design in Middle Tennessee.

“I take care of a lot of gardens in the sun. When I get home, I find I get a lot of pleasure out of my shade garden. The sunny garden takes work. The shade garden is a place I can actually sit and read, relax and slow down, even on a hot day.”

There are plenty of plants that can thrive in areas that don’t get full sun. Higgins and other gardeners suggest the many varieties of hosta,  rhodea, Japanese anemone, all kinds of hardy ferns, Jacob’s ladder, plumbago, Solomon’s seal. Aucuba is a reliable shrub that thrives in shady locations. “Right now, Helleborus is my favorite plant for the shade,” Higgins says. “It looks good every season, it never wilts, and it multiplies on its own. It’s perfect.”

Many shade-loving perennials are grown for their striking foliage rather than flowers, but there are several summer-blooming perennials and shrubs that enjoy a bit of shade in the heat of the day. Hydrangeas have a top spot on Higgins’ most-favored list. “There are hardier varieties that don’t wilt so quickly in our Middle Tennessee heat. The variety called ‘Limelight’ is stunning,” she says.

Also among the spring and summer bloomers are goat’s beard, Spigelia (also called Indian pink), cardinal flower, hardy begonia, spiderwort and sweet flag. For added interest, place a birdbath in the garden to bring feathered companions into your shade paradise. “It’s just magical,” Higgins says.

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