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Create a stunning shade garden

By: Garden Gate staff
Learn the secrets to growing a colorful shade garden.

If you think a colorful shade garden is impossible, one look at this tree-filled Michigan back yard should change your mind. Once it was a lot full of weed trees and brush, but Melonie Ice cleaned it up and added the path you see in the photo. She might just have thrown in a few hostas and called it good. But instead, she created a tapestry of color. Let’s find out how it all went together.

Build a path

A path is a wonderful thing. It gives you an even walking surface and divides up the garden, making it simpler to plan and easier to get into for upkeep. Most natural woodland paths meander. They take you around tree roots and slow you down to enjoy the cool and quiet of the garden. But when you have to plan a path through your backyard woodland, it’s hard to know where it should go. Instead of drawing a straight line from point A to point B, let your path wander. Curves and loops, such as the figure-eight design of this garden path, are good.

Add some height

Start with low growers and creepers along the path and build from there. Make sure to add some tall plants to the garden. Their height bridges the visual gap between the lower plants and tree canopy making the trees seem less looming. In addition to the bottlebrush buckeye (Asculus parviflora) in the back of the garden, there are a few burgundy banana plants (Musa hybrid) in containers. The banana’s upright shape and broad leaves echo the tree trunks scattered throughout. The containers they’re planted in give them added height and make it easier to move them indoors to overwinter. Now let’s see what else you can do to make a shade garden great.

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