Five Things You Need To Know About Outdoor Shade
The great thing about having shady areas around your home is that they provide instant relief from the hot summer sun. You can sit under a tree, or lounge underneath your favorite patio umbrella, or find that perfect spot on your garden wall that's nice, shady and cool. But how do you decorate a shady area? Despite some misconceptions, there's a lot of shade-loving plants with different foliage, colors and even flowers that bloom without much sunlight.
How Shade Happens
Shady areas around your home can be caused by many factors. Your geographical region could have limited sunlight during the year, but typically, the conditions around your home can be the cause of a shady environment. Structures like a pergola and sunbrella umbrellas, even your home itself, will cast strong, consistent shadows around your home, especially on the northern side of your house or building. However, the most common contributor to shade is likely to be created by trees. Large leaf or densely foliaged deciduous trees will cast a shadow as heavy as any structure. Even tall conifers can cast shade that can last throughout the year.
Knowing The Sunny Spots
It's important to learn just how much sunlight a given area will receive during the year before you invest in plant choices. It would be a waste of time and money selecting plants that need a lot of sun and placing them in areas that only get some sun for a couple of hours a day or a few days a month. Study the area over the course of a few days. Better yet, study and take notes over a season. Knowing how sun and shade affect your outdoor areas is super important for a successfully planned landscape. You could take photographs during different times of the year for a visual record of the sun and shade as the seasons change. You're going to need some patience, but will be worth it when you've got the perfect landscaping and decorating plan.
How Much Shade is Shady?
Shade gardens can be separated into three, rather obvious, categories. An area that is considered to be under "Heavy" shade is most likely on the north side your home structure, or in and area with tall trees or heavy canopy. There will be very little to no sunlight reaching the ground. "Light" shade areas can typically receive approximately four to six hours of direct sun per day, or where dappled or separated light can get through tree canopies. Finally, "Medium" shade areas fall, to varying degrees, between the two categories.
Decorating in the Shade
Under Heavy shade you'll probably find that you don't have enough light to grow plants. You can cover the ground with non-plant materials like mulch, stones, recycled decorating glass or even pine needles. Keeping the ground or floor consistent and tidy will make your shady spot a much more inviting space. Create sitting areas with some stone or wood benches for both resting and visual appeal. Lighted water fountains are great for heavy shade areas as well, and can really brighten up what was considered a "dead" space.
For Light and Medium shade areas, where you can use plants, you've got to make the decision whether the area is going to be a visual focal point, or an area that you would like to fade into the background. This will help you to decide on the range of plants, like flowering or foliage rich, that you can use in the space. Generally, in the case of medium to light shade, some foliage plants that thrive range from small leaf varieties, like vinca minor (periwinkle) to showy, large leaf plants like hosta (plantain lily). Both of these plants flower, but best of all, their leaves last throughout the season.