Shady Places Make for Creative Spaces

Last August I had the pleasure of touring one of the most delightful shade gardens I’ve seen. It gave me dozens of ideas for adding shade-loving plants to my landscape. Perhaps it will inspire you, too.

The towering trees that frame this stately Indianapolis property provide plenty of cooling shade in the summer…and offer plenty of gardening challenges. Instead of shunning the shade, the homeowners welcomed the opportunity to create a stunning landscape that didn’t take itself too seriously.

Gardeners know that planting in shade can be tricky because every shady spot is different. The key is to carefully match the plants to the site and to each other. This striking combination of chartreuse hostas and violet impatiens does just that.

The gardens featured more than just a nice selection of shade plants.  Marble statues, tall metal obelisks and other garden art added interest and even a touch of whimsy. I especially enjoyed the choice of ornamental grass to offset the stern expression on this planter’s face.

One of my favorite elements in the landscape was this happy hippo taking a shower amidst the flowers, shrubs and pink flamingos. The fountain added a delightful splashing sound that was especially refreshing on a late-summer morning. This island planting is both fun and functional–it separates the home’s lush backyard from a view of the asphalt driveway.

Like most well-placed kitchen gardens, this one was just steps from the door, but it has a delicious twist. Instead of being filled with vegetables and herbs, this “kitchen garden” featured dozens of hostas selected for their appetizing names. The big green leaves of ‘Java’ contrasted nicely with ‘Cookie Crumbs’. Small containers of ‘Peanut’ sat nearby ‘Lakeside Cupcakes’, ‘Squash Casserole’, ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ and ‘Tea and Crumpets’.

This charming sitting area may be the best use of shade in the entire garden. Who could resist grabbing a seat at the bistro? The painting, flowers, and table and chairs provide a quick kick of color to liven up the side of the garage. The garden’s musical theme is reflected in hosta names like ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, ‘Summer Music’ and, most appropriate for this Indianapolis landscape, ‘Hoosier Harmony’.


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