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Grow Your Garden in the Shade

It's rare that a garden or yard is fully engulfed in sunshine. But if you have shady areas in your yard where nothing seems to grow, you don't have to give up those dreams for color, drama and vibrant blossoms. There is a suprising variety of plants that actually thrive in the shade. Shade gardens can be every bit as beautiful sun-filled ones and shade gardens have some advantages. A cool and welcome hideaway out of the sun is a perfect spot for a tall ice tea and a good book or a lazy nap in the hammock.

The secret is knowing what to plant. Luckily, there are some great options. Ferns and hostas do well in shady spots, as do trees and shrubs like Dogwood, Flowering Maple, Boxwood, Myrtle, Bush Honeysuckle and St. John's Wort. Many creepers and vines are also shade lovers. English Ivy, Boston Ivy, and Fox Grape are just a few. There are some annuals you can plant in the shade as well. Wax begonia, impatients, and periwinkle all like the shade. Bulbs that don't like too much bright light include lilies, hyacinth, daffodils, bluebells and trillium. You can also plant perennials like Marsh Marigold, Lily of the Valley, Astilbe, Clematis, Primrose, pansy and Lamb's Ears. The Astilbe's feathery plumes may look fragile but this hardy perennial is the perfect choice for areas that don't drain well because it likes consistently moist soil. The bigroot geranium doesn't mind heat or drought and in addition to doing well in shady areas, it is unappealing to rabbits and deer. Another deer and rabbit resistant shade plant is the Epimedium. The groundcover blooms in spring in shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple or white and it tolerates dry shade while remaining unappealing to unwelcome garden nibblers.

Hostas are among the showiest and easy-to-grow shade loving plants. They also offer the most variety of any of the multiple shade plants. There are miniatures that remain only a couple of inches wide or giants that sprawl six feet across. They have leaves in shades of green, blue, white, chartreuse and gold; some variegated. A great choice to plant near your Hostas and Astilbe is the dainty-looking yet hardy Bleeding Heart. It will give you pink or white heart-shaped flowers in late spring and early summer. Then, when it goes dormant and loses its foliage, the hostas and Astilbe will provide cover so you don't have bare spots in the garden. Toad Lilllies put on a great fall show and their unique flowers are often compared to orchids. They are easy to grow and would look great behind a clump of medium-sized hostas or fern-leafed bleeding hearts.

For an added effect, consider adding a water feature to your shade garden. A bubbling fountain, a trickling waterfall or even a small pond will help make the area special and a soothing place to spend time. You can make it a little oasis for the birds that visit your garden by adding a birdhouse, birdfeeder or even a birdbath - all of which will be good for the birds and good for your garden.

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