new! slideshow of my 54 top shade plants

under apple peak 2
SHADE IS A TRICKSTER, CAPTURING AND RELINQUISHING territory as years pass and woody plants grow—or are damaged or lost. Twenty-five years into gardening on one site, some former “shade gardens” here now bake, and even more spots that were sunny—well, you get the changeable, unpredictable picture. Thankfully, for the latter areas, I have old clumps of lower-light plants to divide, including those in this new slideshow of my top 54 shade subjects. I included some woodland-garden shrubs and trees for those seeking to manufacture some shade of their own—or wanting to add more understory structure to what nature has provided.

Other Views on Shade:

The Garden Designers Round Table

WHEN THE BLOGGERS’ GROUP called Garden Designers’ Round Table invited me to be the guest blogger in this month’s installment of their regular cross-blog get-together, I was surprised. You know my limited garden design expertise is centered on one tenet: Look out the window. (Well, maybe two, the second being: Buy a lot of plants. Tee hee.) The other participants in this event know a whole lot more about how to make a garden; you can see all their takes on shade by following the links in the box below (some links may not be live till later Tuesday morning).

CLICK THE FIRST THUMBNAIL to start the slides, then toggle from image to image using the arrow keys on your computer or the arrows next to each caption. I’ve arranged the plants alphabetically, and those I have profiles of here are listed below the thumbnails with links.

An Alphabetical Tour of 54 Favorites for Shade

Plant Profiles of Shade Subjects

Shade Perennials




Deciduous Shrubs

Deciduous Tree

More Help in the Shade

Other Takes on Shade: The Roundtable Links

FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW to visit the blogs of the Garden Designer Round Table regulars, from around the United States and even England, and get their takes on shade.

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

June 28, 2011


  1. says

    Thank you Margaret for such an inspiring post! I have some of these plants but wish I had more property so I could try all of them. Your gardens are just beautiful, and your photos are lovely. Thank you for such a detailed post about shade plants. I’ll be referring to it often.

  2. says

    Wow you’ve given us an entire garden!
    A shade garden!
    Lots of faves here, icluding surprise surprise CS!
    Thanks so much for joining us – we r HONOURED!

  3. says

    I started out just to look at a few of your plants… and before long I was at the end of the slideshow. What a wonderful collection you have. I found some of the plants in my woods…that I couldn’t identify…Thanks

    By the way, I just received two of the copies of your new book. I bought one for my daughter, who lives in both DC and Wi. She is wanting to retire to her lake home in a few years…thought this book would be right up her alley. I just started reading it…love it. Balisha

  4. says

    Hello Margaret! While in Connecticut last week (my first time!) I had the privilege to pal around with Andrew Keys who mentioned he was possibly going to visit your beautiful garden. Yes, I was a teensy (okay, a lot) jealous to say the least! After reading this post and seeing all of your gorgeous photos I now feel like I’ve visited your garden, too! Thanks for contributing to our group!

  5. Matriarchy says

    Watched the slide show yesterday, and today I spotted a golden Hakone grass at a nursery. Mine! After wanting one for the past few years of reading about yours. :-)

  6. Karen says

    I am in awe of the beauty. When I look at your slideshow, I feel the stress drain from my body. I have a formerly full sun garden spot by my drive which now is mostly shade thanks to my neighbor’s beautiful mimosa tree. It is a challenge, but thanks to you I now have some ideas. We will now be able to cohabitate. Seasons do indeed change. It’s what makes life wonderful.

  7. Dixie says

    Love the slideshow and made notes (local nurseries rejoice!). Would like to add biokovo geranium as a ground cover, blooming in June here, loving shade or sun and lean soil. Want a clump?

  8. says

    That first shot “under apple peak 2″ is to die for and then every shot in the slide show is just as great.

    You actually just made me wish I had some more shady bits to my garden (and was back in the north east) which is something no one else could possibly manage!

    • says

      Hi, Amy. My house and the sheds are a very, very dark olive from Benjamin Moore called Tuscany Green and the trim is really an orange color — but it’s called Merlot Red (also from Moore). Nothing the least bit wine-colored about it, promise.

  9. Louise says

    Thank you! I know now why my Hakonechloa All Gold is miserable. Weed overgrew it. I will move it to the front. And it’s time to dream of more plants for my part shade garden.

    • says

      You’re welcome, Louise. The All Gold is tough once established — a big clump will fend off most anything else, but when it’s young it needs time to acclimate.

  10. Sandy Otton says

    Can’t think of a better way to start the new year than by looking at gorgeous photos of plants & gardens. Thanks for the slideshow.

  11. says

    You show us all those delicious pictures of spring and talk about patience – no fair.

    Three of my faves for shade are not mentioned: Diecntra eximia, Fern leaf bleeding heart blooms from April until October here in Wisconsin; Adiantum venustum Himalayan maidenhair fern with its lacy fronds of tiny leaflets and Cryptotaenia japonica ‘Atropurpurea’, Purple-leaved Japanese Wild Parsley (part shade) for its showy purple bronze stems and leaves.

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