The Master Gardener’s Bookshelf
Glorious Shade: Dazzling plants, design ideas, and proven techniques for your shady garden
by Jenny Rose Carey
Review by Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener
Thought your gardening choices were limited in the shady areas of your yard or balcony? Think again. In Glorious Shade: Dazzling plants, design ideas, and proven techniques for your shady garden, Jenny Rose Carey shows how any shady spot can be a wonderful mix of textures, colors, flowers, and seasonal interest.
One of the first things one learns is that there are many diverse types of shade: full shade, part shade, edge shade, dappled shade, bright shade, or morning and afternoon shade. Shade also shifts daily and seasonally. Carey explains why gardeners need to understand these variations and shifts so they can create successful shade gardens.
In the introduction Carey says, “My shade garden is a constant source of joy to me.” You can see why in the next section where, for each season starting with spring, she walks readers through her shade garden, describing the conditions of the garden, what is happening in the tree canopy, the emerging plants, and seasonal gardening tasks. Carey highlights plants that provide seasonal interest, mentions interesting plant combinations, and offers suggestions for adding color, such as incorporating containers with spring-blooming flowers.
Once she has you hooked, Carey goes into the nitty-gritty of shade gardening, covering everything from creating healthy soil through the addition of organic materials, to planting techniques, including special considerations for planting under trees or next to buildings. She also covers plant maintenance, addressing watering, fertilizing, mulching, plant insects and diseases.
Carey discusses garden design and identifies several types of shade gardens (e.g., woodland gardens, rock gardens, xeric gardens) along with structural design components (e.g., paths, water features, ways to attract wildlife, or areas for children). She devotes considerable attention to choosing plants for the shade garden, starting with how to mix trees, shrubs, and other plants to mimic nature by planting in layers and explaining how including a diversity of species, especially plants native to your area, can create a healthy garden ecosystem.
Other considerations in plant selection include leaf shape, size, and color and overall plant size. Carey addresses the role of color in the shade garden and explains, for example, how to combine different shades of green to create a harmonious planting or bold contrasts. Next is an extensive list of shade plants, including trees and shrubs, vines, ferns, herbaceous perennials, tropicals, and annuals and their growing conditions. Some of the plants are native to our area, such as Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) and Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush). Along with the plant descriptions, Carey notes other helpful information, for instance when male and female plants are needed to set berries. See Lindera benzoin (Spicebush). For some plants she notes the potential for invasiveness, such as Mahonia bealei (Leatherleaf Mahonia) which is on Arlington County’s list of invasive plants. (See Invasive Plants in Northern Virginia for more information.)
Glorious Shade will help you make the most of any shady spot in your garden, whether existing or newly created. The text is engaging, the photos inspiring, and the layout makes it an easy-to-use reference. The sidebar plant lists are especially handy when looking for “the right plant for the right place,” whether plants that are native, deer-resistant, fragrant, or shade plants for wet or moist to wet soils. Gardeners without a shady spot may be inspired to create one.
Glorious Shade (Timber Press, Inc., 2017) is available from the Arlington Public Library and national booksellers.
Want to Learn More? Check out these shade gardening resources: