An Urban Shade Garden

Services|Design & Install, Garden Care
  • The Site

    A shady front garden in one half of a double.

  • The Task

    Design a low-maintenance shade garden to coordinate with the full-sun garden planted by the other half of the double.

Alison Chestovich lives with her dog Milo in a large, two-story double. The shared yard presented a unique challenge when designing: how to harmonize the new garden with the plantings on the other half of the yard, which has completely different sun and soil conditions? Because she isn’t a gardener and has a busy schedule, Allison also requested a low-maintenance garden that is restful and low-contrast. Fortunately, that’s a good fit for shady conditions.

Before
Before
After
After

The garden’s mature ash tree is a rarity in central Indiana these days. Unfortunately, the shade from this stunning tree limits planting options. We couldn’t use many of the full-sun plants growing next door, although we were able to incorporate the same oakleaf hydrangea that the neighbor used.

Hosta cultivars
Hosta cultivars
Hydrangea quercifolia
Hydrangea quercifolia
Astilbe arendsii
Astilbe arendsii
Physocarpus opulifolius
Physocarpus opulifolius
Itea virginica
Itea virginica
Previous
Next

Dry shade is just about the toughest condition, so we chose plants that could handle it. The plants immediately around the tree were chosen for driest shade tolerance, while those that need more moisture are sited farther away from the tree. We echoed the full-sun pinks and purples from next door and the burgundy of the house trim with shade-tolerant ninebark and astilbe. A mulched path invites close-up viewing of astilbe and winter-blooming hellebore. The east side of the house gets considerably more sun but is dry and rocky, so we used tall feather reed grass and sedum to soften the view of the neighbor’s drive in this very narrow space.

The result is a harmonious, low-maintenance garden that ties the two properties together and provides Alison and Milo a restful reprieve from the city.