3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Archive date:  April 20, 2009

Shade Gardening…and other shady topics

Set realistic goals when dealing with shade

With foliage filling out in the trees in our yards, it seems appropriate to discuss the most difficult landscape situation: shade.

We all enjoy the shade of a towering tree. The problem is, that favorable situation for humans is mostly unfavorable for plants. Plants need light. Most plants need mucho light. For those of us fortunate to be blessed with nature’s air conditioners in our yards, it takes a bit of extra research to get the most out of your landscape in a sunlight deprived area.

My most frequently asked question, “What’s the best grass for shade?” My answer is usually Big Blue Monkey Grass or Mondo Grass. Then the person will say, “No, I mean turfgrass, something I can mow…” Well you can mow your monkey grass…once a year.

There are no shade tolerant turf grasses. “But what about those Shady Lawn Grass Seed Mixtures?”, you ask… Unless you can find monkey grass or mondo grass seed, forget about seeding your heavy shade. So what’s a person to do?

Fortunately, we at Bates, work diligently at providing a diverse selection of shade tolerant plant material. We have everything from hardy fern to hosta to climbing hydrangea and much more.

I am fortunate to have many a talented soul here at Bates Nursery. One of my favorite people on the earth is Beth Flood. She is also my dear friend and plant aficionado extraordinaire. Beth is a wealth of knowledge and a lot of fun to be around. By the way, her garden and landscape is one of the featured events for the Lupus Foundation tour coming up in mid-May. We are a proud supporter of the Lupus Foundation and encourage you to take advantage of this rare opportunity to see what shade gardening is all about. I am biased, but Beth’s garden is unrivaled, plus she has a really cool home!

So without further adieu, I present to you, Ms. Nan Dina herself, Beth Flood:

Beth’s favorite small trees and shrubs for shade

Shade gardens are what I do at my own home and they are dear to my heart. Shade is frequently a dilemma to the less practiced gardeners. The largest problem, of course, is deciding what kind of shade you have. With professional gardeners tossing around shade words like encrypted messages your only help is to cry, “HELP!!”
Shade has huge variations. As you work with this shade stuff it will become clear to you that two feet can totally change the amount of light. You must, as we tell our first graders, “be a good observer!”
Even I, the woman who will try anything, know there are areas of shade so deep the only real rational response is a nice layer of rock and brick with a decorative coating of moss. Or simply ground cover, a subject I will cover another day.
Here are my explanations of and the abbreviations that will follow:

DS Deep Shade- the shade on the north side of a two story house or beneath evergreens.

BS Bright Shade- a shaded area brightened by reflected light from a light colored wall or concrete, or perhaps the reflection from moving water.

LS Light Shade- shade that comes and goes through larger trees or shrubs with times of direct shine down and cast a clear shadow.

FHS Full High Shade- shade beneath mature, high branched deciduous trees.

HS Half Shade- morning sun with total afternoon shade. Four hours of early morning summer sun will count easily as half shade. Full half day sun, especially afternoon sun, easily counts as full sun here in the south/ lower mid-west.

Small trees and large shrubs that can be limbed up as trees:

LS – HS Acer ginnala/ Amur maple
LS – HS Acer griscum/ Paperbark maple
LS – HS Acer japonicum/ Fullmoon maple
LS – HS Acer palmatum/ Japanese maple
BS – HS Acer var. dissectum/ Cutleaf Japanese maple
BS – HS Amelanchier x grandiflora “Autumn Brilliance”/ Serviceberry
LS – HS Asimina triloba/ Pawpaw
LS – HS Carpinus caroliniana/ American Hornbeam, Ironwood
BS – HS Crecis canadensis/ Redbud
BS – HS Chionanthus virginicus/ White Fringe Tree, Grancy Greybeard
BS – HS Cornus florida/ Flowering Dogwood (especially the Cherokee series)
BS – HS Cornus kousa
BS – HS Oxydendrum arboretum/ Sourwood
BS – HS Parrotia persica/ Persian Ironwood
FHS – HS Styrex obessia/ Fragrant Snowbell
BS – HS Viburnum prunifolium/ Blackhaw Viburnum
BS – HS Halesia tetraptera/ Carolina Silverbell
BS – HS Halesia diptera/ Two- Wing Silverbell


Ilex “Nellie R. Stevens” ”Fosteri” “Red Series”/ Holly
Magnolia grandiflora “little gem” (and others)
Magnolia virginiana/ Sweetbay Magnolia

Shrubs for shade, medium to large

DS – BS *Aucuba japonica /Gold Dust Plant
DS – HS Aesculus parylflora/ Bottlebrush Buckeye
DS – HS *Buxus/ Boxwood (all cultivars)
DS – HS Callicarpa dichotoma/ Purple Beautyberry
LS – FHS – HS Calycanthus floridus/ Carolina Allspice
LS – FHS – HS Clerodendron trichotomum/ Harlequin Glorybower
BS – HS Clethra alnifolia/ Summersweet
LS – FHS *Camellia Ackerman/ Hybrids
LS – FHS – HS Fothergilla gardenia/ Dwarf Fothergilla
LS – FHS – HS even BS Hamamelis/ Witchhazel (all cultivars)
BS – HS Hydrangea (all cultivars)
LS – HS Itea virginica/ Virginia Sweetspire
BS even DS to HS *Leucothoe (all cultivars)
LS – HS *Mahonia (all cultivars)
LS – HS *Pieris japonica (all cultivars)
LS – HS *Rhododendron/ Azalea
LS – HS *Sarcococca hookerana var. humilis confuse/ Sweetbox
DS – HS *Taxus/ Yew (all cultivars)

* Evergreen plants

As you can see, Beth is really thorough. We make an attempt to carry these plants mentioned, at all times, this is no easy task. We do have the great majority on hand now, as well as many more not mentioned. The weather is FINALLY beginning to warm a bit (we have all been very patient to this point), thankfully.

Thanks you for coming to us for all your “shady” advice needs!

Best Regards,

David Bates & Beth Flood (Ms. Nan Dina)

Oh by the way, for you shady types (and we know who you are) we are offering #3 Annabelle Hydrangea, regularly $31.99 now on special for just $19.99, through Friday, May 24, 2009.

And we won’t leave the sun-worshippers out, we have #2 Mint Julep and #2 Icee Blue Junipers regularly $24.99-$27.99 for $19.99, through Friday, May 24, 2009 as well.

We have a great selection of EVERYTHING!