Mini Shade Bed

On the north side of my house there is a tiny bed that was, until last autumn, swamped with yellow Lysimachia and Hostas. The Hostas always look lovely for a few weeks, but when the slugs and snails shred the leaves they are so ugly I usually cut them back. So this bed was bare for the rest of the year. What a waste! So I dug it up.

I spared a few hostas and certainly didn’t succeed in removing all the Lysimachia, but there was suddenly a whole new area for me; the rest of my garden is sunny, dry and hot, while this area is shady – except for a little morning and midday sun in June and July. And although stony, the ground retains moisture here. The pleasure of  putting in new plants began last autumn…

… In March I was a little worried, as there were very few signs of life, but by April a few Primulas and my Corydalis cheilanthifolia were flowering, and the Heuchera were sprouting new leaves. Only by May could I see real progress:

Shade Bed Early May


I chose three Heucheras: Mint Frost, Electra, and Kimono and a fourth was a free gift from the nursery: Cracked Ice. With the two Phyllitis scolopendrium and the Hostas there is lots of lovely leaf colour. And some Epimediums should produce nice ground cover too when they leaf out a bit.

Shade Bed Mid-May


By mid May the geraniums started to flower – on the right is a lovely pale-leaved Geranium phaeum ‘Lily Lovell’ –  a gorgeous purply blue. And the pinky white flower at the front is Primula sieboldii ‘Coshibori’.

By late May it was filling out nicely:


In the centre is the pretty Semiaquilegia ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ next to a blue Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’, and on the right is the Geranium sylvaticum ‘Album’ I showed you last Wednesday… pure white and very pretty!

When it gets very hot a potted Hydrangea bought in spring will find a cool spot nearby and if it weren’t for the mosquitoes (which are early and numerous!) I would be tempted to sit out there next to my clothes line and contemplate this shady oasis more often!

Do you have a favourite plant for the shade?

Here are some of the plants in this bed between late April and early June, including some of the Geraniums I have there, photographed especially for Eliza who also loves them in her garden! (This is an excellent way of keeping a record for myself, so forgive me for indulging!)

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44 thoughts on “Mini Shade Bed

  1. Oh, I love this little shade bed with lots of color and texture. My favorites are the two G. phaeums (I have only burgundy) and the Semiaguilegia, so delicate and pretty!
    I depend on ferns a lot in my shade beds and have a number of astilbes. You may not have space for giant hostas, but I find them to be more slug-resistant than the smaller ones. I have H. sieboldiana ‘Bressingham Blue’ and ‘Sum and Substance’ which is chartreuse/green. They are so huge, they gets lots of comments!

  2. Wow, this is lovely. I wish that my mere shadow didn’t wilt the flowers I’ve tried to plant.

  3. I find my shady spots very difficult as so many plants are much better in the sun so I found this post very interesting. Is the bed dry or moist? Most of my shade is dry. One plant that I love is Tellima grandiflora. Perhaps not for everybody but the bees love the flowers and it survives in very dry soil. Amelia

    • It is relatively moist, simply because it gets practically no sun for most of the year. Dry shade is trickier. I like Tellimas but don’t have any. I’m surprised they attract the bees. That is one downside of this bed… not much for the bees so far although the hover flies love the greraniums.

  4. Shade planting is my favourite, just as well as I have so much shade! Hostas ferns and heucheras form the backbone, but I like huge hostas to form a contrast with the ferns, they also have a contrast of texture. You have lots of lovely little plants in your border, I hope the geraniums don’t over run them as they can spread a lot.

    • I hope the geraniums will spread actually, as I don’t intend to add any other plants except for some snowdrops and crocus perhaps. I know that G. phaeum can spread like mad in the sun though, but it’s easy enough to remove. 😉

  5. Geraniums are so versatile and reliable garden plant, even in the shade. I love hostas, so do those slimy….. My current favourite shade loving plant (because its new!) is a variegated climbing Hydrangea ‘Miranda’.

  6. What a lovely spot you have created there! I like it very much. In my garden, there is only one tiny spot that I would consider a shade bed, it is hardly a bed in its own right. I have put two hostas there, but they are not showing yet. Maybe the slugs spotted them first?

  7. Your shade bed looks lovely and fresh. I’ve been looking for inspiration for some shady areas in the garden… I’ll definitely be adding some white geraniums after seeing yours.

  8. You have made such a delightful shade bed Cathy, I love it. Aren’ t Semiaquilegias gorgeous? I have never had much success with them. White foliage and flowers show up so well in the shade.

    • Yes, the semiaquilegia really is lovely, and lasted so long too. I have added a paler one to my list for this autumn, although I was adamant I would not put anything else in this bed…. just so tempting!

  9. When it is hot and sunny a shade bed makes you feel cool. I love your excellent choices for this bed. A shade area is one of my options for replanting my formal garden.

    • That sounds like a very good idea Christina, seeing as you have so much open ground for sunloving plants already. I’m sure you will be inspired on your trip to the States too!

  10. Well done, Cathy, I love the varied foliage and the dainty flowers. True, Hostas look horrid when the slugs get at them but they’re just fab foliage plants. I saw ‘Praying hands’ recently and think it’s very special. In the shade I grow Epimedium, ferns, Thalictrum, Heuchera, Tiarella but must admit I don’t have that many borders in the shade and if it’s usually too dry in the summer.

    • Hi Annette. All the rain we had on Monday brought out an army of slugs and the hostas look pretty tatty now! I’m amazed how quickly it happened. Even my cosmos and sunflowers in pots have been nibbled. Oh well, can’t be helped! I have Thalictrum in the full sun, but that would be an idea to add some height. Tiarellas are also a good idea.

      • Bet you heard me singing last night, Cathy, finally got the rain we needed so badly! Never mind the slugs…don’t have any hostas, well, just one miniature hosta actually. If you have Thalictrum in full sun, you probably have to water it as they’re such thirsty creatures. Is it ‘Elin’?

  11. I love the looks of the new shade bed – especially the G. phaeum varieties! The whole selection seems so well balanced; I remember letting my much-loved Epimedium get overrun by too-vigourous neighbors… ouch!

    • Oh dear, I think I have the same problem in another spot where my Epimediums have disappeared under a mass of foliage… I must give them some space! Yes, the G. phaeum are wonderful. Thanks Amy!

  12. Good plant selection – you’ve really given this bed a new lease on life. Very difficult to pick a single favorite shade plant. I’d say my top three are Virginia Bluebells, Wild Columbine, and Bleeding Heart.

    • Having seen the Virginia Bluebells in your photos I can understand why you like them. I have found it is easy to find spring flowers for the shade, but in summer it is just green, except for the Heuchera flowers.

  13. Oh your new planting is looking most attractive Cathy and will soon knit together. My favourite plants are shady characters so picking just one out is impossible but of late I’ve acquired some more epimediums 🙂 What a shame about the mosquitos 😦

    • The fresh Epimedium leaves are really adding to the effect in this bed now, so I hope they also spread a bit more. I pass this area several times a day, even in bad weather, as it is between the back door and the bins and compost bin! So it makes me smile whenever I walk past!

  14. I like your newly designed mini shade bed. I also have some hostas in my garden. I love the smell and the nice green leaves. Luckily there are no snails!

    • Hi Simone! Good to hear the snails are not feasting on your hostas…. mine are already on the menu. 😦 But the Heucheras are tough and obviously don’t taste nice, thank goodness!

  15. Your new planting is looking very happy and pulling away nicely. For a bit of vertical interest how about the shuttlecock fern? Ferns (all of them) are my faves for a spot of shade.

    • That’s a good idea Dorris. I have lots of them down in the rockery, so I will try and transplant one or two. 🙂 (I had to look up shuttlecock fern as I know them as ostrich ferns! 🙂 )

  16. Isn’t it fun clearing out and making room for new plants? I love doing that, and I’ve really missed it this year. We added two drought-tolerant Bougainvillea but otherwise I’m not planting anything new until the lawn is gone and the plans for replacing it are approved.

    I hope your mini shade garden fills out the way you hope. It sure looks nice to me, and it’s just barely getting started! Lovely.

    • It really was fun doing this Alys, and especially as it is so different to the rest of my garden! Bougainvilleas are such gorgeous plants. Isn’t it amazing that such lovely flowers can get by on so little moisture. Hope your plans get approved soon!

      • Thank you, Cathy. I got the packet in the mail yesterday, so now the real work begins. It’s tedious, but it will be worth it.

        It is amazing that beautiful plants can get by on so little moisture. Our Salvia (Mexican Sage) is the same. It’s also a magnet for bees and hummingbirds. Lots to recommend it.

  17. I love the idea of a mini-shade bed! What a great little spot carved out separately from the rest of the garden. I hate to just keep harping about the drought we’re experiencing, but it’s such a major factor in my thinking that I’m wondering if I’ll ever again look at some plants with the same enthusiasm that I once did. I love ferns of all kinds, and at one time had a very large number. Slowly over the years I’ve lost some of the shade areas and I’m not sure my garden is very hospitable to them right now. I also love begonias and coleus. At one time they were plentiful, too. I am fully on-board with adapting to current conditions, but I’m certainly having to think differently and learn new varieties. I would love just a small patch of more traditional shade plants! I miss them in my own garden. 🙂

    • I do feel for you Debra! I can’t imagine how I would cope if I were in your situation. I do hope that garden centres and nurseries adapt what they have on offer so you can find alternatives. 🙂

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