In the years since we moved to our home on a lake near Edmonton, Alberta, I’ve learned a lot about partial shade gardening.
More precisely, I’ve learned a lot about partial shade, dappled shade, and shade gardening.
Today I’m sharing my top 5 perennials for a Zone 3a partial shade garden.
So what are the different types of shade? Well, according to a very helpful article I found at Lowes, here are three types:
- partial shade is when an area receives two to six hours of direct sun a day
- dappled shade happens when sunlight filters through trees (it shifts and changes throughout the day)
- shade is when no sunlight is present ever (in our case it’s due to the house)
Partial shade gardening did not come natural to me.
I grew up on a grain farm in the wide open prairies of Saskatchewan. I then spent most of my married life on an acreage in Alberta which was bordered by trees, but consisted of a huge lawn and a gigantic garden “out back.” And what an amazing garden it was! We grew every vegetable imaginable; peas, onions, carrots, beans etc. etc. In the later years I started growing sun-loving flowers such as strawflowers, sunflowers, amaranth, grasses, and grains. Everything grew with abandon! It was quite joyful.
When our children grew up and left home, we decided to build our (retirement) home on a small lake and everything changed. Suddenly we were surrounded by extremely tall trees, and a lot of shrubby undergrowth.
I was not deterred ;)
Before we left our acreage I dug up a few of my precious peonies … there was no way I was leaving them (and no one was the wiser.) I stuck them in a plastic pot and they sat at the construction site from April to July where they actually bloomed!
Now they reside in the part of the garden that I define as part shade/dappled shade, and are thriving. I must add here that peonies prefer cooler climates with a pronounced winter chill (and that would be an understatement here ;)
I can’t believe I don’t have a better photo of the peonies, but here you can see the garden is surrounded by trees, and note the dappled sunlight at the bottom:
My #1 choice of perennial for a part shade garden is definitely the peony, and I have four different types.
The hot pink variety with fewer petals:
… the dark pink and light pink variety with double petals:
… and then there’s this white peony. It’s the most fragrant and it’s positively intoxicating:
My #2 choice is the amazing and beautiful hosta.
I planted a few in a small triangular bed formed by the house and the garage. It gets lightly touched by the sun, early in the morning, in mid-summer. So basically, they’re growing in shade (obviously I need to get some better photos this year!)
Over the years I’ve added several other different varieties at the back of the house and they’re indispensable in this type of garden. The downside to Hostas are slugs (yuck) but they can be controlled with slug bait and/or by picking them off by hand and squishing them (yes I did just say that!)
My #3 choice is the quirky, hardy, and beautiful echinops.
Echinops is a tall plant which works beautifully at the back of the border. It thrives in dappled sunlight (which has always surprised me) and the thistle-like leaves stay attractive all summer. However, it’s the steel blue spherical flower heads that I absolutely adore. They are a bee magnet when they bloom and when harvested and dried they make the most fabulous winter bouquets! I have a few tips about growing and harvesting echinops coming up in another post.
My #4 choice is the glorious anemone (anemone sylvestris). It’s an early bloomer, can run a bit rampant (eventually) and is not bothered by pests or disease.
My #5 choice is the stately delphinium. It tends to need staking to keep it from flopping over, but aside from that one little annoyance, it’s absolutely unbeatable as a background player in the perennial garden.
I have to tell you it was extremely hard to pick only five perennials … argh. I have at least a dozen others that are feeling pretty left out at the moment, but I’ll feature them later … perhaps as my favourite perennials “at this moment” which is when they are blooming :)
So to recap:
My Top 5 Perennials For Partial Shade Gardening
Who else is dreaming of gardening?