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I need some tried and tested ideas for shade loving decorative grasses and plants. I have a small area in our garden that is behind a fence and get sun for exactly 0% of the day. the soils not overly brilliant (quite a bit of clay) so this may cause an issue aswell. Any thoughts and ideas would be much appreciated. The space is around 1m by 1.5m




I'm new to gardening so there won't be anything too original here, but hellebores, hostas, ferns of varying colours. Aquilegias do well in our shade area, as do dicentra (bleeding heart) which inject some lovely colour in a very green area.


Also, if you're looking for climbers for the fence then the rose, Madam Alfred de Carriere and climbing hydrangea are good for shady areas.

Jess is in the Garden

Hi Jason,

As Lindsay says, Mme Alfred is a great and vigorous climbing rose (mine's trained on a north fence and in heavy but free-draining soil and diesvery well).

I also have 2 raised flower beds along the same north fence and have snail-resilient hostas (sum and substance), ferns, hellebores, vincas, pulmonaria, heucheras in one (lime greens/purples/whites) and have made the other bed ericaceous, with an acer palmatum, camellia and more hostas and ferns in it.

Separately I have a north bed with loads of bulbs (cyclamen coums for spring, cyclamen hederifolium for autumn, snowdrops, lily of the valley, the odd bluebell) as well as some ground cover lamiums, and geranium phaeums plus other shade loving perennial geraniums.

Also have some lovely golden Hakonechloa, a Japanese grass which tumbles and is very tough.

I had never bought stuff for partial or full shade before I had this garden, but found it really easy once I'd found this amazing mail order site called: - it's really well designed with easy to browse alphabetical categories, good info and photos. Worth spending some time reading and seeing what you like best. 

Their delivery was excellent and all the plants I ordered were in great condition too.

Enjoy your shady patch!



Theres no better grass for,shade than acorus ogon.  Yellow, tough and evergreen. However, plant hackanochloa.  This is truly lovely.  another beautiful yellow grass is Bowles golden grass....yellow stems, leaves and flowers. Mine are just beginning to flower now

Astrantias and astilbes as well as hostas will do well there....lovely contrast to ferns and grasses.  Heucheras ESP the yellow varieties will do well there. For summer colour pop in some busy lizzies....they will love it there. Arum lily is spectacular in the shade.....white spathes will light up that area during summer.

For ferns look,out for the Japanese painted fern...Athyrium.  I grow one called Ursulas red.....silvery grey leaves with red stems and veins.  Stunning thing.

Some shrubs for shade..hydrangea, skimmia and sarcoccoca.  

am sure others will pile in with other suggestions but you can make a very classy border there Jason


Jess is in the Garden

PS: also worth digging over your clay soil, removing any debris, stones etc, maybe even a few centimetres off the top, then breaking up the clods and back filling with Levingtons organic farmyard manure/compost mix - I did this to all my heavy clay beds and theresults were very good.

Another great north loving plant which I forgot earlier is clematis nelly moser...

Jess is in the Garden

Oooh yes Verdun - had forgotten skimmia! I have 2 in my shady bed and they flourish.

Thanks for the busy lizzie tip too - may try tht this year

thanks for all the tips everyone really helpful stuff in there, just got to try and decide what im going to put in now. then i can try and sort the mess of a lawn out, lol. Anymore ideas you think of will be greatly appreciated

Thanks again

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