Posted: 28/09/2012 at 11:53
I'll play devil's advocate. I'd say paint the rest of the wood either the same colour or the same sort of colour just a few shades lighter. Then plant lots of plants with silver variegation - i.e. plants that have silver or white streaks / stripes / blotches in their leaves. And plants with white and light-coloured flowers. What you'll have is an extremely sophisticated black and white garden with plenty of green. Check out these photos I took at the Chelsea flower show a few years ago, this is the sort of effect I mean. Of course, it's not everyone's cup of tea, so just think about what sort of things you like and take it from there.
For the lawn, if you prefer to have one at all, make sure you choose a special seed mixture for shady areas. Geraniums, some roses that tolerate shade, japanese anemones are all great in my north-facing border, and my soil is good enough for pottery it's got so much clay. When in doubt, just check the label, if it says it tolerates shade, give it a go. Check out the plant search feature under the plants tab on the gardenersworld website where you can select plants based on the soil and light conditions, then you can pick the ones you like the look of.