A shady border garden.

How to Make a Shady Border

A border set in deep shade can be a real bonus in the garden if you choose your plants carefully, because some of the most beautiful shrubs will only grow well in low light conditions. These areas may lack the drama of a sunny spot, but they have a cool and understated sophistication of their own.

When to start: Autumn.

At its best: Spring.

Time to complete: 2 hours for preparation, 3 hours for planting.

You will need: Spade, organic matter, such as well-rotted leafmold.

Shrubs such as: Camellia and flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum. Underplanting, for example, Bergenia, Dicentra spectabilis, ferns, and hellebores.

Before you plant

Many plants that grow well in shady conditions grow naturally in woodlands, and need a cool, moist soil, which has been enriched with leafmold. In autumn, clear the planting area of all weeds, then mix plenty of leafmold into the soil.

Dig planting holes

Buy your shrubs in autumn or spring, and plan carefully where you are going to plant them, taking into account their final size. The shrubs go toward the back of the border, with the underplanting below them and in front. The planting holes should be twice as wide and slightly deeper than the pots.

Check planting depths

Put some leafmold in the bottom of each hole and then place a plant on top of it. Use a stake across the hole to check that the plant will be at the same depth when planted as it was in its pot. Fill in around the plant with soil and leafmold, and water in well. Water regularly until the plant is established. Mulch with organic matter, like leafmold, leaving the area around the stems clear.

Tips: Beeding shrubs

Shrubs need regular feeding to thrive. Early spring is the best time to sprinkle a fertilizer, such as blood, fish, and bone meal, around the base of the plants. Repeat each year to keep growth vigorous and healthy.

Shade-tolerant shrubs that are grown for their flowers, such as camellias, need a little light. The selection below is best planted where some sun can filter through, such as near deciduous trees or a trellis.