North facing aspects which do not receive direct sunlight can take a little extra thought to plant. There are, however, a large collection of shade tolerant shrubs and perennials that will do just fine in a shaded area, provided soil conditions and moisture levels are suitable.
North-facing walls can be softened with a number of shade-tolerant climbers: Schizophragma integrifolium is a deciduous, slow-growing, self-clinging climber with attractive creamy-white flowers, while Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’ AGM produces lovely flat heads of rose-flushed flowers. Several varieties of clematis flower freely in a shady area including Clematis ‘Silver Moon’, a large-flowered hybrid with silvery-mauve flowers that bloom throughout the summer and Clematis ‘Dawn’ a compact variety which requires shade to maintain the colour of the pearly-pink blooms, which also make good cut flowers. Clematis montana ‘Grandiflora’ is also excellent on a shady wall and will provide abundant white flowers in May-June. For container growing in a northern aspect try the free-flowering Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’; this variety does not like full-sun and given the correct growing conditions will reward you with an abundance of small creamy-yellow flowers.
A useful evergreen for a northern aspect is Fatshedera lizei ‘Variegata’: a small to medium sized shrub, its large, leathery leaves, patterned with an irregular, creamy margin provide year-round interest and colour.
There are several roses that are tolerant of a northern aspect including Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’, a climbing rose with an elegant arching habit, soft pink blooms and strongly scented aroma, and Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’, an English shrub rose with nicely-shaped rosettes in a soft shade of yellow that carry a delicate tea and myyrh fragrance. Other choices for a shaded area include Rosa ‘Crown Princess Margareta’, Rosa ‘A Shropshire Lad’ and Rosa ‘James Galway’.
For shaded areas that are also dry, Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley), with its sprays of nodding, fragrant white, bell flowers, is an excellent choice along with Dicentra Formosa ‘Spring Magic’, a delicate, early spring perennial offering beautiful salmon-pink flowers. Lamium maculatum ‘Red Nancy’ and Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’ are also excellent choices to introduce perennial colour to a dry, shaded area. Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ makes good ground cover, with its evergreen heart-shaped leaves and buttercup-yellow flowers in the spring.
A visit to Larch Cottage Nurseries shade garden will give you a fantastic range of ideas for planting in a moist, shaded area. Here you will see the large, green foliage of Rodgersia Podophylla AGM, complemented with delicate cardamines, corydalis and anemones. Scopolia carniolica offers beautiful, deep, purple blooms in spring, before the appearance of the extremely decorative Veratrum viride with its handsome, pleated leaves and large plumes of lime-green flowers in summer.
Other excellent choices for moist, shaded areas include Arisaema sikokianum, also known as the cobra lily, it has intense purple and delicately-striped spathes with snow-white cupped flowers in summer; Asplenium scolopendrium AGM or hart’s tongue fern will provide year-round colour with its bright green, wavy -edged fronds.
In an area of full shade Trillium grandiflorum is an excellent choice, it provides large, dark green leaves and attractive white flowers that turn pink with age; Helleborus orientalis ‘yellow lady’ is a good choice too: an evergreen perennial, it has clumps of dense, divided foliage and lovely nodding heads of yellow flowers from December to April.
With so many options available, having a north-facing, shaded wall or border in your garden is a fabulous opportunity to explore the range of interesting and unusual plants that will tolerate a lack of sunlight while rewarding you with colour, structure and texture throughout the year.
Blog post written by Jo Chamberlain