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Dig Right Minute

Shady spots in landscapes and on patios provide a unique opportunity to use design, texture, size and blooms in creating lush, serene surroundings where you and your plants can soak up the shade!

1. Think of your soil as a palette.
Just like artists use hue, texture, shape and size to bring blank surfaces to life, gardeners can use those same elements to plant stunning shade gardens. Shade-loving hosta plants, for example, come in all kinds of varieties, some with giant leaves (like the aptly-named Elephant Ears hosta) as well as others with highly textured, more delicate-looking leaves. Hosta leaves also vary in color; blue-green and blue leaves tend to grow better in shady areas than leaves with gold color, which are more suited for sunny and partly-sunny places. You can combine different varieties of hosta plants or combine different types of shade-friendly plants, in varying heights, shapes and variations of color.

2. Cover new ground.
Groundcovers, too, come in a variety of colors, textures and shapes. Think of it like shopping for carpet: choose what appeals to your own tastes.  “Buy what you like” is a garden mantra that is perennially (no pun intended) true. Pachysandra is one popular ground cover for shady areas, because these plants can grow up to a foot tall. Lily-of-the-Valley plants, which bloom with fragrant white flowers in early May, are great fillers for shady soils. Different varieties of sedum – which resemble succulents in some ways – also do well in shade.

3. Branch out.
One increasingly popular type of garden is a woodland shade garden, in which layers of plants and shrubs are built up under the canopy of trees. The tree is the focal point of the woodland garden, providing the shade needed for ground covers and shrubs that are shade-tolerant.  Another way to enhance the visual interest of areas of full-shade or part-shade is to add evergreens and conifers, which have the added bonus of lending some privacy.

4. Always call before you dig!
Whether you’re planting trees, shrubs, groundcovers or plants, it’s important to see what you’re getting into before you put that shovel into the ground.  After all, you may not know the depth of utility lines in the area where you’re planting. Call JULIE at 811 or log onto JULIE’s www.Illinois1Call.com website and fill out an e-request. It’s free and crucial to avoid hitting underground lines, even in areas where you assume it’s safe to dig.

Dig Right Minute
by Tony Abruscato
Director, Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Sponsored in part by JULIE, The Chicago Flower & Garden Show presents realistic, as well as DIY solutions to inspire, educate and motivate gardening enthusiasts and newbies alike.  Blooming at Navy Pier - March 12-20, 2016.