Hello, I have a shaded courtyard of size 3 meters by 3 meters. The space is almost always shaded throughout the day with a slight sun in a small portion. I would like to have a Japanese style garden with Japanese maple, large rocks, and moss. Are there any other plants or flowers that would grow well in Toronto, in such a space that would match? Thank you.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners. The amount of light in your courtyard is a very important consideration when planning your Japanese garden. It sounds like the amount of light there falls somewhere between total shade and partial shade. Plants in total shade will receive very little if any direct sunlight at any time during the day. Plants in partial shade will receive direct sun for approximately 2-4 hours with at least half of the day spent in shade. When choosing your plants you will also need to consider the type of soil you have (clay, sand, loam) and how it might need to be amended before planting eg. with compost, and whether the plants will be in dry or moist shade.
You are considering a Japanese maple for your garden and there are many cultivars to choose from. There some that are quite small, approximately 1.5m in height, and some that grow in almost full shade. Their leaves come in various shapes and colours. Here is an article from Landscape Ontario with information about planting and caring for Japanese maples, that includes a list of cultivars that are usually commonly available in garden centres in Ontario.
Here is a Gardening Guide from the Toronto Master Gardeners that might be helpful : Perennials for Shade in Dry or Moist Areas. It includes lists of plants that you might want to consider, flowering plants (eg. Astilbes, Anemones) as well as plants grown for their beautiful foliage in so many shapes, sizes and colours (eg. Hostas, Ferns).
You might also want to consider ornamental grasses for your Japanese garden. Here is an article from Gardenmaking and one from the University of Illinois Extension, with lists of grasses that can be planted in shade. I think that Japanese forest grass in particular is really lovely.
Good luck with your new Japanese garden !