Hello I live in Guildwood, Scarborough and keep digging up lawn to replace with something. The latest is that we dug up the area by the deck on the North side of the house and built 4 ft by 4ft frames, with open bottoms. On the east side, it’s almost constant shade. On the west side, it get some afternoon sun for a couple of hours and more sun until the neighbour’s walnut tree comes out. I need suggestions for a small shrub or grasses or perennials that might survive there. Thank-you. Sue
These will become very attractive raised beds! As the beds flank the centre stairs, so you may want to plant identical plants in each bed, for symmetry (or not!). Although it sounds like the bed on the west side of the yard gets more sun than the other one, consider planting shade-loving plants in both.
As we do not know your taste, will provide you with several options that should be of interest. You may want to view photos of some of these plants online, or take the names to your garden centre, so you can see (and buy) specimens that interest you. You may also find interesting plants and gardens in your neighbourhood, or a walk through the Toronto Botanical Garden may give you a few ideas.
Think about how the beds will look throughout the season – try and select plants that will provide interest from spring through fall. Do you want blooms in one or two colours, or a variety? Do you want perennial/grass foliage that is dark or light green, or variegated? Generally, smaller plants should be planted toward the front of the bed, with larger ones tucked in behind. At the very back, a climbing vine might be of interest.
Here are some helpful links:
- Perennials for shade in dry or moist areas: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide
- And as for shrubs, Penn State University Extension’s Shade tolerant trees, shrubs and groundcovers has some great ideas, as does Gardening Know How’s Shade-loving shrubs. Azaleas or rhododendrons will add a splash of colour to the spring garden and have lovely leaves that stay green all season. Witch hazel is also lovely, with an interesting structure that will keep your garden looking terrific even after it blooms. Be careful to ensure that the shrub you choose will not grow too high or wide, as it could overtake the garden area.
- And for ideas about grasses and bulbs, see the Royal Horticultural Society’s Shade planting: annuals, bulbs and perennials. Bulbs like Anemone blanda and daffodils will brighten up your early spring garden.
- What about native plants? The City of Toronto’s How to Select and Buy Native Plants includes many selections that love shaded areas.
- Landscape Ontario’s Climbing vines — this includes many selections for shady areas.
- And you may want to grow a few annuals, so that the garden looks a bit different each year. See our Annuals for shade: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide
Finally, an important issue to consider before planting anything is the type of soil that is best for these beds, which is discussed in Soil mix for raised bed