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FLOWER ABUNDANCE IN PARTIAL SHADE – The best plants for shady corners

Do cottage gardens work in partial shade? Or even in full shade? That’s a question I get asked again and again. And guess what – there actually are plenty of wonderful flowers and plants that bloom even in a garden that’s on the shadier side.

Photo: Syl Gervais

You may remember that I had a vole infestation a while ago? Thanks to those wily critters, I had to completely redesign one of my flower beds and realised (a little perplexedly, I admit…) that it had meanwhile turned from full sun to partial shade/full shade. Note to self, Mrs Stiller: shrubs, trees and bushes GROW!).

So I spent hours intensively researching the most beautiful flowering plants for shady locations and realised that there are some wonderful options. Here’s what I found.

Photo: Syl Gervais


Photo: Florapress

“Bill Baker”, the phlox. It transforms beds, open spaces, and borders – wherever planted – into a spectacular glowing sea of flowers. To make the biggest impact and for blooms galore from June to August, plant several ‘phlox friends’ around it (or him?). ‘Bill’ also thrives under more sparse shrubs that let some light through. And with their heady summer scent, the lilac-pink flowers are a paradise for bees.

Important: water it well – it does not like dry soil. Nor does it take kindly to blazing midday sun. Otherwise, it’s easy to care for and a real highlight in the garden. It spreads through rhizomes, and the long-lasting flowers make great cut flowers.


Photo:Baumschule Horstmann

The last summer light in autumn. Her daisy-like flowers bloom in lush abundance from August to the end of October. Cut off wilted flowers and she tirelessly produces more. She’s a perennial, grows up to 60cm (24”) tall and can be just as wide. She’s beautiful in beds, combined with other late bloomers, but also works well as a delicate background to shrubs and trees. “Starshine” happily tolerates partial shade and prefers well-drained and pH-neutral soil. Otherwise, she’s undemanding and only needs a little protection from hard frost in winter. She will thank you the following year with countless small flowers that butterflies, bumblebees and bees love. She’s also a good cut flower.


Photo: Alexandra Lehne, SOULGARDEN

With her simple, bright purple flowers, “Asran” enchants not only garden lovers but all kinds of bustling insects too. She grows 70cm (28”) to 80cm (32”) tall, prefers sunny to semi-shady locations and is happy with well-drained, normal soil. Drought is no problem for her either. Her abundance of flowers is a delight for humans and animals alike from September to October – and snails usually leave her in peace. “Asran” likes to form runners, so you can either let her run or keep her quest for freedom in check by dividing her. She also makes a good cut flower.


Photo: Baumschule Horstmann

She’s a rather unusual lady with strong growth that likes to spread even in the shade. Her ever-so-slightly ‘dishevelled’-looking flowers make even the darker corners of your garden shine. “Tradescant” flowers very densely from the end of July to September, and if you remove wilted flowers, she will reward you with more. She grows to about 60cm (24”) tall and is easy to care for. She tolerates drought, shade and root pressure.


Photo: Baumschule Horstmann

This beautiful ethereal creature transforms any flower bed into a purple floral dream. Her umbels with ray-shaped flowers are in full splendour from June to July and provide a source of food for many insects. “Moulin Rouge” grows between 40cm (16”) to 50cm(20”) tall and is also beautiful in tubs and pots. Can’t get enough of her? Stick her in a vase and brighten up the house. She’s very easy to care for and, perhaps surprisingly, extremely hardy. Cut off wilted umbels and she’ll flower again.


Photo: Alexandra Lehne, SOULGARDEN

Unobtrusive and impactful. “Star of Billion” is perhaps the most subtle of masterworts and not an obvious eye-catcher. At second glance, though, you can’t help but fall in love with her iridescent flowers, almost silver, pink and greenish. This dainty lady can claim her origins in the East Lambrook Manor Garden – an English cottage garden – and adds a little of that glamour to our own gardens. The romantic masterwort blooms from July throughout the summer and, if pruned, even all the way into September. She’s great in a vase or as a dried flower, and while bees love her, snails avoid her.


Photo: Baumschule Horstmann

No cottage garden without bellflowers! With a height of 90cm (35”) to 110cm (43”), this upright plant creates a veritable sea of flowers, even in semi-shady locations. Very versatile, she can be used in flower beds and around the edges of woody plants, but – insider tip – she’s also perfect to ‘pretty-up’ open spaces. Her light purple flowers are enchanting from June to August, and she’s beautiful as a cut flower. She has no special soil requirements and is very easy to care for – an uncomplicated perennial that will draw admiring glances to your garden.


Photo: Syl Gervais

Yes, foxgloves are poisonous. As are boxwood, ivy, lily of the valley and many other plants that grow naturally in our gardens. So that’s that covered.

Digitalis (the Latin name) is definitely striking. With its height of 1m (40”) and pink, funnel-shaped flowers, it confidently stands out in any flower bed. It makes a wonderful border, but it also looks good placed more towards the back of a flower bed. The main flowering time is June to July. Foxgloves like well-drained soil that’s not too wet and they attract a whole heap of insects.


Photo: Baumschule Horstmann

Colour in your flower bed! Cranesbill “Sirak” positively pops in a rich pink. This easy-to-care-for and undemanding perennial is an excellent ground cover. “Sirak” grows 50cm (20”) tall and relatively wide. This robust little plant shines from June to August, and its flowers have that ‘veined’ look that’s so typical for cranesbill. It can cope with short dry spells, and you can make it especially happy if you plant it in nutrient-rich soil. Cut it after the first bloom to get a second one.


Photo: Baumschule Horstmann

The clue is in the name – this cranesbill conjures up a dream of flowers in the garden from June to October. Delicate white-pink flowers gradually change into a light violet and shine wherever you plant them. And feel at home pretty much anywhere. Cranesbill is a perfect ground cover, but also a wonderful companion plant in flower beds or planted in front of walls or woody plants. The cushion-like “Dreamland” grows up to 40cm (16”) tall and almost as wide. This robust little plant is extremely easy to care for and hardy – it just does not like wet feet. Bumblebees, bees and butterflies love it.


Photo: Alexandra Lehne, SOULGARDEN

A perennial in more ways than one – “Annabelle” never really goes out of fashion and enchants with her large ball-shaped flowers, all the way from the end of June to September. Depending on the weather, she might stick around until October and, in mild climates, even until November. In the beginning, her flowers shimmer in a greenish-white, which is the phase where I like her best. Then over the course of the summer, she gets whiter and whiter. The optimal location is in partial shade and sheltered from the wind. She also grows in a sunny spot, but then you have to water her well. And she’s a great beginner plant for garden novices!


Photo: Baumschule Horstmann

“Blue Star” looks almost like a daisy that was accidentally dipped in a little bit of ink. This blue flower belongs to the genus of Kalimeris incisa and spoils us with her romantic blossoms from June to September. Don't be stingy with her in flower beds – the more really is the merrier for the most striking effect. She’s totally easy to care for: just cut back the wilted flower heads in autumn, and that's it. By the way, this perennial is also an insect magnet, and it’s pure joy to see bees and butterflies buzzing and hovering above a blue sea of flowers. “Blue Star” grows 60cm (24”) tall. She’s also beautiful in a vase, especially combined with other flowers like roses or gypsophila.


Photo: Baumschule Horstmann

“Madiva” enchants with basket-like flowers and a very pale violet colour at the start of summer that gradually changes into pure white in autumn. She flowers all summer long, from June to September. This perennial with a growth height of 80cm (32”) is perfect for a blooming cottage garden, either combined in flower beds or, as she also does well in partial shade, at the edge of woody plants. This pretty girl is completely low-maintenance – all she needs is for you to cut back wilted stems.


Photo: Florapress

Also called Chinese meadow rue, this dainty creature shines in purest white against a green background. The delicate flowers sway in the light summer breeze from July to October. Whether in mixed flower beds or underneath shrubs, this perennial enchants with her graceful appearance and impressive height of 120cm (47”). When she flowers, the air is filled with the lightest scent of herbs. She does best in soil that’s rich in humus and acidic. Avoid waterlogging. It’s best to plant her in spring so that she has enough time to take root and withstand harsh winters (up to -18°C/-0.4°F). Insects flock to her for her nectar.


Photo: Florapress

“Hewitt's Double” creates a magnificent sea of delicate purple flowers that shimmer prettily between the greens of trees and shrubs. This perennial looks elegant and, with a height of 120cm (47”), is ideal as a background in flower beds. The dainty flowers, with their delicate foliage, also look beautiful in a vase. “Hewitt's Double” flowers from July to September and is positively made for a cottage garden. She doesn’t love hot and dry conditions, which is when she needs a little more looking after. In the first few years, until she’s firmly rooted, cover her well in the winter. She’ll thank you for it with plenty of elfin blossoms.


Photo: Alexandra Lehne, SOULGARDEN

Once planted, lady’s mantle is a faithful companion forever, everywhere and evermore. If you love order, this may sound a little frightening – but then that’s exactly how cottage gardening works. The more, the merrier! And the sight when dewdrops glisten on her velvety leaves in the morning... Beautiful! She makes an excellent ground cover or flower bed border and is extremely low-maintenance. From sun to full shade, she’s happy anywhere.


Columbines should never-ever be missing from a cottage garden. Hardly any other plant brings so much lightness to a flower bed. This year was the first time that I discovered one that’s 100% in the shade (right next to the house on the north side) where she doesn’t even get a second of sun. And she’s just about to flower!

She grows and reproduces robustly but is so delicate that she never disturbs or pushes out other plants. Columbines follow on from early bloomers and fill the entire garden from the first warm days of May onwards, giving it all the charm of a wildflower meadow.

You can find these two beauties right here in the shop.


I could wax lyrically about the Japanese anemone now, but instead, I’ll send you straight over to my blog post called “Ode to the Japanese Anemone”. That title alone should tell you what I think about this wonderful plant.

Photo: Syl Gervais

But what about the winter months?

To keep your flower beds looking good in winter, think about planting evergreens such as big-root cranesbill “Spessart”, shrub ivy, Ilex crenata or yew. Rosemary or sage are also great.

Photo: Janina Laszlo


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