The lone voice of horticultural reason

Best Book on Shade Gardening & Plants

 Taylor’s Guide to Shade Gardening
Houghton Mifflin Company

It’s inevitable – unless one begins gardening awfully late in life, or moves into a new home every few years, one will eventually garden in shade. Trees have a way of growing, is the thing, and as neighborhoods and landscapes mature, gardeners who never had to know much more than to plant yews, ferns, and hosta along the north side of the house wake up one day to discover half or more of their garden lies in some degree of shade.

No need for panic. This superb book, published in 1994, is the foremost, essential guide to shade gardening. It is the collective work of over a dozen shade gardening experts, and starts off with a terrific collection of articles on the subject. I love the optimistic tone; titles include “The Pleasures of Shade” and “Shade: A Kind of Light.” For shade affords great benefits (less watering, stuff doesn’t burn up) while still allowing an immense pallet of plants from which to choose.

The rest of the book is a nearly complete encyclopedia of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, vines, grasses, bulbs, and groundcovers that flourish in less than full sun conditions. Full-color photos and exquisite line drawings abound.

One note, the book covers all USDA hardiness zones, so realize this is not a northern-only gardening book. Authors also have a mild tendency to list only Zone 5 or 6 varieties of a genus for which Zone 3 and 4 varieties exist. For example, the book gives three shade-worthy varieties of Miscanthus (Maiden Grass) hardy to Zone 5, but never mentions the Zone 4-hardy Micanthus ‘Purpurascens,’ which performs quite admirably in light shade. But the book gets a tremendous amount right.

You’ll find the book in the gardening section of most good bookstores, selling for around twenty-two bucks, which is not much for a book you’ll refer to often, sooner or later.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener