Garden Photo of the Day

From Weedy Lawn to Shade Garden

Lack of sun doesn't stop this gardener

Today we’re visiting Nancy Moore’s backyard to see what she’s created in a difficult, shady spot.

These photos of our shady backyard go from most recent (May 5, 2019) back to early spring (April 15, 2019). We live in Charlottesville Virginia, and I have been gardening for more than 20 years—but I have only started knowing what I was doing about three years ago, after I took the Master Gardener course. I have had to focus on shade plants and learn by trial and error—more error than not. In fact, when something does turn out well I am shocked! I rely on Taylor’s Guide to Shade Gardening a lot, and I spend a lot of time at plant nurseries.

Nancy put in this shade garden last summer because she was sick of looking at a weedy dirt-packed lawn. She says, “The whole sorry experience was pretty awful,” but the final result looks pretty amazing!

Another view of the new shade garden area, looking pretty great for what used to be a weedy lawn.

Nancy’s garden is surrounded by huge oak trees, so she chose plants that would thrive in those conditions. The tulips bring nice points of contrasting color to the green.

White flowers emerge from a foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia, Zones 4–9), a native wildflower that loves shade and blooms in the spring.

What is spring without some tulips?

The arching pink flower stems of bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Zones 4–9) does best in shady conditions. In hot, dry summers, it will go dormant later in the summer, leaving an empty space, but in cool, well-watered gardens, the leaves can keep looking good all summer long.

A beautiful arch surrounded by flowers welcomes visitors to the garden.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/17/2019

    We have a little clump of foamflower that planted itself out near the road. My husband mows around it all summer. Yours is so pretty. Love all you have done!

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/17/2019

    I like that you have several defined pathways through your landscaped areas. They are very welcoming and encourage a visitor to get "up close and personal" with your newly planted areas. Things are just going to get better and better looking and, congrats on making your weedy lawn stretch a thing of the past.

  3. paiya 05/17/2019

    Nancy, your new shady garden is already more interesting and prettier than lawn. I can imagine you escaping the heat of Summer in the woodland sitting area surrounded by the new flowers and foliage

  4. cheryl_c 05/17/2019

    Good job, Nancy! Your plantings look healthy and happy, and you will be amazed even later this year how full things look. Next year and the year after will be even more spectacular. The hard work is done, and you can be so proud of the results!

  5. btucker9675 05/17/2019

    Really lovely!! Inspired me to go out asap and get some foamflower.

  6. User avater
    simplesue 05/17/2019

    Love that arch/arbor over the steps! Pretty shade garden, it adds so much interest to the backyard and in life in general. I learned through trial and error too. I read a lot of books but I'm sure you agree trial and error is the best teacher. Looks like you have had much success!

  7. Musette1 05/17/2019

    absolutely lovely! and way more interesting (and better for pollinators) than weedy lawn! This is going to be even lovelier in the seasons to come!

  8. wittyone 05/17/2019

    What a beautiful job you have done. I can imagine all the work that went into this, and in such a short time too. You're right, trial and error with shade is the only way to go. There are sooooo many variants in the amounts of sun versus shade in those so called "shady" plants, about all you can do is plant them and then hope for the best.

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