Design a Shade Garden With Carolyne Roehm

Get tips for designing a shade garden from lifestyle expert Carolyne Roehm.

Starting a garden, or simply adding to one, can make you feel like “Eisenhower invading Normandy,” Carolyne Roehm writes in At Home in the Garden, her book about planting and caring for the grounds at Weatherstone, her beautiful country home in Sharon, Connecticut. 

At Home in the Garden, by Carolyne Roehm

At Home in the Garden

Author and tastemaker Carolyne Roehm shares the gardens at her historic Connecticut home, Weatherstone, in her book, At Home in the Garden (Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC).

©Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

But all the effort and expense you put into a garden is worth it, the lifestyle maven and author says. Once you understand what you’re working with--your soil and light and other elements--“everything is do-able…the good part emerges from the shadows.”

Carolyne Roehm's shade garden

Carolyne Roehm's Shade Garden

While Roehm says she can't grow many of the plants you'd find in a classic English shade garden, she's delighted with hostas, bleeding hearts, primulas and others that thrive in her climate and soil.

©Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

Good things emerge from the shade in a garden, too, Roehm explains. She grows shade-loving plants in an area near her studio, where “it’s difficult to get even grass to grow.” Rather than using plants that would struggle in the low light, she’s added foliage and flowers that don't crave a lot of sun. She uses a variety of forms and sizes, so "for the entire spring and summer, I have this wonderful green tapestry running under the trees rather than just scruffy grass.”

Garden bench under shady trees

Shade Garden With Restful Bench

A garden bench offers a cool, restful place to sit under tall, shady trees.

©Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

Before the trees leaf out, her spring daffodils bloom, along with primulas, bleedings hearts and forget-me-nots. “I also grow early hellebores, Solomon’s seal, and snowdrops. I have a lot of lily of the valleys (that flower) in May. The tapestry includes different shades of green and shapes and tints and hues…(It) becomes about the beauty of the leaves.” After the blooms finish, Roehm’s shade garden is filled with ostrich ferns, maidenhair ferns and other ferns.

Roehm says the biggest lesson she’s learned about gardening is to “really, really plant to your climate and your soil. My soil is extremely dense and doesn’t have great drainage. I can’t amend my entire property, so I can’t grow beautiful sugar maples,” among other plants. “Pay attention to your soil, and focus on amending soil in small plots. Otherwise, it’s too expensive and labor intensive.”

Shady pet cemetery

Shade Garden With Hostas, Ferns and Forget-Me-Nots

Hostas, ferns and forget-me-nots grow in a shady cemetery spot for Roehm's beloved dogs.

©Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

Reprinted from At Home in the Garden. Copyright © 2015 by Carolyne Roehm. Photos by Carolyne Roehm. Published by Potter Style, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

Hostas, ferns and forget-me-nots grow in a shady cemetery spot for Roehm's beloved dogs.

Whether you’re dealing with sun or shade, “learn to adapt and simplify,” she adds. “It’s so much better to make a strong statement than trying to make every statement.”

Carolyne Roehm

Carolyne Roehm

Carolyne Roehm

Photo by: Potter Style

Potter Style

Carolyne Roehm

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