Exterior Worlds
Shade Garden Designs
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Shade Garden Design

A shade garden, by definition, is a garden that is planted beneath trees, in the shade. We have to take great care in designing such a garden, particularly when it comes to soil preparation. A common mistake that many do-it-yourselfers make is to till the soil too much. While it may appear to make sense to dig deep into the earth to give plants as much room as possible to grow, this principle becomes secondary to the absolute of tree preservation. Digging too deep near one or more large trees will invariably lead to you cutting one or more essential roots. In order to plant a shade garden without ruining your trees in the process, it is far better to hire a professional landscaping design firm with expertise and experience in both garden installation and tree preservation.

The reason for this becomes obvious when we consider the nature of trees themselves. They are some of the largest organisms on the planet. What you see above the ground, as large and tall as the tree may appear, still represents only a portion of its entirety. The remainder is hidden within the earth. Vast, extensive roots fan out from the base of the trunk in all directions. Any shade garden you design around such a magnificent giant has to be installed with the conscious awareness that much of the giant sleeps beneath the ground and does not want to be poked or cut with the blade of a shovel anymore than the giants of folklore.


In the unfortunate event that you do attempt to install a shade garden yourself and inadvertently cut too many tree roots in the process, please be aware that you will probably not know that you have done so anytime in the near future. Trees take a long time to grow, and often take years to die. Many times, when people inflict a fatal wound upon a tree, they do not see the terrible results until a few years later when leaves begin to wither and branches begin to die for what appears to be no reason. Diseases can also strike a wounded tree much more easily than a healthy tree, so often people notice as well fungal growth or strange discoloration growing on a tree they inadvertently damaged years before and now see slowly dying only now.

None of this will happen, however, if you will proactively invest in professional shade garden design that is based around the principles of tree preservation and the highest respect of one of Nature’s most magnificent forms. Shade gardens that are professionally installed by a landscape architect will actually look better when planted with an awareness of other life forms and structures in mind. A greater plant selection is one thing you can rest assured will be available to you if landscape designers are brought in from the beginning. These professionals know all the best shade resistant species and how to install them with the maximum vitality and aesthetic of the garden foremost in mind. Jasmine is a favored ground cover species that grows hardily in the Houston climate. Ardesia is a favored species that offers the added benefit of low maintenance trimming. These species typically have little or no competition when planted in the right places with the right professional methods. Other plants, and even grass, tend to only grow in direct sunlight, so your shade garden should remain healthy and vibrant provided it is designed and installed professionally from the beginning.

One thing is necessary; however, which few, if any, garden professionals can guarantee you: effective and reliable irrigation and drainage. Water delivery and water control are as crucial to a shade garden as they are to any other type of garden. While some garden centers do offer irrigation, drainage, and plant installation services, you do not want to use these services for a shade garden design. Again, this is due to tree preservation needs and the very challenging nature of building an irrigation and drainage system between tree roots without damaging them. Professionals like those of us at Exterior Worlds use special equipment and very proprietary engineering methods to tunnel under tree roots, selectively cut a certain few that are non-essential to tree survival, and dig radically around the tree so as to minimize the need to cut any roots, if at all possible.

Spending the extra money and taking the time to consult with a professional is well worth it when you consider the ultimate benefits that professional shade garden design will bring to your home, yard, and continued vitality of your magnificent trees.