Wondering what to plant in those shady areas of your landscape? There’s no need to resign yourself to standard shade-fillers, like pachysandra and ivy, when you could be growing useful herbs that thrive in low-light conditions. While many culinary herbs do require lots of direct sunlight (like basil and oregano, which originated in the sunny Mediterranean), other herbs usually listed as full-sun plants will do just fine in partial shade. Parsley, anise hyssop, lemon balm and shiso are among the best herbs for dappled light or areas that receive only a couple of hours of direct sun daily.
Other, less-familiar herbs actually prefer shade. In nature, these plants can be found growing in the dappled light below trees, or at the edges of forests, where the sun shines directly on them for only a short time each day. These plants—which include wild ginger, spicebush and sweet woodruff—will do beautifully in a shady garden site, and will add enticing new flavors and aromas to your cooking.
For beds and borders shaded by trees, fences or buildings, try one or more of these seven stars for shade.
To Buy: Spicebush, sweet woodruff and wild ginger are available from Forestfarm, (541) 846-7269, www.forestfarm.com; Lazy S’S Farm Nursery, www.lazyssfarm.com; and Companion Plants, (740) 592-4643, www.companionplants.com. Anise hyssop, lemon balm, parsley and shiso are widely available; mail-order suppliers include Companion Plants; Johnny’s Selected Seeds, (877) 564-6697, www.johnnyseeds.com; and Richters, (905) 640-6677, www.richters.com.
Leda Meredith is a botanist, writer and instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, specializing in edible and medicinal plants. She is the author of Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes (Heliotrope Books, 2008).