Shady garden patches don’t need to look cold and dark. There are several ways to bring them to life…

Use pots – Containers can add colour and interest to shady areas, plus they won’t compete with tree roots. They can also be moved around and given a lick of paint when it’s time for a seasonal makeover.

Just add water – A water feature or simple fountain will add interest, along with the serene sounds of trickling and bubbling.

Create pathways – A walkway mulched with dark wood chips, a few pavers, bricks, wood rounds or stepping stones will do the trick in areas where plants or grass won’t grow. The idea is to let the path meander into the garden so it seems never-ending.

Trim the trees – Trees are the most common cause of shade. ‘Canopy thinning’ is a term used to describe trimming mature trees just enough so that more light can filter through. You literally change the density of the ‘tree canopy’ to reduce the amount of shade it casts without radically pruning the tree.

Take a seat – Create a cosy retreat with a freestanding reading or picnic bench or even a tree-mounted hammock or swing.

Feed the soil – Poor soil often hampers shade gardens more than a lack of sunshine. So nourish the soil regularly and take care not to damage exposed tree roots when planting groundcovers. That said, shade slows plant growth; so plants in low-light areas need less water and nourishment – not more. Mulching will help lock in moisture and keep weeds at bay.

Play with texture – Allow various types of foliage to complement each other, from broad and paddle-like leaves to fine leaves, frilly fern fronds and spiky ornamental grasses.

From biggest to smallest – Order your plants according to height by positioning taller growers in the back, shorter ones in front and low-growing groundcovers to fill in the gaps.

Calling all birds – Make the most of shade trees by hanging bird feeders or installing an owl box to invite some feathered friends to your garden.

Accessorize – Consider hanging ornaments like wind chimes or placing a concrete or metal sculpture in a shady spot. It will create a focal point in the garden, plus it won’t need any maintenance. Popular garden figurines include animals and birds, people, religious statures and mythical creatures.