Confused about shade

i have a north facing garden. I have a border which is in shade and doesn’t receive direct sunlight due to a retaining wall. When the sun is behind the clouds it isn’t any darker than the rest of the garden as it’s very open to the sky and gets lots of indirect light. I’m trying to figure out appropriate plants I looked at RHS website which says Light Shade is “ A site that is open to the sky, but screened from direct sunlight by an obstacle, such as a high wall or group of trees” but also in a separate part of same article says “in practical terms if a site receives less than two hours of direct sun per day, it must be considered to be heavy shade” lol so am I dealing with light or heavy shade? Also online nurseries tend to categorise into “shade” or “part shade”. Which should I pick? Confused.
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  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 18,205
    First of all what is your soil type and how cold and wet does this bed get?

    In my last garden -central Belgium - our garden was mostly on the north side of the house so plants nearest the house only had direct sun very early and very late between the spring and autumn equinoxes.   The bed nearest the house was also the dampest so very good for astilbes, astilboides, candelabra primula, hostas, ligularia, lily of the valley, Japanese anemones, ferns, dicentra.........  Another, drier bed had a Falstaff rose, clematis caerulea luxurians and more hostas and an arch leading to my work area had clematis Nelly Moser and Rahvarinne.

    This garden is much hotter but I have a long, north facing wall thatgets sun till 11ish and again after 5pm and that is planted witha Kiftsgate rose offspring, clematis Jackmanii, sangisorbas, pulmonaira, Japanese fern, thalictrum, physostegia, hardy geraniums, ammi major, hemerocallis, hydrangea paniculata and tw enormous mop head hydrangea we inherited.  I have just cleared a space between them to plant a group of 3 Japanese maples which I shall underplant with bergenia and narcissus.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thank you for your reply. I have noticed that the area there is “damp” and quite cold but never gets waterlogged (we don’t have a lot of clay in our soil and it’s very well drained as there is some stones at the bottom to help drainage as it’s a retaining wall. I’m not an expert in all things soil I’m afraid that’s as much as I know! 
  • If It helps I have tonnes of worms in the soil lol. Loads. So I reckon it must be ok quality soil.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 18,205
    In that case, try any of the plants I mentioned apart from the roses and if you go for hostas be prepared to do a regular nightly slug and snail patrol.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • AndyDeanAndyDean Posts: 152
    Can I add to Obelixx's excellent suggestions, astrantia, foxgloves, sweet rocket, brunnera, primula denticulata - they all work for me in similar sounding conditions!
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 18,205
    Brunnera is lovely but found my last garden too cold in winter.  I have Jack Frost in this garden in that north facing bed and it's doing very well.  Should have been on my list.  Astrantia too but I'll have to grow it from seed as I've not seen any on sale here.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 27,004
    In addition to the excellent lists given already, Acteas will grow there too, and Solomon's Seal [Polygonatum] Polemonium [Jacob's Ladder] Heucheras, Tiarellas, Potentillas and Spireas, especially the spring flowering white ones. 
    If your soil isn't alkaline, Azaleas, Pieris and Skimmias will also thrive. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • WillDBWillDB Posts: 1,965
    Sarcococca is another good one, tough, it doesn't mind alkaline soil and has sweet smelling winter flowers.
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 3,949
    Add Francoa as well - not a flower much mentioned on the forum but a good do-er. Grows happily in sun or shade. And Epimedium is a good one as well, Euonymus if you want a splash of colour all year round
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 27,004
    I forgot about Euonymous @hogweed. Really useful as a foil for other plants  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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