Dear Sandra

Dear Readers,

Outside the weather is wonderful and thousands of people all across Canada are getting ready to dig in the dirt and sow some seeds, so this week the question is on gardening. I am not an “experienced gardener” but I can try to answer the question. If anyone can elaborate send your suggestions to me and next week we’ll post them in the Voice along with another gardening question I just received.


Dear Sandra,

I want to be a gardener! The only thing standing in my way is the huge tree that fills my yard with shade. The branches are enormous and even shade out my garden beds! I don’t want to get rid of the trees, but I want flowers and color in my yard. Any suggestions.

Manitoba gardener

Dear Manitoba Gardener,

Short of planting silk flowers under your trees there are solutions to this problem. I’m an intermediate gardener wanna-be, so I’ll do my best to explain what I know about gardening in the shade.

It is possible for plants to thrive in shady areas. Think of a forest and all the perennials, shrubs and ground covers that flourish under an umbrella of trees. Shady areas have quite an advantage over their sunnier counterparts: they retain moisture longer. Since pests and weeds prefer the warmth of sunlight you’ll have less bugs and weeds to fight with.

First things first, trim your trees. Branches can grow out of hand and create too much shade giving trees a bushy, unkempt look. Don’t ever let trees, especially evergreens, form a canopy to the ground because no air can get in and circulate under the tree causing decay to the tree. Before you begin planting cover the ground with a 2-inch layer of mulch or compost to ensure moisture, prevent erosion and control weeds.

For really shady areas, such as directly under the tree, start with some shrubs: oakleaf hydrangea is a subtle white coloured cone shaped flower with bright green leaves similar to that of an oak tree. Fill in the gaps between the shrubs with perennials like the common bleeding heart, goatsbeard and primroses. Various colors and sizes of Hosta plants and ferns are also great for shadier areas.

You can also plan ahead by planting bulbs this spring. Daffodils and tulips bloom before the trees are fully covered, so they are perfect candidates for areas shadowed by trees.

I hope my advice helps! Send me a picture of your garden when you are done, and I’ll post it in the Voice.



This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of