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Fifty shades of shade

By Jane Fountain, Brisbane

At least fifty shades of shade grace my garden!

Shade is easy in my garden – but how much shade and what time of day, month, year! My acre block runs east-west so the sun comes over the 120m length in summer and from the northern side in winter. At this time of year, it hides below the neighbour’s tree line.

Under the eucalypt canopy with filtered shade

Under my eucalypt canopy in my bush block, there is always filtered shade. As a result, shrubs become leggy rather than compact. My shady area near the house gets extra summer shade and in winter the low sun provides light and warmth from the north and northwest.

My choice of plants has been random – my own propagating, plant swaps and plant markets. The design follows the natural path or waterway. I have used bordering rocks near the house and wire mesh to cover gardens to keep out the ever-present bush turkeys.

shade loving plants
Shade loving plants under the Melicope rubra and eucalypts, image Jane Fountain

This area (above) is under a low canopy of several Melicope rubra with the filtered shade of the eucalypts high above. Providing protection and a micro-climate are also Lepidorema pulchella (small leaved tamarind) and a 5m Phyllanthus cuscutiflorus (pink phyllanthus).

Additional plants in this area are Asplenium australasicum (Bird’s nest fern), Phaius australis (Swamp orchid), Helmholtzia glaberrima (Stream lily) in water, Licuala ramsayi (right of photo, lives in a pot), Drynaria rigidula. And I have to admit to some random ferns and bromeliads that snuck in there.

shade loving plants
Other shade tolerant plants include Hoya australis, ferns like Asplenium and Adiantum, an orchid and many more. Image Jane Fountain

Additional plants in this area include:

  • Swinging on the tree, Hoya australis
  • Under the Asplenium is an exotic fern and the short upright leaves of Dendrobium monophylum (lily-of-the-valley orchid), Adiantum aethiopicum (maidenhair fern having a good season), A. hispidulum (rough maidenhair, hiding) and Proiphys cunninghamii (Brisbane lily out of the picture)
  • At the back is found Drynaria rigidula in a big pot, Angiopteris evecta (a couple of tall stalks and new shorter fronds of king fern in big pot)
  • Beside it is Alpinia caerulea and A. arundelliana nearby.
  • In the pot of water that birds use is a pot of Ranunculus inundatus and a young Platycerium bifurcatum (Elkhorn) on the tree behind with an exotic orchid.

Gully garden with many shades of shade

island with many shades of shade
Gully garden, moist and shady, image Jane Fountain

There is a gully that divides the block and runs with water in good rain. On the north fence line there are a Ficus benjamina (weeping fig over little waterhole) and Araucaria cunninghamii (Hoop Pines). In addition, under the eucalypt canopy are:

  • 10m melaleucas,
  • Harpullia pendula
  • Auranticarpa rhombifolia
  • Agathis robusta (a young Queensland Kauri)
  • Harpullia ramiflora
  • Cordyline petiolaris
  • Cordyline stricta

I have also planted Lomandra to slow the water flow in times of heavy rain.

The island

Island garden in the middle of the creek bed, image Jane Fountain

On an island in the middle of the creek bed there are Syzygium luehmannii, S. australe, Mackinlaya macrosciadea, Neolitsea dealbata, Alpinia caerulea, Wilkiea macrophylla, Diploglottis campbellii (small leaved tamarind), Cupaniopsis wadsworthii (duck-footed Cupaniopsis, closest to camera), Costus potierae (corkscrew ginger) and Glycosmis trifoliata (pink lime).

All in all, I have at least fifty shades of shade!

For more information about gardening in Queensland, visit Native Plants Queensland at

For other stories about shady gardens, see our full list of stories about designing with native plants.