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Mullet Gardening

Mullet Gardening

Business at the front, party at the back.


Mullet Gardening


Keeping your garden looking good but also functional (ecologically) is sometimes difficult for gardeners wanting to provide habitat. They want to show that their yards and gardens are cared for and are maintained but don’t want to pull out the leaf blower and snips to clean out every last piece of ‘garden debris’. While there are many tips to maintaining a beautiful and ecologically functioning garden, I wanted to introduce the mullet method of gardening. The mullet method evokes the usually unfortunate and surprisingly long-lasting hairstyle that is short at the front and long at the back, or business up front and party at the back.

To relate this to gardening, I suggest we can have a front yard that is more formal or manicured, with a backyard that is more naturalized or wild. Let me be clear that our front yards don’t have to be hostas and lawn either. They can still be an oasis for wildlife, incorporating native plants and trees. Check out my blog on simple design tips for creating a beautiful and ecologically functional front yard. You can simply give yourself permission to have a more modern or formal garden in the front yard, while really going wild in the back. Drop some deadfall, create a brush pile, leave your stems up all year.

The mullet gardening method can also be applied to the garden itself. You can maintain a ‘tidier’ look at the front of your garden while letting the back go more natural. Establishing a well-defined garden edge (just not the plastic garden edger please) with a well-dug V trench softened by a border of small mounding perennials (I really love using sedges) will instantly make any garden look intentional and cared for. Leaf litter can be raked gently to the back of the garden and stems can be cut back at the front, allowing some of your taller perennials at the back to keep their stems up. Letting some of the sturdier tall perennials stand throughout the year can add interest in the winter too.

Made for Shade

Made for Shade

Gardening with native plants in the shade

Listen in to my Gardening in the Shade episode of In the Dirt, on Hunters Bay Radio.


Types of Shade

Before we dive into plants for the shade garden, let’s first figure out what kind of light conditions you have.


Full Sun is six or more hours of direct sunlight per day. This doesn’t need to be continuous, for example, there could be four hours in the morning, shade midday, and three or four hours of sun in the afternoon. Plants for Full Sun

Part Sun is between four and six hours of sun a day. Plants for Part Sun

Part Shade is two to four hours of sun per day. Plants for Part Shade

Full Shade is than two hours of sunlight a day. Plants for Full Shade


BUT, there are also different types of shade. You may come across the terms light shade, dappled or filtered shade, and heavy shade. They may be characterized as follows:

  • Light shade or dappled shade sites receive partially filtered sun, such as that found under open canopied trees like a cherry or birch tree, where there is an ever-moving pattern of sun and shade.
  • Heavy or dense shade is a site with no direct sunlight, such as at the base of a north-facing wall or below dense evergreen trees.


Morning Sun vs. Afternoon Sun

Did you know that the afternoon sun is more intense? If your garden gets 2 hours of sun in the afternoon, compared to 2 hours of sun in the morning, the plants receiving the afternoon sun will absorb more light.




Shrubs for shade





Plant for Dry Shade


Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium


Late Bloomers

So often, a shade garden is done flowering by June. Here are a few plants that will add some colour to your garden well into the summer and fall.

  • Blue-stemmed Goldenrod, Solidago caesia
  • Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa
  • Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima
  • Witch-hazelHamamelis virginiana


Moist to Wet Shade


Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis



Can you have a wildlife or pollinator garden in the shade?

Short answer is yes!  You can still support pollinators with a shade garden, it will just support them differently by providing them with pollen and nectar sources earlier in the season.  There are also many larval host plants for shade gardens.

Plants for pollinators in the shade


Under the Trees, Native Plant Shade Garden KitUnder the Trees  Shade Kit

Add some colour to a forest garden or a shady part of your garden.

2 Foxglove Beardtongue
2 Wild Geranium
2 Zig-zag Goldenrod
2 Foamflower
2 Bottlebrush Grass
2 Cinnamon Fern

Best suited for full to part shade locations with medium soil.

BUY NOW $49.95

Get the Natural Edge with Muskoka Watershed Council

Get the Natural Edge with Muskoka Watershed Council


Listen in to my conversation with Rebecca Willison from the Muskoka Watershed Council on In the Dirt podcast on Hunters Bay Radio.

In this episode, we talk about the Natural Edge Program. A program that provides resources to encourage Muskoka residents and cottages by naturalizing their shorelines. We also get into why we should be naturalizing our shorelines and why native plants are best at restoring our shorelines.

Listen to episode 11, Natural Edge Program here:


The Natural Edge Program

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