In the Northern Hemisphere, north-facing gardens suffer from low light and short seasons. The sun spends much of the year too far south to give a north-facing landscape much direct light, limiting the plant choices the gardener has. The low light can also make the garden feel gloomy. Choose low-light plants, landscape smartly and add landscaping lights to get the most out of your north-facing garden.
Forest plants are well adapted to the low-light conditions in a north-facing garden, since they grow beneath a canopy of trees. Grow your own forest understory garden. Start with some evergreens adapted to low-light conditions. Arborvitae and Douglas fir do well in partial sun, while Canada and Japanese yew can tolerate full shade. Add forest ground cover such as wood-sorrel, feature plants such as ferns and flowering forest plants such as Pacific beauty and bead lily.
In a north-facing garden, it is important to use every bit of sunny terrain for growing. Use the shady corners of your garden for hardscaping. Add stone benches and small water features in dark corners for a cool, secluded garden escape. Place small statues and garden figures under bushes and beneath hard shadows for an unexpected surprise when visitors see the critters peaking out at them. Use white gravel, painted pavers and other bright stone to lighten up the darkest corners.
North-facing gardens have fewer hours of sunlight, making it difficult to enjoy the space in the morning and evening. Brighten up your garden by installing lighting. Install accent lights to illuminate bushes, fountains and other landscape features. Install tiered lights to line paths and illuminate low flower beds and other ground features. Install spotlights for safety and in areas where you want concentrated illumination. Finally, scatter lanterns, candles or torches around as decorative lights for summer evenings in your garden.