Starting a garden in a shady area can be accomplished nicely with a little bit of advanced preparation. Before starting your shade garden plans you need to realize a few things about the shade you are dealing with. First, the level of shade you have can range from light to filtered to full. And areas of your yard will often vary from between these ranges within the course of a day. Second, the shade can vary depending on what time of the year it is.
You need to determine what sort of shade you have in a particular area. You may have total shade in one part of your landscape and only partial shade in another. The varying degree of sun/shade that you have in any particular spot will determine to a large extent how you can plan to garden in a shady area.
Bed preparation is important. The soil needs to drain well, and it may need to be amended with various organic matter to accomplish this.
Finally, to plan your shade garden, you should incorporate some level of diagram of the area. This drawing should be done to scale, and you should begin with measurements of the dimensions of your property, which are then converted to a sheet of graph paper using some easy to follow scale (for example, perhaps 1 inch on the graph paper = 10 feet of actual property). Include in this drawing your house structure, your yard, and pencil in any existing trees and shrubs, and other beds.
Next, draw in where you want to add new beds. Evaluate the sunlight/shade condition in these areas and select your plants accordingly.
There are a number of plants that can give you color and will grow in part shade to full shade. Among these are Hydrangeas, Azaleas, Mahonias, Hostas, and, for color in the winter, Nandinas.