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The SunCalc was produced by a seed grant from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI). The Maine State Legislature created the MTI to develop new technology and encourage innovation.

Many shade plants will do better in moist soil, so if you are trying to make a garden work in deep north-facing shadow, dig in lots of organic material first to ensure the earth holds as much water as it can. And consider installing irrigation: especially in small shady town gardens, this can allow your sun-starved beauties to flourish regardless.

My biggest tip would be to use the specialists: David Austin provides lists of roses that will put up with four to six hours of sunlight a day, for example. Or settle down with the catalogue from Wincanton's Long Acre Nursery, beautifully entitled "Plants For Shade". There's nine pages on ferns alone, to cool even the sweatiest gardener.

Unlike other sun meters, the SunCalc is reusable. The diode and LED use very little power and the meter can be used dozens of times, which helps reduce trash and lowers the cost of operation.

Geranium "Mount Olympus" AGM offers pure-white flowers above a bunchy, flourishing bump of green foliage, flowering for weeks in summer.

Thalictrum "Black Stockings" is a willowy teenager of a plant that bears soft, hazy clusters of petals on deep-black stems up to 6ft tall. In my garden it does best with a bit of sun during the day, mostly in the shade, but planted in rich, moist soil.

The Sunlight Calculator is a reliable and accurate measuring device that predicts whether Full sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade, or Full Shade plants will grow best in an area. It helps plan your garden layout before buying expensive seedlings or plants.

Choosing the right plants for your gardens conditions is probably the single most important thing to get right for a successful garden. Below are some suggestions that we hope will get you started in the right direction. These lists can be guides only and it is important to read the individual descriptions for each plant. Just because a plant is given in one list it does not necessarily mean that it will not grow in other conditions.

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Aster frikartii "Monch" AGM has dazzling, floaty clouds of blue starbursts, which flower for weeks through August and September. A Piet Oudolf must-have, it combines well with other late Oudolf favourites such as wheaten grasses.

The SunCalculator has a stake on one end that holds it securely in the ground. To use it, simply plant the Light Meter in the morning, press a button, and come back in the evening for the finished reading. The LEDs blink every 2 seconds to show that the meter is running.

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The Reusable Sun Calc light measuring tool quickly and easily calculates the solar potential of any spot in your garden. The photovoltaic sensor tracks sunlight over a 24 hour period and indicates the light levels for any given area.

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What you want, of course, is a bit of shade. It feels hot everywhere, even in the shade; but if you just had a patch of something sombre to sit in, for a moment at least, the pouring sweat would stop. At least that's the theory. I could also use a patch of shade for the small children. It's not even just my own small child, it's other people's.

Alchemilla mollis AGM is the ultimate National Trust path-edger: these hard-wearing blue-green leaves with the bright-lime flowers will cheer up shady corners – even those which don't do well water-wise.

Finally, if all you have to play with, garden-wise, is a basement stairwell, turn to the ferns. Well-watered, these beautiful plants will make your dusty utility area a burst of heartening green. I love Dryopteris 'Cristata', the King Fern, with huge arching fronds when well irrigated.

Aster frikartii 'Monch' AGM has dazzling, floaty clouds of blue starbursts

Plants such as honeysuckle will grow happily in shady areas

Sun and Soil are the two most important ingredients for successful gardening. Take the guess work out of determining your soil type or where to locate your plants by using one of these testers.

Anemones are stars in the shade, managing glowing soft-white flowers in late summer even planted up against fences and car parks. "Honorine Jobert" AGM is a corker. £5.50

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All varieties are £5.50 (except Alchemilla mollis – £4.80; and Dryopteris 'Cristata – £6.80) from Long Acre Nurseries (plantsforshade.co.uk)

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Sunlight is the critical requirement for plant health. Even with the perfect soil and water conditions, plants are unable to grow without the right level of sunlight.

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