Try Filling Shady Spots With These Tough Plants
Last month, I went on about some of my favorite perennials
for spring through fall interest for sunny areas. This month,
Id like to talk about perennials I love to use in
shady areas of the garden. The qualities that all these plants
have in common re: their ability to grow well in most soil conditions,
to form big weed smothering clumps
that look like theyve always been there, and to look great
even when not in flower.
The queen of shade plants is of course the Hosta. There are millions of different types out
there. You can choose from smooth or seersucker leaves, and all
blue to green to yellow to white to various combinations thereof.
The biggest one I know is called Sum and Substance.
It turns a golden yellow, can take quite a lot of sun,
and needs a 2 metre circle of real estate. Smaller hostas with
gold or white outlines to the leaves, such as
Frances Williams or Wide brim are a little easier to fit into
garden plans and are useful for lightening up dark areas. There
are also cute little ones to tuck into spaces between other plants,
but if you have hungry slugs, they will stop the tiny ones from
ever putting up a leaf.
Another shady favorite is the Astilbe. this is pretty grown
near hostas, as the ferny leaves make a nice contrast. The blossoms
are feathery and help to give lightness and movement to bulky
hostas. The pink, red and white blooms coordinate nicely with
the pale whites and purples of the hosta flowers. The flowers
on both these plants are just a bonus, since both would be grown
just as often if they never bloomed at all.
If your garden is made shady by cedars, firs or maples,
or it its al all woodsy, you can do no better than planting
some ferns. The big sword ferns do transplant well (find
an area thats about to be developed and rescue the native
plants from there) but may become too large. Deer ferns look
quite similar but are much more compact.
Another evergreen perennial with a forest feel is the Epimeduim.
This forms a blanket of heart shaped leaves that vary in colour
from green to red depending on the variety(and there are quite
a few). Flowers peep up above the leaves in the spring, and look
like tiny narcissus in yellow, white or pink. this is a wonderful,
tough plant that carpets well in deep shade, and is easily split
up to cover more areas.
Heucheras are also on my shade list, although they really
do best in light shade or partly sunny areas. Again, we get a
mound of leaves, but these are available in many
interesting shades of dark plum and bronze, in addition to the
green of our native Heuchera. The flowers are slim wand of tiny
off-white bells, similar to our native
Tiarella, and to the half-breed Heucheralla. In fact, most of
the local woodland flowers do well in shady gardens, but not
all retain their looks through the summer.
One last tip for shade gardeners-I know of only one plant
that will grow reasonably well in tough conditions of dry shade
found under the skirts o large cedar trees. The
plant is Tradescantia, also known as Spiderwort. Ive never
seen it in any books listed as a shade plant, but give it a try.
You may be pleasantly surprised.