As I said previously, it has taken me a few years of trial and error to find which plants will perform decently in shade…even deep shade.
Last column I touched on the tough shrubs. Some of them. A few more are noted on my blog: www.duchessofdirt.ca.
Now for some tough perennials I have had success with.
Hostas are a given. They thrive in shade…although a few benefit from some sun to brighten their yellows, deepen their blues, bring out their chartreuses.
Notable ones in my garden are: ‘Blue Umbrella’, ‘June’, ‘First Frost’, ‘Night Before Christmas’, ‘Golden Tiara’, ‘Strip Tease’, Hosta montana ‘Aureo-marginata’, ‘Halcyon’ and ‘Paradise Joyce.’
I have just redone one substantial area of the garden. Removed the sun-loving plants the chestnut tree was now shading since I had put them in seven years ago.
Should have known better in the first place but who can resist the heart-throbbing red of Monarda ‘Fireball’ (bee balm) or the delightful leaf variegation and cheery yellow flowers of Heliopsis ‘Helhan’ (ox-eye daisy)?
But there are consolations…a silver lining in every cloud…a glass half full when you thought it was half empty.
I got to go plant shopping! Well, what could John say? It was my birthday and what better present can my husband buy his wife than to let her loose in a nursery to pick out her own gifts?!
Naturally, some more hostas for the deep shade. ‘Blue Angel, ‘Francee’ and ‘Francis Williams’ are doing really well. ‘Gold Standard’ is totally awesome. Filtered light through the chestnut leaves just lights this one up like a beacon. ‘Fire and Ice’ also dances in the shadows.
To liven up the leaf forms, I added in some ligularias (leopard plants). Actually, we transplanted them from John’s garden. He had lost the shade in his big bed when we took the diseased snowball tree out.
Ligularias absolutely thrive in shade but you have to keep the moisture up. So in went Ligularia przewalskii, L. stenocephala ‘The Rocket’ and who could resist Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’ for its dark-coloured foliage, red stems and height. Not I.
Finally, the perfect spot for my Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’ or spotted leopard plant. An evergreen perennial with bright green leaves generously splashed in yellow spots, this plant will give me some winter interest when the hostas and ligularias die back.
Not to be left out of the design…ferns, a staple plant for every shade garden. There are some beautiful species and cultivars available now, including a variegated East Indian holly fern.
Down to the “filler” plants…those designated to plug any holes in the landscape. I have selected some heucherellas, heucheras and a Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’. A Hepatica nobilis and a piece of my epimedium (barrenwort) will be transplanted in the fall. Both of these evergreen plants are great for deep, dry shade.
Three more plants I have to mention are: Omphalodes cappadocica (navel-seed), Asarum europaeum (wild European ginger) and Asarum caudatum (B.C. wild ginger). As weed-suppressing groundcovers, these three are unsurpassed and bullet-tough for deep shade. Bonus: the first two are evergreen so look great all year round.
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A reader asked me to get the word out about the pest currently plaguing our trees and shrubs … tent caterpillars.
There are two species in our area: Malacosoma californicum pluviale (northern tent caterpillar) and M. disstria (forest tent caterpillar).
Good news, unless you have a huge infestation … as in 50 or so tents my informant had to destroy in her garden … these guys rarely kill our plants. They just look menacing.
For more information on these two tent caterpillars, check out my website at www.duchessofdirt.ca.
Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek.