Shady char­ac­ters

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - MANITOBA GARDEN SHOPPING GUIDE - By Ger­ald Filip­ski

Gar­den­ing in the shade has been the scourge of many a gar­dener. Try­ing to get plants to grow and per­form well in a shady spot can be very chal­leng­ing but it is not im­pos­si­ble and can, in fact, be very re­ward­ing. Trans­form­ing a pre­vi­ously dark area de­void of life, colour and tex­ture into a fo­cal point makes all the tri­als and tribu­la­tions worth it. A healthy and vi­brant shade gar­den is truly a thing of beauty.

Many gar­den­ers fall into the trap of try­ing to grow plants in shade that are sim­ply not suited for that type of ex­po­sure. While some plants will sur­vive in such a set­ting they will never ex­cel to look their best. How­ever, there are plants that do love grow­ing in the shade and will look fab­u­lous with min­i­mal care and fuss.

7 of the best per­form­ers in the shade 1) Hostas.

These plants are grown for their fo­liage. While they do bloom and the blooms are at­trac­tive it is the fo­liage that makes these plants the stars of the shade gar­den. With nearly 2,000 va­ri­eties there is a hosta for ev­ery type of gar­den. They come in bi-colours, dwarfs, gi­ants and a wide va­ri­ety of tex­tures. While hostas are shade-tol­er­ant they still need some light even if it is in­di­rect. Some spe­cialty va­ri­eties will grow in deeper shade. One ex­am­ple is hosta sieboldiana ‘El­e­gans’. The beauty of hostas is that they can be grown on their own as a fo­cal point plant, as an en­tire shade bed or eas­ily mixed with other plants.

2) Di­cen­tra.

Bleed­ing hearts have been around for many years but they are no longer your grand­mother’s bleed­ing hearts. To­day’s va­ri­eties can be used as spec­i­men plants on their own and not just back­ground plants as they may have been used in the past. A good ex­am­ple is Di­cen­tra ‘Gold Heart’. This is a spec­tac­u­lar plant for deep shade. The bright lime-green leaves are al­most elec­tric in shade and the bright­ness of the leaves makes the light pink blooms stand out much more than on the older dark green va­ri­eties.

Also known as coral bells. These plants are also grown pri­mar­ily for their fo­liage. While the tiny, bell-shaped flow­ers are at­trac­tive the new va­ri­eties with their bril­liant leaf colours are what make this plant

3) Heuchera.

a shade win­ner. The Dolce se­ries of heucheras are par­tic­u­larly eye-catch­ing. The bright char­treuse fo­liage of ‘Key Lime Pie’ or the fiery, salmon colour of ‘Peach Melba’ for ex­am­ple in­stantly add a splash of colour to any shade gar­den.

4) Brun­nera.

This wood­land plant is quickly be­com­ing a shade gar­dener’s favourite. This rhi­zoma­tous peren­nial grows in mounds. Siberian bu­gloss, as it is also known, has beau­ti­ful heartshaped leaves. The va­ri­ety ‘Jack Frost’ has strik­ing sil­ver fo­liage veined in green and sprays of bright blue flow­ers rem­i­nis­cent of for­get-me-nots. The plant does very well in par­tial to full shade.

5) Hy­drangea.

Both the old favourite ‘Annabelle’ and the newer va­ri­ety ‘End­less Sum­mer’ can add in­ter­est to the shade with their large blooms. ‘End­less Sum­mer’ of­fers the bonus of colour in blue or pink de­pend­ing on whether you add an acid-based fer­til­izer or an al­ka­line one. The plant will also re-bloom through the spring and sum­mer. Both plants pre­fer morn­ing sun fol­lowed by dap­pled shade.

( Athyrium nipon­icum ‘Pic­tum’). This is an­other fo­liage plant for the shade that can be a fo­cal point all on its own. The clump­ing fronds are dark green in colour, over­laid in olive and sil­ver-gray. The stems pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing con­trast with their bur­gundy colour. This plant will do well in par­tial to full shade. It is hardy to zone 4 but with some win­ter pro­tec­tion and once es­tab­lished, it will do well.

6) Ja­panese Fern. 7) Geranium Cranes­bill.

The va­ri­ety ‘Rozanne’, for­mer peren­nial of the year in 2008 is a much bet­ter per­former than pre­vi­ous va­ri­eties. The plant forms mid­sized mounds of deeply-cut green leaves and bears loose clus­ters of bright vi­o­let-pur­ple flow­ers start­ing in early sum­mer. Flow­er­ing can con­tinue for weeks or months de­pend­ing on the re­gion. The plant does well in full sun to par­tial shade. The bonus of the bright flow­ers makes this an ap­peal­ing ad­di­tion to the shady gar­den.

Ger­ald Filip­ski is a mem­ber of the Gar­den Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. Ger­ald’s col­umn ap­pears weekly in the Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal and he is the au­thor of Just Ask Jerry.

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