How to brighten up that shady land­scape

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - NANCY BRACHEY

With the trees in full leaf, shade is the dom­i­nant char­ac­ter­is­tic of many land­scapes. Adding color to this green vista is not a huge chal­lenge and can be fun to do. You can do it with such pop­u­lar an­nu­als as be­go­nias, flowering to­bacco and im­pa­tiens, and with shrubs such as hy­drangeas.

And you can do it with more green. This is be­cause not all greens are the same. Green in­cludes bright greens and the palest green that is al­most white, as well as char­treuse, le­mon and lime, which per­form great ser­vice in light­en­ing up a land­scape.

They do this with their nat­u­ral color, as it con­trasts with the darker greens. And they also achieve it by catch­ing and re­flect­ing golden sun­beams that fil­ter through the tree canopy. That is a sight that makes any sum­mer evening worth stay­ing home for.

There are darker tones of green that can be bluish and some so deep they look al­most pur­ple or black. That makes for great con­trast, but keep in mind th­ese deep tones tend to dis­ap­pear as the day ebbs.


Hostas and ferns rank among the top choices to achieve a range of good greens. Th­ese are good sum­mer plants but they will be with you for many years as they have real stay­ing power.

Hostas, how­ever, are at­trac­tive to deer, so keep that in mind if deer are a prob­lem where you live.

Look for hostas and ferns with the lighter, brighter green fo­liage. They stand out in col­lec­tions in gar­den cen­ters. Some hostas have white or cream stripes, an­other means to brighten up the shady land­scape.


Caladiums, too, of­fer a great range of color, in­clud­ing many good com­bi­na­tions. This is an easy-to-grow bulb that should be planted now in warm soil. Some may be all green, but with a range of choices. Oth­ers have cream, pink or red mark­ings, or cen­ters with the green — al­ways a lovely com­bi­na­tion through the sum­mer.

A fourth shady peren­nial often cho­sen largely for its fo­liage is heuchera, also called coral bells for their pretty flow­ers. The fo­liage choices are huge th­ese days, but I par­tic­u­larly love the choices in char­treuse that re­ally stand out in the land­scape.

Heuchera are par­tic­u­lar about well-drained soil.

Foam flower is an­other good choice that per­forms well, but re­quires well-drained soil. The fo­liage is quite beau­ti­ful — pale green with some darker mark­ings of red or bur­gundy along the veins of the leaves. The white flow­ers are quite beau­ti­ful and dif­fer­ent enough to make room for as ground cover or edger.

TNS/Lex­ing­ton Her­ald-Leader/PABLO ALCALA

This Paradign hosta is notable for bright green mark­ings on the fo­liage that help it stand out in a shady land­scape.

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