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Shady Gardens Need Shade Plants That Will Shine Everywhere

Coral Bells

Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ a colorful shade plant

Almost every garden has a shady spot and a shade loving plant or two is required. Last summer we put up a six foot fence. One side of that fence will be sunny for most of the day, but the other side will have shade for most of the day. I am planning a narrow bed along the shady side of the fence. Now I am deciding which shade loving plants would be useful and appealing.

Heucheras, coral bells, are beautiful flowers for a shady spot. Many varieties in stunning colors are available at most garden centers. I will definitely make a trip to Garden Supply at Hadley Garden Center this spring. I have a soft spot in my heart for Garden Supply because the Gardeners Supply Company was born in Burlington, Vermont – and I spent part of my childhood in Charlotte nearby.  In addition I bought a Gardener’s Supply garden cart about 25 years ago and it is still in operation.

Terra Nova is a nursery that specializes in heucheras. I am sure Gardener’s Supply at Hadley Garden Center will have coral bells, although I don’t know which varieties. I have seen H. Electric Lime and think it would be a good choice because it is such a brilliant green and tolerates deep shade. It makes a healthy clump 12 inches high, 28 inches wide with white flowers on 16 inch stems.

Marmalade foliage is warm and shiny in shades of umber to deep sienna with pinky undersides and white flowers. It is slightly smaller than Electric Lime, but would still provide a warm brightness in the shade. Both of these heucheras will bloom in May into June.

Lady's Mantle

Lady’s Mantle, properly named Alchemilla mollis, a quiet shade plant for a quiet site

Lady’s Mantle, otherwise known as Alchemillia mollis, is not as showy as coral bells. It is an energetic ground cover with beautiful scalloped foliage. I love this plant because of the slightly frilly foliage, but also because that foliage collects raindrops. Or hose-drops. I just recently learned that butterflies make use of those drops when they are thirsty. I confess I never gave much thought to  butterflies needing water, but now I realize how important Lady’s Mantle is. It also produces languid green-gold flowers over a very long season. Usually I don’t pick the flowers but they do make good filler in bouquets.

Tiarella Foam Flower

Tiarella – Foam Flower for the shade

Tiarella cordifolia, foamflower, is another wonderful, but less showy groundcover with runners that will spread the plant rapidly. It can take full shade, but never minds some sun. It also welcomes a damp spot with rich humusy soil. In fact it is a dry spot that will cause hardship. The foliage stays close to the ground all season and with flower spikes in pink or white that will stand almost a foot tall in May. Some people deadhead tiarellas, but I have found that by the time the flowers are finished there is so much else going on in the garden that the dead spikes are not noticeable and they will eventually disappear. I think this a useful plant because it densely covers the ground and does a really good job keeping down the weeds.

Hellebores

Hellebores, an exotic shade plant

Hellebores that bloom in early spring are shade plants both exotic and shy at the same time.  Its common name is Lenten Rose promising blooms in the very early spring. The flowers come in many shades from pale to dark, often single but sometimes double. They are shy because their blossoms, which are actually sepals surrounding the very shy real flowers, are always bowing their heads. Those sepals are what give hellbores a long bloom period.

Breeders are always trying to create hellebores that will look up at you. There has not been much success. Therefore some gardeners have found  a slope is an ideal place to plant them. I don’t have a slope but I do have a desire to try a hellebore.

Astilbe

Astilbe – shade plant

Astilbes are wonderful garden plants. Astilbe x arendsii is the most common family to be found in garden centers. They bloom in many colors from white to pink to lavender, with spikes of flowers up to 3 feet. Rhineland is a pink variety that blooms very early in the spring, with feathery spires nearly two feet tall. Fanal is one of the few good red astilbes, usually little more than a foot tall. A.  chinensis Superba is one of the most stunning astilbes with four foot tall magenta flower spikes on sturdy stems. On the other hand A. chinensis Little Vision in Pink is only about 15 inches tall. I have nameless astilbes left by the previous owners of our house. Now I have my eye on A. thunbergii Ostrich Plume with 30 inch tall nodding plumes. All the astilbes attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and tolerate dampness in the shade.

Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum odoratus, is a scented woodland shade plant that works beautifully in a shady garden. It has graceful two to three foot arching stems. Often the light green leaves are edged with white. Delicate greenish-white tubular flowers hang from the stems. Solomon’s Seal spreads slowly by rhizomes, but once it is established it will form a good colony.  This is a pest-free plant, very low maintenance, but watch out for snails.

You will find all of these shade loving plants at garden centers and others. You will also find them at spring plant sales like the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale in Shelburne Falls on May 16 this year. Mark your calendar.###

Betweetn the Rows  February 29, 2020

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