Made For The Shade

Often overlooked in designing gardens is the opportunity to develop striking visual interest in shady spots. Because most flowering plants prefer bright, sunny locations, it is often assumed that shaded areas will end up with uninspired swaths of deep, dark greens with little—if any—interesting features to tempt visitors. But there are wonderful choices of plants to include in shady nooks to spark interest and invite attention.

Brunnera Macrophylla

For a truly striking plant that can be seen from a distance and just begs for a better look, try one of the fancy-leaved forms of Brunnera macrophylla. Large, heart-shaped leaves form rounded clumps that are 12 inches to 15 inches tall with about a 24-inch spread, and perform easily and beautifully in deep shade or partial shade. My

Brunnera “Jack Frost,” has bright, silver leaves and contrasting green veins.  Photo Courtesy Of Walters Gardens

Brunnera “Jack Frost,” has bright, silver leaves and contrasting green veins.

Photo Courtesy Of Walters Gardens

favorite is Brunnera “Jack Frost,” with bright, silver leaves and contrasting green veins. The silver coloring “pops” out from surrounding green-foliage plants. In early spring, as the new leaves are just emerging, large clusters of blue forget-me-not flowers are displayed above the clumps. The flowers don’t last long, but bloom at the same time as many of the spring bulbs, such as daffodils and hyacinths, combining nicely for early-season interest. The Perennial Plant Association selected Brunnera “Jack Frost” as its Perennial Plant of the Year for 2012. All of the fancy-leaved forms of Brunnera grow well through most of the U.S., hardy from cold zone 3 through zone 8.

Carex Siderosticha “Banana Boat”

Ornamental grasses don’t generally perform well in the shade, but many of the grass-like sedges love the darker areas in the garden. The new Carex siderosticha “Banana Boat” has wide, bright-lemon to banana-yellow leaves that will brighten any shaded or partially shaded garden. It grows in a grassy mound and creeps slowly to make a dense mat of bold foliage, 6 inches to 12 inches high. This beautiful new selection is so showy that it is even being used in mixed containers with flowering material. It is easy to grow and hardy from cold zones 5 through 9.

Polygonatum Odoratum “Variegatum”

“Variegated Solomon’s Seal,” Polygonatum odoratum “Variegatum,” offers a different look for the shaded garden, with an upright, arching form, unbranched stems, and attractive, bright, white-edged leaves. The more vertical aspect gives a distinct break in a mixed border that is filled with the more-conventional rounded forms of most perennials. It grows 18 inches to 24 inches tall, and colonizes

“Variegated Solomon’s Seal,” Polygonatum odoratum grows 18 inches to 24 inches tall, and colonizes nicely without being invasive. Photo Courtesy Of Perennial Plant Association

“Variegated Solomon’s Seal,” Polygonatum odoratum grows 18 inches to 24 inches tall, and colonizes nicely without being invasive.

Photo Courtesy Of Perennial Plant Association

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