03 June 2012

Frankie Flowers Fast Five: Top Five Plants for Shade

Adapted from the quickest of segments on CityLine, Frankie Flowers (aka Frank Ferragine) spotlighted five plants (perennials) ideal for the shady areas in your garden.  The commentary and photos (unless stated otherwise) here are my own.   "Frankie Flowers' Fast Five Top Five Plants for the Shade" are Heuchera, Helleborus, Hosta, Fern, and Pachysandra.  Read on and you'll see why gardeners everywhere favour these shade lovers.

Heuchera Palace Purple growing in the front bed (above and below)
Flanking this Heuchera on both sides are Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon Meadia) sometimes known as Prairie Pointers.  Behind and to the left is Astilbe.
Heuchera (aka Coral Bells)
How I love this little beauty!  There is such a wide variety of foliage colours and form available but they are all clumping in style.  Ranging form purple as in Palace Purple to deep purple in Obsidian, to marmalade and oranges.  I found Palace Purple does best in shade, turning an unsightly shade of brown in the sun.  Marmalade and other more colourful varieties do fine in sun.  Don't plant this gem in full hot dry sun though, it mustn't be allowed dry out, and it will reward you with the most dazzling foliage.  Its blooms are light airy sprigs that rise high above the foliage, with minute blossoms in white or pink scattered along the stems.

Lenten Rose Helleborus
The Lenten Rose/Helleborus flowers early spring in most areas.  In zone 3, though, it may flower later in the season due to late springs here.  It has a lovely nodding bloom, generally facing downwards, varying in colour from monochromatic to rose coloured.  A pretty little thing, it is poisonous to pets and people. (this photo is stock photo from the internet) 

Hostas along the side of my house.  They love it in this location.  The hostas nearest is Francie.
There are so many varieties of hosta available, with new introductions hitting the market each year.  One may select from solid greens and blues (shade only for these), to variegated forms.  I have several variegated forms growing at the side of the house, seen above, and two varieties (Francie and Frances Williams) growing in the bed at the front of the house.  In the back garden, facing east, I am growing two newer introductions which are pale green with a white edge.  These do fine in shade/part sun and will flower with long shoots of lavender or white blossoms.  Hostas are grown for their foliage, though, with many people removing the flowers as they are not so dramatic. The only problem one may encounter is slugs. You may combat this using diatomaceous earth which has minuscule granules of glass mixed in.  It won't hurt pets nor children, but slugs hate it.

Ostrich fern.  Also in this bed are astilbe (left of fern), Hostas, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, and not seen in this photo are Shooting Stars, and Heucheras,  Palace Purple and Plum Pudding.
There are several varieties of fern available on the market including the ostrich fern (aka fiddle-head fern), shown above.  I've also tried the Arctic fern, and it overwintered fine for a few years and then didn't show up last year at all.  Lady fern is a nice alternative for zone 3 gardens.  It grows 24-36 inches tall, compared to the eventual perspective height of ostrich fern of 3-4 feet.  Ferns like a moist soil and do well in shade.  Some will tolerate a bit of sun if the soil is kept very moist.  The ostrich fern is otherwise known as a fiddle-head fern.  When young the shoots are spiralled as they emerge and it is this spiral form of the fern that may be steamed and eaten.  
Pachysandra terminalus
Pachysandra forms a dense spreading ground cover which is ideal under trees where nothing seems to grow.  It has glossy green leaves with small white flowers.  Be sure to keep this plant in check though as it is a spreader.

These are five suggested plants for the shade garden.  I really wish I had more shade in mine as I just love the variety of plants that love the shade.  After visiting Shuswap Lake in British Columbia, and hiking through the most gorgeous lush forests, I endeavoured to mimic some of the feel of the forested undergrowth in my shade garden.  I've included Dwarf Alberta Spruce, astilbe (I love the fine teethed edged varieties), shooting stars, heuchera, ostrich ferns and hostas.  Really, only the astilbe and the ferns resemble the forest undergrowth but the other plants just look so good together and I love them all.  If only it were a larger area....

Have you mimicked a garden or natural habitat in your own garden?  I'd love to know how you did it and what plants you incorporated and/or substituted to achieve the effect.

Til next time, good gardening everyone!


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