Growing Concerns 525: Shade garden plants

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Shade loving perennial flowers available locally

Dear Janet,

My backyard is pretty much a shade garden. I've been trying to create a perennial garden over the past couple of years and would like to add some of the more unusual perennials. Can you tell me nurseries in the area that carry the more difficult to find perennials such as Japanese woodland peony, crested iris, etc. Also, I'd like the names of some reputable catalogs that cater to shade gardening.


Dear Colleen,

The best thing to do is create a list of plants that you want and search the internet, or call around.  Just be sure to use nurseries or even local farm markets for the more difficult to find perennials.  Large chain stores with garden centers do not tend to have the more unusual plants. Below is a list of perennials you may want to look into adding to your current list:

  • Grassy blue sedge (Carex glauca), a great foil for gold leaf hostas
  • There are several kinds of meadow rue (Thalictrum).  They are airy beauties such as 6-10 foot tall T. 'Elin' with mauve flowers and T. glaucumwith blue foliage and sulfur yellow bloom.
  • Bugbanes (Cimicifuga varieties)! C. 'Black Negligee' is a knockout, with white candelabra flowers in late summer on 4 to 6 foot spires above ferny dark maroon foliage.
  • Golden satin grass (Hakonechloa macra aureolata) to light up shady corners.
  • Arries yellow corydalis (Corydalis lutea), is a very long-blooming shade perennial which also has endearing blue green foliage.
  • Roger's flower is for moist shade (Rodgersia aesculifolia). It's a plant with such stunning large foliage that the 4-5 foot stalks of white flowers are a bonus.
  • Crested iris (Iris cristata),
  • Japanese wax bell (Kirengeshoma palmata).  It's as remarkable for its maple-like leaves and longevity as for its big yellow bell flowers in September
  • Lungworts (Pulmonaria species).  There are those with brightly marked leaves such as 'Moonshine' and 'Excalibur', among others. These hosta-form plants have blue flowers in early spring, gorgeous foliage plus staying power in drier and sluggier areas!
  • Toadlily (Tricyrtis species and varieties) for late color. They defy their name and show a kinship to orchids as they bloom in fall.
  • Moss-like Sagina subulata for between your stepping stones.
  • Japanese painted fern (Athyrium goeringianum 'Pictum') as a beacon along the path.


Green thumbs up

to cutting out the brown in that perennial garden. If it's gone to seed or developed problems clip it. Your eyes and the plant will benefit.


Green thumbs down

to strangling tomato and melon plants as the fruit ripens. If you have them tied to supports, check the ties or replace them with wide, soft material.


Originally published 7/19/03


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