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'Amber Ghost' offers unique color in the maples. In spring, it is first bright pink, changing to a melon, pink-orange color. In summer it is a warm soft amber with a distinct green vein. Fall brings bright red and orange. 'Amber Ghost' is a wide, upright tree, excellent for either container or landscape if you want a series of stunning colors to bring into the garden.
This Japanese maple has long-lobed, deeply divided leaves that are cherry red in the spring, a perfect contrast to the pea green bark. In summer the foliage changes slowly from red to green and back to red in fall. The habit is wide spreading with pendulous branches providing movement in the least of wind. Though slow to mature, it is an easy tree to grow and a striking beauty.
The foliage is bright strawberry red at first emergence, and slowly pink suffuses each leaf along the vein as the spring progresses. Graceful deeply divided leaves with serrated edges gently curve at the tips. In its mature form, this tree will most likely have wide spreading with cascading branches (Because this is a new cultivar and Japanese maples can be very slow growing, accurate information about this tree’s maturity can be difficult to come by) . This cultivar is a seedling from ‘Aka shigitatsu sawa’.
In late spring, lavender-pink flowers rise above this plant’s lacy, fernlike foliage, which forms an airy network beneath. The blooms appear a bit later than typical for other astilbes, and they extend later into summer. ‘Maggie Daley’ is moderately drought tolerant once established. Pair it with Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 5–8) for a beautiful combination. And deer and rabbit resistance is the pièce de résistance! -Kielian DeWitt, Fine Gardening #147 (Octover 2012), page 76
This is the most drought-tolerant bergenia I’ve found and the only one that does well in Texas heat. The large, hairy, critter-resistant leaves do not resemble other members of this genus; they look more like hairy plates or giant African violet leaves—hence, it’s common name. Mature plants will send up 10-inch-long stems of white to pale pink flowers from spring to early summer, but the real reason to grow this plant is its remarkable foliage.In cooler regions, hairy bergenia grows not only in the shade but also in full sun. It isn’t particular about soil type or pH. Divide plants every three to five years to keep them vigorous. -Jimmy Turner, Perennials for dry shade, Fine Gardening issue #133
A better-behaved cousin to the less-than-polite trumpet vine, cross vine is a colorful solution for a fence or arbor with afternoon shade. Although this east Texas native is slow to establish, ‘Tangerine Beauty’ sports brighter, showier flowers than other cultivars and will reward your patience with loads of orange blooms in both spring and fall. Flowers bloom on old wood, so prune this vine immediately only after blooms fade. -Leslie Finical Halleck, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 74
The first time you see a Chinese hardy orchid flowering you kind of rub your eyes: Did a garden fairy drop her corsage after the prom? It really is a perennial here, which flowers in late spring to early summer, with three to seven flowers atop each wiry stem. The foliage is beautifully pleated, and happy plantings slowly grow into sizable clumps. -Irvin Etienne, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 72
Japanese camellias shine in winter, with their glossy, deep green leaves and brilliant symmetry. Red, pink, and white lowers appear in spring, and they range from solids to stripes and from single cups of petals to tight double blooms. -Nellie Neal, Regional Picks: Southeast, Fine Gardening issue #127
I have a penchant for vigorous, spreading plants: For the price of one plant I can get tons more for free. Plus, plants that spread out are naturals for dry shade; the expanded network of root systems feeds the whole plant, helping it get the water it needs. ‘Pink Octopus’ quickly forms wide mats of tall, deeply cut, light green foliage. Throughout spring, octopus-shaped, candy pink flowers float in a mass over the foliage, sporadically appearing throughout summer. I use this plant as the horticultural equivalent of a slipcover to coat large areas of shade quickly, especially because it can handle the extremes of my Texas climate. This perennial is maintenance-free, other than keeping it from encroaching on less vigorous plants. -Jimmy Turner, Perennials for dry shade, Fine Gardening issue #133
Lily of the valley's bell-shaped, sweetly scented flowers bloom in early spring. It likes partial to full shade and is perfect for a woodland garden. It may not be the best choice for your beds and borders because it tends to spread, but it is a perfect ground cover if you have a large shady spot under some trees.
Originating in mountainous woodland and stony habitats from Europe to western Asia, yellow foxglove is tolerant of dry shade but flourishes with moisture. Arising in midsummer from neat clumps of fine-toothed foliage, a mass of soft yellow open bells, speckled brown inside, blooms along one side of a 3-foot-tall stem. Usually described as a perennial, it is more accurate to call it a biennial or short-lived perennial. If the flowering stalk is cut down after blooms have faded, it may rebloom in the fall. When a few flower stalks are left, the plant self-seeds.
From late fall through winter, the leathery leaves of hellebores stay glossy, cheery, and green. Hybrids of H. orientalis and other species have a clump-forming habit and leathery leaves. They begin blooming in February or March in a range of shades, adding much needed color very early in the season. The blooms last for a very long time, especially if the weather stays cool. Hellebores are tolerant of summer heat and humidity. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
Hellebores begin blooming in mid-winter in a range of colors, adding much needed color very early in the season. They bloom when the temperature is below freezing, even amidst the snow. Protect from cold winter winds, especially when not insulated by snow, to avoid damaged foliage. Avoid ingestion of all plant parts and contact with the sap.
This heuchera has burgundy leaves splashed with silver and grows up to 16 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Pink flowers emerge in spring and rise to 26 inches tall. This plant performs well in both garden beds and in containers, where it makes a wonderful filler plant.
This heuchera, sold as Dolce® Blackcurrant in the U.S., has purple and silver leaves veined with black and grows up to 16 inches tall and 20 inches wide. While it flowers in early summer, it is grown primarily for its dramatic foliage and performs well in both garden beds and containers.
Heuchera 'Caramel' has H. villosa parentage, so it's more tolerant of heat and humidity that other heacheras. It has glowing, apricot-hued foliage that grows up to 12 inches tall and 20 inches wide. Pink flowers appear in spring. This plant performs well in both garden beds and containers, or as a groundcover when planted en masse. It may be evergreen on warmer climates.
This heuchera cultivar has peachy-bronze leaves and spires of red flowers in late spring and early summer. It grows up to 16 inches tall and 20 inches wide. 'Crème Brûlée' performs well in both garden beds and in containers, where it mingles well with a multitude of plants. This cultivar is very tolerant of heat and sun.
This heuchera has dusky purple leaves with charcoal veins, overlaid with silver between the veins. The plant grows up to 16 inches tall and wide. Pale pink flowers appear in spring. Great in garden beds and in container plantings.
Heucheras make excellent foliage plants for sun to part shade gardens. Most flowers are not as impressive as the foliage, but they do add a second level of interest. 'Silver Scrolls' heuchera's leaves are burgundy overlaid with silver and withstand even hot summers, unlike many other silver plants. It grows up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide.
This heuchera cultivar has very dark (almost black) plum or purplish leaves and greenish white, bell-shaped flowers in late spring and early summer.
This purple to almost black heuchera adds drama to the shade. The plant grows to 16 inches tall and wide with coralcolored blooms in spring. Grow it in garden beds or containers.
With hefty, chartreuse-flared leaves, ‘Lakeside Shore Master’ hosta commands attention. Performing best in shade, it will tolerate some sun in our cool New England climate. Please don’t let the name fool you, however, into giving it a soggy spot; wet feet turn hostas into mush. This cultivar also sports thick leaves, which are fairly slug resistant. -Justin Nichols, Fine Gardening 147, page 70
This re-blooming mophead features inflorescences ranging 4-6 inches wide. Their color will be pink or blue depending on aluminum availability in soil. Compact habit with glossy dark green leaves.
'Hermann's Pride' is small, but bold. Unlike the rampantly creeping variegated yellow lamium (Lamium galeobdolon 'Variegatum'), the lamium cultivar ‘Hermann’s Pride’ is a slow-growing, clump-forming treasure that grows like a small bush, beautiful in foliage (jagged, silvery, and green) and flower (brilliant yellow). Masses of flowers appear in late spring to early summer. While some may have trouble controlling this cultivar, it behaves meekly in harsh climates. -Sue Whetten, Regional Picks: Rocky Mountains, Fine Gardening issue #127
Lamium is a genus with many cultivars that are outstanding foliage plants for the shade, most notably ‘White Nancy’. This evergreen ground cover’s beautiful, 1- to 2-inch-wide leaves are silvery white with green edges and have a quilted appearance. Clusters of white flowers appear from spring through summer.
‘Pink Chablis’ has pink flowers above silvery gray leaves edged with dark green. These trailing plants make fine ground covers or cascaders.
In early spring, fleshy stems unfurl and are topped by rounded burgundy leaves. By June, this plant looks splendid, with upturned leaves and their rich purple undersides. 'Britt Marie Crawford' may wilt in the hot noonday sun, but soft shade soon revives it. At the start of summer, right golden daisy-like flowers bloom, contrasting boldly with the foliage. -Matt Griswold, Regional Picks: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #127
Red spider lily’s brilliant red flowers remind me of an azalea’s ball truss. Blooms fade quickly in hot weather, but a higher degree of shade helps them last a while longer. Depending on where it grows in the Southeast, red spider lily blooms from early September to mid-October. After the bloom stalks fade away, foot-long, strap-shaped leaves emerge and last through winter. Red spider lily is an heirloom bulb that is easily passed from hand to hand. Replant offsets as the leaves die in spring. -Parker Andes, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 71
“Soft caress,” indeed! You’ll barely recognize this shade dweller as an Oregon grape when it sends up its long slender foliage without a single thorn. Its spikes of fragrant, lemon yellow flowers bloom from fall through winter, and will add a jolt to any shady bed. But the large clusters of silver-blue berries that follow the blooms are what I look forward to most. For the best results, give this drought-tolerant perennial afternoon shade, well-draining soil, and plenty of water the first year. -Leslie Finical Halleck, Fine Gardening # 147 (October 2012), page 74
This spreading tree with a graceful habit bears glossy, dark green leaflets. Thick shoots grow quickly when young—and more slowly as the tree reaches maturity. In fall, foliage turns a handsome shade of yellow and the tree bears clusters of blue-black berries. Deeply corrugated, pale gray-brown bark is a striking feature; unfortunately, it doesn’t develop until the tree matures.
Plectranthus cultivars are popular foliage plants, but some gardeners grow them for their blooms, and one of the best bloomers is 'Mona Lavender'. This cultivar has abundant lavender-purple flowers that complement the dark green leaves (with purple undersides and stems). These plants thrive in light to deep shade. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
‘Bertram Anderson’ is an older cultivar of lungwort with excellent foliage. In early spring, pink buds open to bright blue flowers, then silver-spotted leaves unfurl for a season-long show. Lungworts can have mildew problems, but ‘Bertram Anderson’ is highly resistant. When you cut off the old foliage in late winter, wear gloves; the tiny hairs all over the leaves (which keep the deer away) can irritate your skin. -Irvin Etienne, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 72
This cheerful, reliable plant brings a nice touch of color to the garden in spring. The leaves are pointed and hairy and splattered with silvery blotches. As the plant grows, the leaves overlap, creating a swirly pattern. In spring, clusters of silky pink flowers appear. They fade to a soft blue that harmonizes well with the leaf color. -Sue Whetten, Regional Picks: Rocky Mountains, Fine Gardening issue #127
With its mottled cream/green foliage, 'Taff's Gold' can brighten any dark garden area. This western-native ground cover forms plantlets form at the base of the older leaves—hence its common name “piggyback plant.” This plant needs little or no water, except in lengthy periods of drought. Piggyback plant looks good in hanging baskets and containers. -Sylvia Matlock, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
Like other creeping myrtles, 'Illumination' is a tough evergreen ground cover for shade that will grow in almost any soil. Its hallmark is its bright gold leaves that are edged with a border of irregular green. Periwinkle-blue flowers appear in spring. Use 'Illumination' as a shade ground cover or in hanging baskets. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Anyone who gardens in the shade is familiar with heucherella. ‘Sweet Tea’ was bred using Heuchera villosa, a native of the eastern United States, as one of its parents, which has added enough resistance to heat, drought, and humidity to make it able to handle even the extreme climate of Texas. ‘Sweet Tea’ has large, stained, orange-bronze leaves with dark burgundy veins and short spikes of small white flowers that appear in early spring. Its brightly colored foliage, however, is the main reason to have this plant. Give it well-drained soil, and lift and divide it every couple of years. -Jimmy Turner, Perennials for dry shade, Fine Gardening issue #133
A guide to growing, care, and propagation of rex begonias, plus some great cultivars
by Rita Randolph
Experts Pick Their Favorite Plants
We asked 42 gardening experts from around the country to select their favorite plants. Now you can see the complete results of the survey.
Conifers for Shade
Yes, you can grow evergreen trees and shrubs in shade. Who knew?
by Christine Froehlich
10 Combinations for Shade
The secret is in using color to pump up the interest in low-light spots
by Inta Krombolz
Sweetly Scented Annuals
Pique your senses all season long with colorful, long-blooming beauties
by Danielle Ferguson
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