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This New Zealand native subshrub has 3-inch-wide scalloped leaves and little purple-brown to pale olive leaflets. Its rhizomatous roots spread in a mat to support this plant's wonderful ground-cover form. In early summer, 3/4-inch-wide flowers appear on short stems, and brownish green sepals and white anthers contrast with the dark leaves. The rhizomatous roots of this plant spread slowly into a mat, forming a nice ground cover. Prune every five years or so for a neat appearance; little other care is required. -Gerald Gibbens, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
'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’.
This vigorous maple has large, broadly ovate, dark green leaves that turn yellow or red in autumn. It is invasive in some areas.
This is a rounded to open-crown deciduous tree up to 70 feet tall and 30 feet wide with early, brilliant red fall coloring.
This popular gray-leaved yarrow has 18-inch-tall yellow flower heads that last for several weeks in late summer.
The southern maidenhair fern has fluffy, airy, and elegant foliage, which works equally well in containers or in open ground. It's a perfect plant for providing light, airy texture to shady beds. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Northern maidenhair fern's curved fronds have wiry black stems that wave in the wind. This plant spreads slowly (by branching rhizomes) and eventually forms large colonies. Its delicate texture looks most beautiful when paired with broad-leaved plants. -June Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
This conical shrub to small tree has palmate leaves and bears red (sometimes yellow-marked) flowers in 6-inch panicles in summer, followed by smooth-skinned fruit. The flowers attract hummingbirds.
Black foliage and spiky blue flowers (which appear in early summer) make a dramatic contrast. 'Black Scallop' thrives in full sun, which intensifies the black color. In full sun, the plant produces numerous runners, which should be thinned to prevent crown rot. In large plantings, you can run a rotary mower with a bagger attachment over the patch to control crowding and keep the foliage fresh. In mixed container plantings, the spilling habit of the plant makes it a standout choice. -Ron Smith, Regional Picks: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
This plant has lobed, densely hairy, chartreuse foliage that is crimped at the edges. Soft, frothy, yellow-green foliage hovers above the plant from early summer through autumn.
This dark-leaved, tropical foliage plant loves heat, and is useful spreading through a bed, border, or in a container where its deep purple leaves can contrast with brightly colored flowers or foliage. Alternanthera are native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Central and South America. Their flowers are generally an afterthought. This plant works well for edging, as an annual groundcover, or in a formal knot garden.
A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads’ is a slender-leaved perennial selection that doesn't wander, forming a textured carpet in shades of deep burgundy. A single plant makes a mound about 8 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It blooms on and off all year, but you may never notice. The small, pale flower buttons are held in the leaf axils, where they are nearly indistinguishable from the foliage unless you're paying close attention. Use 'Red Threads' at the base of taller plants in the border to provide vibrant color echoes or contrasts. Grow as a warm-season annual in cooler climates, mass the plants in beds, or use in a formal knot garden as the Victorians did.
'Yellow Form' Alternanthera is an easy-to-grow, tropical plant with a fast-spreading habit and pointed, chartreuse-yellow leaves. It forms a mat of color from spring's frost-free date to fall's first frost. Like others of this genus, it makes a great edging, bedding, or container plant. In formal landscapes, it can be used in a knot garden. It looks great with dark-leaved plants.
This plant produces a great low-growing mat of flowers. The cheerful starlike blossoms come in pink, blue, and white, and the attractive finely cut leaves disappear soon after flowering.
This is a fine plant for cascading over the edge of a wall. It's a hardy, prostrate shrub with intricate branching that often forms mats up to 3 feet wide, by runners. Fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers tinged with pink are borne in May and followed later in the season by red berries. The common bearberry's stunning red stems are studded with small, glossy, evergreen leaves.
Fragrant white flowers in spring, red fall foliage, and persistent berries for winter interest make Aronia a valuable plant in all seasons.
This is an erect shrub with lustrous dark green leaves that turn scarlet in autumn. It produces numerous white flowers tinged with pink, and abundant showy red berries that persist into winter (birds dislike the taste).
This wild ginger is an evergreen groundcover with heart-shaped, shiny leaves that are often marbled. Its interesting brown-purple flowers hide beneath the foliage.
Q&A Ground covers for dry shade
by Barbara Ashmun
Moss Makes a Lush Carpet
This easy-to-tend ground cover forms the foundation of a sculpted woodland retreat
by Jeff Osser
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
Bringing Sun and Shade Together
Show off what these extremes have to offer, then unite them with some common ground
by Dan Johnson
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