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With their white margins and mottling, the jagged leaves of 'Tasmanian Angel' are a real showshopper, and in late summer, 3-foot-tall, pink-and-cream flower stalks heighten the effect. The variegation may be less pronounced as the leaves age, but the plant still draws the eye. Use it as a multiseason container specimen or as a bedding plant. -Allan Armitage, Plants to know and grow, Fine Gardening issue #119
This 3-foot-tall and 2-foot-wide clumping perennial displays spiky racemes of white flowers in late spring and early summer followed by bright white berries with dark tips on bright red stalks. The berries are exceptionally showy and especially effective in shady woodland beds.
Actaea rubra bears white flowers from spring to early summer on plants up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. In late summer, glossy red berries develop. A few cultivars exist. This woodland perennial is native to the U.S.
This clumping woodland perennial with deep green foliage up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide bears spikes of fragrant white flowers 1 to 2 feet long in fall. Cultivars exist with varying leaf colors and forms.
Unlike other bugbanes, 'Hillside Black Beauty' offers deep purple-black foliage. From late spring to late summer, its dark hue makes a wonderful backdrop for colorful foliage and flowering shade plants. In fall, fragrant, cream-colored flowers appear on tall, wandlike stems. An added plus: this plant is deer resistant. --Michael Ruggiero, Regional Picks: Mid-Atlantic, Fine Gardening issue #127
Goat's beard is a perennial native to eastern North America and parts of Europe and Siberia. It is grown for its tall stature (up to 6 feet) and showy, cream-colored plumes of flowers in summer. The effect is that of a giant astilbe. Plants with male flowers produce showier and more erect plumes than plants with female flowers, whose plumes are more pendent and less creamy-white. Grow in a woodland garden or moist border, or at waterside.
European wild ginger is a low-growing groundcover with glossy, evergreen, heart-shaped leaves. Its unusual purple-brown flowers lie mostly concealed beneath foliage.
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.
This is an ovate, glossy-leaved plant usually grown as a houseplant. In early summer, it produces fleshy, bell-shaped, cream colored flowers with maroon interiors.
This striking, richly-textured, deciduous ground cover has heart-shaped leaves that turn mauve in autumn. Purple, blue, or white flowers appear in late summer to early fall.
Here's a fern with an upright habit and silvery fronds that give it a ghostly look, hence the name. Emerging new fronds have a shimmering whitish color that darkens slowly to a silvery green with burgundy accents. 'Ghost' spreads slowly by shallow rhizomes, eventuallly becoming an excellent ground cover. -Matt Griswold, Regional Picks: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #127
This small fern is popular and easy to grow. It's suited to the front edge of a border. This cultivar has arching, ruffled fronds that divide into tassels at the ends.
This fern has cool, grey-green, almost silvery, foliage and reddish-purple stalks that are useful for brightening dark spots in borders. It is deciduous, and although it reaches only 8 to 12 inches in height, it is easy to grow, prolific, and easily divided.
'Burgundy Lace' is a real showstopper in shady borders and containers, with its silvery purple-bronze fronds. The low-growing clumps are a good choice for edging pathways, and the plant looks terrific when planted in groups. 'Burgundy Lace' grows best in humus-rich, moist soil but will also adapt to conditions that are less than ideal. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
The broad silvery leaves of ‘Ursula’s Red’ have a showy burgundy band at the center of the leaves in spring. This plant can double in size in a single growing season, as it spreads from rhizomes. Though deer do like it, it may simply grow more fronds and not show any lasting damage. --Michael Ruggiero, Regional Picks: Mid-Atlantic, Fine Gardening issue #127
The dense, glossy foliage of this evergreen plant is splattered with yellow. Gold-dust plant can be planted near nearby tree roots, and it responds well to pruning. Combine it with yellow-blooming or variegated plants for appealing color harmonies. -Debra Lee Baldwin, Regional Picks: Southern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Unlike many other shade garden plants with their cool blue colors, 'Cowardly Lion' rex begonia offers rich warm tones. Chocolate-colored leaf veins veil the golden leaves, which become darker with age and make a fine counterpoint to yellow-based foliage plants. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
'Escargot' takes its name from the snail-like curl pattern at the base of the leaf. The foliage is striking enough to stand on its own but it's a good mixer, too. Use it with other foliage plants and brightly colored blooms. This is an extremely popular Rex hybrid begonia. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
Like other Rex begonias, 'Fireworks' is noteworthy for the coloration of its foliage. Its silvery leaves are edged in purple and have a black burst of fireworks in the center. Use it in a container or shady garden, or grow it as a houseplant. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
The leaves of 'Green Gold' are predominantly silver with deep green veining. New leaves are edged in burgundy. The silver color brightens up shady areas. 'Green Gold' grows vigorously and harmonizes well with other shade plants. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
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When starting a bed, choose the method that suits you best
by Steve Carroll
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