Regional Picks: Color in the Shade – California

Fine Gardening - Issue 147



‘Little Heath’ andromeda (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’)

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9

Size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial shade; moist, acidic, well-drained soil

A lovely plant with light green leaves and white variegation, ‘Little Heath’ andromeda features new growth that is pink, which adds to its attractiveness. This plant is a great companion to azaleas and rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9) because it also prefers acidic soil conditions. Small bell-shaped white flowers in long clusters appear in midspring. After the flowers are gone, the plant will push new rose-colored growth.


‘Coastal Spice’ rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Coastal Spice’)

Zones: 8 to 11

Size: 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

‘Coastal Spice’ is the best fragrant rhododendron to come along in years. Because of its spicy and intense aroma, this plant has, in fact, become one of the most loved in our gardens. The white flowers are enhanced by rich yellow and pink hues, while the foliage is uniquely textured with hairy stems. In winter, the foliage and buds turn a dark bronze color, which creates even more interest.


‘Fubuki’ Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Fubuki’)

Zones: 5 to 9

Size: 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; well-drained soil

I love Japanese forest grass for its bamboolike foliage, which stays low to the ground. It creates a bright mound of color in almost any shady spot, and it doesn’t spread by runners, like bamboo does. The leaves of ‘Fubuki’ (which, in Japanese, means “snowstorm”) are mostly white, with some green striping along the midrib. Later in summer, some of the leaves begin to turn shades of pink.


All Gold’ juniper (Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’)

Zones: 6 to 10

Size: 6 inches tall and 4 to 6 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Although junipers are typically planted in full-sun situations, some do better in partial shade. ‘All Gold’, for instance, may have a slightly less intense gold color in partial shade, but it won’t suffer from needle burn. This cultivar tolerates salt spray and dry conditions, so it’s great for seaside plantings. One of the brightest plants in our partial-shade gardens, ‘All Gold’ contrasts with evergreen shrubs all year. Plant it where it can cascade over walls or the edges of containers.


Don Wallace is the owner of Singing Tree Gardens & Nursery in McKinleyville, California.

Photos: courtesy of Don S. Wallace

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