Regional Picks: Color in the Shade – Mountain West

Fine Gardening - Issue 147

Mountain West


‘Maggie Daley’ astilbe (Astilbe chinensis ‘Maggie Daley’)

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 16 to 20 inches tall and wide; flowers 28 inches tall

Conditions: Partial shade; fertile, moist soil

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!


‘Firefly’ climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris ‘Firefly’)

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: Climbing up to 50 feet

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

This somewhat rare climbing hydrangea grows best in areas with morning sun and afternoon shade. Attaching by aerial rootlets to buildings or trees, its main stem grows vertically, and side stems branch horizontally. The leaves of ‘Firefly’ are edged in a creamy yellow that matures to chartreuse. Its white flowers arrive in June. Once established—which could take up to four years—its growth rate accelerates, so don’t give up on it. Although disease and insect resistant, deer love to browse on this gem.


 ‘Langtrees’ brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Langtrees’)

Zones: 3 to 7

Size: 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, fertile, well-drained soil

This alluring plant’s heart-shaped leaves are accented by silver variegation, which seems to shimmer in a shady woodland. The silvery dapples are a striking complement to the blue flowers that float above the foliage in mid- to late spring. ‘Langtrees’ brunnera naturalizes easily and provides green waves of ground cover. Occasional summer drought and winter wetness won’t affect its growth, and bunnies aren’t particularly fond of it. And although it’s an easy keeper, keep in mind that it can’t tolerate hot after­noon sun and will scorch easily.


‘Iron Butterfly’ foam Flower (Tiarella ‘Iron Butterfly’)

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and wide in flower

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, fertile, well-drained soil

The broad, deeply dissected leaves of ‘Iron Butterfly’ foam flower are bright green with striking black-purple centers, which turn purplish bronze in fall and winter. Buds appear in May, producing fragrant, fizzy-fuzzy, pale pink bottlebrush flowers, which, if the plant is happy, will continue to bloom for six or more weeks. Used in mass plantings, ‘Iron Butterfly’ makes a lush, full knee-high ground cover. Beware of crown rot if the soil remains too wet in winter.


Kielian DeWitt is an avid gardener who lives in Hamilton, Montana.

Photos: Courtesy of Kielian DeWitt; Doreen Wynja; Courtesy of Spring Meadow Nursery, Inc.; Adrian Bloom/;Steve Aitken

View Comments


Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest