Home » Garden design

Tag: Garden design

9 Plants to Grow in Shade

The next time you’re at the local garden center, step over to the dark side… and by dark side, I mean the area where they keep the shade loving plants.

Shade plants have it all figured out. They’re loving life out of the rays of the scorching sun. Who can blame them? When it’s hotter than a Billy goat in a pepper patch, I like to spend my time in shady spots too. Read more

Supertunia Bordeaux and Sweet Caroline Ipomea

Twelve Plants That Are On Trend in 2016

This year promises to be a winning one for gardeners. Trend watchers are indicating we’ll see some exciting developments such as low-maintenance designs, bold color and, after years of focusing on hardscape, plants are back in the spotlight. Everyone is talking about the amazing varieties we have to choose from at garden centers this year: plants that produce big color with minimal care, multi-talented annuals, perennials and shrubs suited for any space including containers and vivid foliage that offers color all season long. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for adding beauty to our living spaces.

Here are 12 plants that I grow and love that are on trend in 2016.

Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera

I can count on large elegant clear white blooms all season in the garden with Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera. Stunning flowers that do well in full sun to part shade, it is one of my favorites to place in flower beds.

  • Large, pure white flowers on strongly trailing stems
  • No deadheading required for season-long bloom
  • Works great as a spiller in containers or as a groundcover in landscapes
  • Do not let plants dry out because it takes about two weeks for the flowers to reappear
  • Fertilize regularly for best performance
  • Full sun to part shade

Superbena® Royale Red Verbena

Beautiful and heat tolerant, the pure red flowers of Superbena® Royale Red Verbena grow all season whether they are in the flower beds or garden containers. Their saturated color is a stand out along borders and pathways.

  • Clusters of pure red flowers bloom spring to fall without deadheading
  • A perfect companion for Superbells® and Supertunia® in hanging baskets and containers; also great in landscapes
  • Vigorous, heat tolerant verbena that is resistant to powdery mildew
  • Tolerates drier soils with lower fertility
  • Benefits from a haircut to encourage fuller growth with more flowers
  • Full sun to part shade

‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ Ipomoea

‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ Ipomoea is a champ for brilliant deeply-lobed, chartreuse green foliage which serves as a canvas for different color combinations—whether in flower beds or garden containers.

  • Versatile trailing foliage plant for hanging baskets and containers
  • Heat tolerant and vigorous grower
  • Deeply lobed, chartreuse foliage
  • This sweet potato vine has minimal potato set, a bonus for planting in containers
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Protect from early and late season frosts in Northern climates

Dark Knight™ Lobularia

I prefer the fragrant deep purple flowers of Dark Knight® Lobularia on Moss Mountain because they don’t quit in the heat like some alyssums. Pretty in colorful combinations, they stand out along pathway borders.

  • Fragrant, deep purple flowers bloom all season and don’t quit in the heat like some varieties of alyssum
  • Continuous bloomer with no deadheading required
  • Plays well with others in containers, hanging baskets and landscapes
  • Requires consistent moisture to thrive in containers
  • Seriously, this is the first plant you’ll plant in the spring, and the last you will remove in late fall – we’re talking blooms from April through December.
  • Early and late snow and frosts are not an issue
  • Full sun to part shade

SUPERTUNIA® BORDEAUX™ Petunia

Always striking with light purple flowers with dramatic deep purple veining and throat, Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunias are regulars in my containers and hanging baskets. They are also beautiful among green foliage in full sun to light shade.

  • Striking light purple flowers with dramatic deep purple veining and throat, with dark green foliage
  • Blooms spring to fall without deadheading
  • A Petunia that grows anywhere from landscapes to containers and hanging baskets
  • Fertilize regularly for best performance
  • I’ve not found a petunia with a better habit for hanging baskets and container combinations – it grows well with all plants
  • Supertunias can handle light frost, so you can start them early and depend on them long into fall
  • Full sun to light shade

‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta

‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta with sky blue flowers atop silvery-green foliage adds charm reminiscent of an English garden, but also stylish enough for a contemporary look. One of my favorites for being deer and rabbit resistant while attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.

  • Lower maintenance, naturally compact selection that won’t need trimming to stay neat looking
  • Sky blue flowers appear on the silvery-green foliage from early summer into early fall
  • Shearing plants back by half after the first round of bloom encourages strong rebloom
  • Deer and rabbit resistant; attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
  • Full sun, lean and drier soils are best

Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantana

With playful clusters of fuchsia, orange and yellow flowers, Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantanas are perfect in my flower beds because they attract butterflies and hummingbirds. These sun-lovers bloom all growing season and stand up to tough conditions.

  • Tough-as-nails annual is extremely heat and drought tolerant, tolerates poor soils; protect from frost
  • Large clusters of fuchsia, orange and yellow flowers on mounded plants
  • Blooms all season without deadheading
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, not preferred by deer
  • In the South, it’s nearly a small shrub – great for large urns and patio containers
  • Full sun

GoldDust® Mecardonia

Low growing with dark green foliage dusted heavily with tiny golden yellow blossoms, Golddust® Mecardonia provides the perfect contrast of height and size in the garden—a sun-lover that thrives best in the midsummer heat.

  • Easy to grow annual for the edge of the border or garden path
  • Very low growing, dark green foliage is dusted heavily with tiny golden yellow blossoms
  • Blooms from spring through fall without deadheading – might even surprise you with more flowers the following spring after a mild winter
  • Thrives in the heat
  • Full sun

Colorblaze® Keystone Kopper® Solenostemon

No others compare to the rich orange- bronze foliage of Colorblaze® Keystone Kopper® Solenostemon (coleus) in a fall garden—making it a traditional favorite with little maintenance in large containers and the landscape.

  • Richly saturated orange-bronze foliage that won’t fade like “lesser” coleus
  • Bred to bloom very late or not at all, making the plant last into fall with little maintenance
  • Wonderful in large containers and landscapes
  • Heat tolerant and less preferred by deer
  • Full sun to shade

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia is my small space alternative that packs a lot of blooms and always produce beautiful clusters of fragrant, soft lavender-pink flowers, which are butterfly magnets.

  • Award winning, seedless butterfly bush that won’t sow its seed around the garden
  • Soft lavender-pink flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds from midsummer to frost without deadheading
  • Dwarf, compact habit grows only 1 ½-2′ tall x 2-2 ½’ wide
  • Perfectly sized for containers and small-scale urban landscapes
  • Full sun

Prairie Winds® ‘Cheyenne Sky’ Panicum

My garden essential for low maintenance and drought resistance—Prairie Winds® ‘Cheyenne Sky’ Panicum creates movement and continuity throughout gardens with beautiful tones of blue-green and wine red.

  • Smaller scale, native ornamental grass forms a dense, vase-shaped clump up to 3′ tall
  • Blue-green foliage begins to turn wine red in early summer; turns nearly all-red by fall
  • Matching wine red flower panicles appear in late summer
  • A hardy perennial alternative to annual purple fountain grass
  • Best grown in landscapes or very large containers due to its strong root system
  • Very easy to grow in any soil and full sun

Sunny Anniversary® Abelia

Fragrant and magnificent, Sunny Anniversary® Abelia is one of my favorite deer-resistant flowering shrubs for the landscape and container combinations. Sprinkled with creamy yellow and pink blooms, it brings not only a whimsical element to the garden but also hummingbirds, butterflies and especially me.

  • Fragrant flowering shrub with light yellow flowers splashed with pink and orange
  • Large, plentiful blooms appear on arching stems from midsummer through early fall
  • Mid-sized shrub, 3-4′ tall, used for landscapes, foundation plantings and containers
  • Deer-resistant, attracts butterflies
  • Full sun to part shade

Winter Garden Plants

As the brilliant colors of fall fade Mother Nature begins to reveal the quiet beauty of the winter garden. Colorful barks, evergreen foliage, bright berries and subtle blooms reveal themselves to add interest to an otherwise stark landscape.

You would be amazed at the number of plants available to brighten your garden this winter. Here is a list of a few of my favorites.

BLOOMS
You may be surprised to know that quite a few plants bloom during winter, especially if you live in a mild climate. Here are just a few.

 
Iris reticulata
Camellia japonica
Jasminum nudiflorum
Pansies and Violas
I like to plant large drifts of these cheerful flowers throughout my garden. They are the perfect companions to spring flowering bulbs and will bloom continuously through the winter in zones 7 and above. For best performance, plant violas and pansies in full sun, although violas will tolerate shade.
Snowdrops, Galanthus
White, teardrop shaped blooms adorn these little woodland beauties in late winter or very early spring. I like the variety ‘John Gray’ because of its extra-large flowers. Hardy in zones 3 – 8, plant these bulbs in early fall in partial to full shade areas. Snowdrops prefer rich, well-drained soil.
Iris reticulata
Often emerging through crusts of snow, this iris is the first to bloom in my garden. I like ‘Cantab’ because of its sky blue flowers. Plant these beauties in large drifts of 20 or more and you will be well rewarded with their beautiful blooms in late winter/early spring. Plant in full sun. Grows to about 6 inches tall.
Crocus
One of my fondest memories is the ring of purple crocus that encircled the big oak tree on my grandmother’s front lawn. It was the only contribution that my grandfather made to their garden. The delicate cup shaped blooms would emerge in late winter and serve as a gentle reminder that spring was eminent. Plant spring blooming crocus in the fall in full sun to partial shade. Hardy in zones 3 – 8.
Camellia japonica
Traditionally considered the belle of the Southern garden, new cultivars of this shrub have been created that are more cold tolerant. Some varieties of this evergreen shrub bloom in very early spring. Plant camellias in partial shade in an area that is protected from drying winds. They thrive in humus rich, well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 7 – 8.
Winter Honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima
This shrub is the old fashioned and unimproved variety. How refreshing! Of course this says nothing about its incredible fragrance that fills the garden as early as January! Cold hardy to zone 5, plant winter honeysuckle in full sun to partial shade. Grows 8 to 10 tall and up to 8 feet wide.
Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum
This is a plant with subtle beauty when used as a focal point or single specimen, but when used collectively as a group it is a cold knock out. Late in January the plants are covered in tiny lemon yellow blooms. Hardy in zones 7 – 9. Winter jasmine thrives in full sun with average soil. Grows to 15 feet in warm climates, in the North it tops out at 3 to 8 feet.

EVERGREENS
During the growing season evergreens often act as background support to the more colorful plants but during the winter these quiet elements move to the forefront often providing the only color in the garden. There are many to choose from but here are a few of my favorites.

 
Boxwood
Cedrus atlantica glauca
Elaeagnus
Elaeagnus ebbingei
Great for creating a privacy screen, the plant’s silver-green leaves, cinnamon colored, whip-like stems and interesting berries make this shrub a favorite in my garden. Best if grown in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Hardy in zones 7 – 11.
Boxwood
My garden would not be complete without boxwoods. I use them to create living walls, punctuate entries and as focal points. Their bright green foliage pops against the gray winter landscape. Hardy from zone 6 to 9, plant these workhorse shrubs in full sun to partial shade in fertile, well-drained soil. Can grow up to 5 feet and 4 feet wide depending on variety.
Yew, Taxus baccata
An excellent shrub for creating the walls of your garden rooms. Yews are a favorite in English gardens. Hardy from zone 4 to 7. Plant in full to partial shade, well-drained soil. Will not tolerate wet feet. ‘Hick’s Yew’, a favorite of mine, grows to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. All parts of the plant are poisonous.
Blue Atlantic Cedar, Cedrus atlantica glauca
An attractive tree in any season, its blue green foliage really stands out during winter. This tree makes an excellent focal point in gardens where the space is available. Hardy from zone 3 to 9. Plant in full sun, well-drained soil. A slower grower, the Blue Atlantic Cedar will eventually reach 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide.

 

BARK
Often hidden behind a veil of green during the spring and summer, shrubs and trees with unusual bark really stand out once the leaves have fallen.

 
Cornus sericea
Acer griseum
Betula
Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea
After the leaves fall in autumn, the red stems and twigs take center stage. The color ranges from dark coral to Chinese red. This is a shrub that can take very cold conditions. It seems the colder it gets, the "redder" the stems look, but maybe it’s because of their contrast with snow! Cold hardy from zone 2 to 8. Tolerates most soil types. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall.
Paper Bark Maple, Acer griseum
This tree is slow growing and will reach a height of 30 feet tall with an equally wide canopy. The old bark peels off in strips, revealing cinnamon brown color underneath. Hardy in zones 4 – 8. Plant in full sun and fertile, moist but well-drained soil.
London Plane Tree, Platanus x hispanica
Last year I saw this tree planted in a friend’s garden. I was spellbound by the beautiful bark – a tapestry of brown, gray and cream. This tree can grow up to 100 feet, so site it in a place where it has plenty of room. It prefers full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 5 – 8.
Birch, Betula
In a garden in Georgia I planted a small grove of birch with spectacular results. The peeled and papery bark is a beautiful texture in the garden. Cold tolerance depends on species. The Paper birch, B. papyrifera, is cold tolerant to zone 2. Plant in full sun to light shade in moist but well drained soil. Mature plant size depends on variety and species.

 

BERRIES
I consider berries the flowers of winter. Not only do they add color to the garden but provide food for birds as well.


Aronia melanocarpa

Ilex opaca

Malus
Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
This plant is much more garden friendly than its unruly cousin the red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia. Deep purple almost black berries form in late summer and persist through January. A particularly nice cultivar is ‘Autumn Magic’, which has brilliant fall color and larger, longer lasting berries. Black chokeberries are very adaptable. They can be planted in full sun or partial shade. The plant prefers moist areas but will grow in dry soils as well. Hardy in zones 4 through 9.
Rosa rugosa species
This roses produce lovely, orange-red rose hips. It is extremely cold tolerant and is hardy from zones 2 – 9. Plant in full sun in a spot where it will get plenty of air circulation. R. rugosa can get up to 8 feet wide and 8 feet tall.
American Holly ‘Carolina No. 2’, Ilex opaca
I have always considered the American holly one of the most noble trees in the southeastern forest. If you have ever examined a fully ripened holly berry closely you find they are such as intense shade of red that they almost appear to glow. Native to North America, this holly is hardy in zones 5 – 9. Plant in full sun or shade in well-drained soil. Can reach up 50 feet tall with a 30 foot spread. Requires a male pollinator within 300 feet to bear fruit.
Possumhaw, Ilex decidua
There is nothing like this plant’s scarlet berries to break the gray pall of winter. A well-berried tree can easily be the center of attention in any landscape. The cultivar ‘Warren Red’ produces especially lustrous and long lasting berries. Plant in full sun to partial shade with alkaline soil. Possum haw can grow up to 20 feet tall. It is hardy in zones 5 – 9. One thing to keep in mind that the plant requires a male pollinator within 300 feet to bear fruit.
Crabapples, Malus
There are not enough good things to be said about crabapples. My ‘Narragansett’ crabapples are beautiful in every season. In the late fall and winter they produce small clusters of light red fruit. I think the birds appreciate them even more than I do. Crabapples thrive in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Plant in consistently moist, well-drained moderately fertile soil. Most varieties are hardy in zones 5 – 8 but there are one or two that can survive in zone 4. Mature plant size depends on variety.

GROUNDCOVERS
Evergreen groundcovers should also be considered for your winter garden. These plants can add a carpet of color, pattern and texture to otherwise bare spots in your flowerbeds.


Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’

Euonymus fortunei

Hedera helix
Liriope muscari, ‘Silver Dragon’
I like liriope because of its grass like foliage and dense habit. ‘Silver Dragon’ has attractive green foliage with white and silver variegation. Liriope will thrive under any light condition. It is drought tolerant but prefers to be sheltered from cold, drying winds. Hardy in zones 6 – 10. You can expect this plant to reach about 12 inches tall.
Creeping Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’, Veronica peduncularis
This plant has delicate green foliage that turns slightly purple in winter. The true wonder of this plant appears in late February when it becomes covered with clear blue flowers. Expect creeping Veronica to reach a mature height of about 4 inches with a 2 foot spread. Plant in full sun to partial shade in consistently moist but well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 4 – 8.
Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei
Wintercreeper is one of my favorite groundcovers. I particularly like the variety ‘Coloratus’, which turns a nice burgundy color in the fall. This plant grows up to 2 feet tall. Performs best in full sun and tolerates any well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 5 – 9
English Ivy, Hedera helix
One of the best groundcovers for shady areas has to be English ivy. There are several varieties to choose from. I often rely on the green and white variegated varieties such as ‘Anne Marie’ and ‘Baltica’ to bring interest and color to a garden. English ivy will tolerate full sun in cooler climates but should be planted in partial shade in zones 7 and above. It is important to plant English ivy in an area that has good drainage.

Because English ivy is a potential hazard for native plants I only use it in controlled environments in areas where it is not a problem and recommend that it is not allowed to run rampant. Always check with your local Cooperative Extension before planting it or go to the National Park Service’s web site at http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/. They have a nice map that shows which states are troubled by this plant.

Color Harmony and Color Contrast

One topic I am frequently asked about is how to use color in the garden. It is easy to get bogged down in all the rules and theories. Not to mention apply these to living plants. I always like to remind everyone that asks that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t be timid about planting your favorite colors and trying new color combinations because your garden is all about you – if you don’t like what you ended up with you can always change it.

Spring flowering bulbs are some of the best plants for testing color in the garden because they are so easy to grow and when it comes to color choices, the sky is the limit. Tulips, iris, daffodils, and hyacinths are available in just about every color imaginable. This broad palette makes it easy to design spring flowering bulb plantings in contrasting or harmonious combinations.

Contrast

You remember the color wheel, right? The contrasting a.k.a. complementary colors on the wheel are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple. When paired together these colors make a bold, dramatic statement. To smooth out the edges mix in neighboring ‘cousin colors’ like yellow-orange and violet with yellow and purple. By using contrasting colors with their neighboring ‘cousin colors’ we create a more delicate, harmonious composition.

Contrasting Color Scheme in the Garden

When creating a contrasting color combination it’s a good idea to allow one color to dominate. For instance, if choose orange contrasted with purple plant more orange than purple or vice versa. You can soften the planting by filling in with a few of the color cousins like lavender and peach.

Good to Know: Contrasting Color Ratio

  • Dominant Color – 50%
  • Secondary Color – 25%
  • Cousin Color 1 – 15%
  • Cousin Color 2 – 10%

Harmony

Some of the most memorable gardens I have seen have been developed around a single color family. It’s also one of the easiest color combinations to pull off. Just blend a single color and it’s cousin colors. A mix of red, red-orange, orange and yellow-orange is a beautiful warm color arrangement. The proportion of the harmonizing colors in the composition is based on your preferences.

Harmonious Color Scheme in the Garden

Plants that Tolerate Soggy Soil

I have recently moved to a smaller home and down one side and along the back of the property the soil stays soggy and wet. Right now everything is dead and overgrown and I want to clear it all out. What plants will tolerate "wet feet?" I haven’t got much time to spend in the garden, so I am looking for something low maintenance.

You would be surprised at the number of plants that you can grow in areas with poor drainage. Some of these will actually grow in standing water. I regularly add pots of cannas, yellow flag iris and calla lilies to the garden pool in my fountain garden.

If you are looking for low maintenance I suggest you try a combination of trees and shrubs with a few perennials mixed in to add bloom and texture.

Here is a short list of plants that will tolerate “wet feet.”

Trees

Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) – This deciduous holly produces bright red berries in winter. Can be either a small tree or large shrub. Zones 5 – 9. 20′ tall x 15′ wide.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Also known as a Swamp maple, this tree has brilliant fall foliage. I have 2 ‘Red Sunset’ planted at the front entrance to my garden. Zones 3 – 9. Height and width vary with cultivar.

River Birch (Betula nigra) – This tree has interesting bark and brilliant yellow fall foliage. Zones 4 – 9. 60′ tall x 40′ wide.

Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) – A vigorous grower, give this tree plenty of room mature. Attractive, mottled bark. Zones 5 – 8. 80′ tall x 70′ wide.

Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) – Perhaps the best known water tolerant tree. Graceful weeping branches. Zones 6 – 9. 40′ tall x 40′ wide. Roots tend to be invasive.

Shrubs

Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) – This is one of my favorite accent shrubs. Candle like blooms appear in midsummer. Thrives in all but the most poorly drained soils. Zones 5 – 9. 10′ tall x 15′ wide.

Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum) – In late spring and early summer this native American shrub produces fragrant star shaped flowers. Moist but well drained soil. Zones 7 – 9. 8′ tall x 8′ wide.

Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) – This is a great shrub because of its bright red stems. I like to use it in my winter container designs. Tolerates wet soils. Zones 2 – 8. 6′ tall x 12′ wide.

Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) – The sweet scent produced by the flowers on this shrub make it a must have for any fragrant garden. Moist but well drained soil. Zones 3 – 9. 8′ tall x 8′ wide.

Perennials

Astilbe (Astilbe simplicifolia) – One of my favorite astilbes is ‘Sprite’ because of its unique airy, shell-pink flowers and dark, bronze green foliage. Prefers moist, humus rich roil. Zones 4 – 8.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – I like this plant because the bees and the hummingbirds find it so attractive. Blooms for an extended period. My favorite is ‘Marshall’s Delight’ because of its clear pink flowers and resistance to powdery mildew. Zones 4 – 9.

Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) – The flowers produced by these summer bulbs remind me of fabric from the 1940s. I grow ‘Green Goddess’ in 1 gallon black nursery pots in my garden pool. Zones 8 – 10.

Canna – Another great plant for growing in standing water. ‘Black Knight’ always has a place in my summer garden because of its deep red foliage. It looks great when planted with purple fountain grass. Zones 8 – 11.

Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia esculenta) – These fun summer bulbs are an easy and quick way to add height and texture to your garden. ‘Black Magic’ is a deep purple, almost black variety. Tolerates fairly wet soils. Zones 8 – 11

Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) – I was surprised and delighted to find this native American flower growing in the English garden of Arley. Prefers moist but well drained soils. Grows up to 7′ tall. Zones 3 – 9.

Iris – Many iris are tolerant of soggy soil conditions. Japanese iris, Siberian iris and yellow flag iris are a few that I grow in my garden.

Mint (Mentha) – Mint is a rampant grower that easily runs out of control. This is what also makes it perfect for soggy areas of the garden where nothing else will survive. To limit its spread it can be grown in containers with the bottoms cut out and buried in the ground.

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) – This fern does particularly well in poorly drained areas. Will tolerate full sun as long as ample moisture is available. Its regal stature, growing to 6′ tall, makes it a winner for the garden. Zones 4 – 9.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) – I have any area in my garden where the irrigation system floods on a regular basis. The spiderwort loves it there. One of my favorites is ‘Innocence’. It’s pure white flowers light up shady areas from summer until fall. Zones 5 – 9.

Ten Great Plants for Shade

Shade loving plants seem to have it all figured out.  They’ve made their home out of the scorching summer sun. Who can blame them?  When temperatures start to rise I like to spend my time in the shady spots in my garden too.

Although the shade garden may not be as brilliant as one in full sun, it is rare that I hear a gardener complain about their shady lot in life.  Bed space in an area of low light can be filled to the brim with textures, shapes and yes, even color.

There are so many choices for shade to partial shade areas that I found it hard to narrow it down to just ten.  In addition to trying out these selections I encourage you to further explore the possibilities.  Once you discover all the beautiful annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees suitable for shade gardens you’ll never want to go out into the sun again.

Proven Winners Summer Wave Blue ToreniaSummer Wave® Blue Torenia (Wishbone Flower) – This plant pumps out true blue flowers throughout the summer.  It’s a low grower, maturing at 2 to 6 inches tall and has a ground cover like habit when planted in beds.  Position Summer Wave® Blue at the edge of containers, hanging baskets and window boxes for a cascade of color. It’s a proven performer, even through periods of intense heat and humidity.
Annual; part shade to shade; deer resistant; heat tolerant
This plant is a Proven Winner®. Visit www.provenwinners.com to find a retailer near you.

Proven Winners Rockapulco Appleblossom ImpatiensRockapulco® Appleblossom Impatiens – Who says you can’t grow roses in the shade?  This impatiens produces pale pink, fully double blooms that look just like roses.  This is one of my favorites for container gardens.  It works well as the round and full component in my 3-shape rule of using a combination of tall and spiky, round and full, and cascading plants.  In addition to the Appleblossom, Rockapulco® is also available in white, purple, pink and red. 
Annual; partial shade to shade; 10 to 20 inches tall
This plant is a Proven Winner®. Visit www.provenwinners.com to find a retailer near you.

Proven Winners Heuchera Dolce Mocha MintDolce® Coral Bells (Heuchera hybrid) – One of my most delightful plant discoveries of late are the Dolce® heucheras.  Talk about color!  Names like Crème Brulee, Key Lime Pie and Mocha Mint set the tone for these extraordinary plants.  The bright chartreuse foliage of Key Lime Pie makes it a favorite of mine and I just love using Peach Melba in fall containers.  The fiery salmon leaves fit right in to the autumn tapestry.  These heucheras bloom nicely as well.  Hefty spires of tiny bell-shaped flowers are produced in spring and again in late summer.
Perennial; full sun to partial shade to shade; zones 5 – 11; deer resistant; drought tolerant
This plant is a Proven Winner®. Visit www.provenwinners.com to find a retailer near you.

Proven Winners Infinity Salmon New Guinea ImpatiensInfinity® Salmon New Guinea Impatiens
– Bright, cheerful color on large flowers can be difficult to find for the shade, but this New Guinea Impatiens definitely answers to the call.  The deep salmon flowers with a white sparkling eye look great massed in flower beds or container designs with hostas, ivy and grasses.  For the best results be sure to give New Guinea Impatiens plenty of moisture, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings. 
Annual; partial shade to full shade
This plant is a Proven Winner®. Visit www.provenwinners.com to find a retailer near you.

Proven Winners Diamond Frost EuphorbiaDiamond Frost® Euphorbia – This plant is outstanding anywhere in the garden.  It’s designated as a full sun to partial shade plant, but I’ve discovered that it does really well in full shade as well. It is so delicate and ethereal looking that I was surprised to discover what a toughie it can be. Both heat and drought tolerant Diamond Frost® blooms constantly throughout the summer and into fall. The flowers appeared to hover over the ground in a cloud of dainty white flowers. Mature garden height is 12 to 18 inches.
Tender perennial; full sun to partial shade; zone 10; deer resistant, drought tolerant; heat tolerant
This plant is a Proven Winner®. Visit www.provenwinners.com to find a retailer near you.

Proven Winners Little Henry IteaLittle Henry® Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – This little shrub is a superstar in my garden because of its sweet smelling summer blooms and amazing fall color. It’s exceptionally adaptable to a variety of growing conditions and virtually carefree.  If you have an area in your garden with low light and wet, poorly draining soil, this is the shrub for you.  It will also thrive in full sun and can survive short periods of drought once it gets established.  As the name implies this shrub stays compact, maturing at about 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  It’s an excellent choice to slip into containers for seasonal color and then plant in the garden later.
Deciduous shrub, zones 5 – 9, deer resistant, 3 feet tall x 3 feet wide
This plant is a Proven Winner®. Visit www.provenwinners.com to find a retailer near you.

Pineapple LilyPineapple Lily (Eucomis autumnalis) – I discovered this plant during a visit to Holland and I’ve been planting it in my shade garden and container designs ever since.  It’s an exotic beauty that produces rosettes of strap-like leaves and  20" bloom stalks bearing flowers that resemble pineapples. It’s a tender perennial that doesn’t winter over in my mid-South garden so I have to plant it every summer.  It will thrive in full sun or partial shade, although the blooms may need to be staked in areas of low light.
Tender perennial; full sun to partial shade; zones 8 – 11

Hosta Krossa Regal and Souther Wood FernsHosta – Hostas may seem a little obvious, but sometimes you just can’t beat the tried and true.  Besides there are so many interesting types.  You can grow the jumbo hostas like Sum and Substance or tea cup varieties such as Tiara.  Colors range from true green, chartreuse, variegated, gray and blue.  I think a mass planting of hefty hostas and delicate ferns can be truly stunning.  And hosta leaves and blooms are a wonderful addition to cut flower arrangements. 
Perennial; partial shade to shade; zones 3 – 9

Japanese Anemone Honorine Jobert‘Honorine Jobert’ Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida) – Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ produces single petaled flowers tinged delicately with pink on the underside of the petals.  Bright yellow stamens emerge from the center.  The glossy green, deeply lobed foliage is lovely in the garden as well. This plant will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and prefers rich, moist, but well-drained soil. If the plant has wet "feet" in winter, it can be fatal.  For the best results plant in partial shade to filtered light.
Perennial; partial shade to shade; zones 5 – 10

Royal FernRoyal Fern (Osmunda regalis) – Royal ferns provide dramatic height and delicate foliage to your garden.  They are an ideal choice for areas with poor drainage. Its regal stature, growing to 6 feet tall in ideal conditions, makes it a dramatic backdrop for other woodland plants such as variegated hosta and columbine. The delicate foliage brings to mind black locust leaves in that the leaflets are small and oblong.  The bright green of the leaves and cinnamon colored summer “blooms” make this plant a real standout. 
Perennial, zones 4 – 9, partial shade to shade

Made in the Shade

Whenever I talk to people about their gardens, one of the most frequently asked questions is, "What can I grow in the shade?" Many homeowners view these areas of reduced light as "problem spots" and "no-grow" zones.

The good news is that although you may be more familiar with plants that flourish in full sun, there is also a beautiful selection of shade-loving plants that can add color and interest to those darker areas of your garden. In fact, I have found these often little-used places to be wonderful opportunities to create refreshing havens when summer temperatures climb. But, before you head to the garden center, there are some tips you should know that will help you achieve the best results.

A New Mind Set
Shade Garden
First, readjust your thinking that everything in the garden needs to bloom. Even in sunny areas, I find the most interesting compositions are a mixture of flowering and foliage plants. Discover all the beautiful varieties of hostas, ferns, variegated foliage plants, shrubs, vines and ground covers that will brighten shady areas with their colorful leaves. Next blend in some flowering shade plants such as impatiens, columbine, lamium, spiderwort, and torenia.

Working Around Tree Roots
Turning over soil to create bed space around tree roots can be difficult as well as harm the health of the tree. But these areas don’t have to go neglected. You can add beautiful splashes of color to dark areas under trees with container gardens. Pack the containers full of vibrant flowers and foliage for drama.

Morning or Afternoon Light
As you think about what you would like to plant in your shade garden, observe the area through the day and note the light conditions as they change from morning to night. What I’ve discovered, especially in warmer parts of the country, is that the afternoon sun is especially hard on shade loving plants, so it is especially important to be careful what you plant in those areas. Hydrangeas, azaleas and hostas struggle when exposed to several hours of western sun, while they seem less bothered with the same amount of morning light.

Good to Know: Know Your Shade

To select the right plants for your shade garden ask yourself these questions and then select varieties that best suit the site.

  1. Do I have dry or moist shade?
  2. Is the area fully shaded all day or are there periods when it gets sunlight?
  3. If the area receives periods of sunlight, what time of the day does it happen and for how long?

Raise the Shades
If you are faced with deep shade under trees, one way you can bring more light to the understory is to lift the canopy by pruning some of the lower branches. I call this "raising the shades." It’s important to remove limbs in a balanced way so the tree continues to look natural and attractive. This type of pruning will allow the sun to come in at an angle, bringing in filtered light.

Create A Focal Point
Shady spots are perfect places to create a dramatic focal point. An eye-catching object in a darkened area makes a powerful visual hook. A brightly painted bench, statue, ornament, or a colorful container full of bright plants can add interest to an otherwise overlooked area of the garden.

Dry Shade
For dry, shady locations the best solution is to plant ground covers. Check with local garden centers for the varieties suited to your growing zone. In my zone 7 garden, I’ve had good luck with Bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria), vinca (Vinca minor), variegated wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), liriope and varieties of mondo grass.

Five Design Elements of a Woodland Garden

Woodland gardens enchant us. They’re intriguing – they remind us of fairy tales and adventure. With relaxed, natural looks and carefree plants, maintenance is easy, leaving you with more time to enjoy it. Woodland gardens play off the region’s natural setting and leave room for awe. Plus, more practically, they are an excellent solution for shady yards.

I’ve created and explored many a garden and I’ve concluded these are five essentials for creating a woodland garden.

1. A winding path

Say bye to sidewalk-straight paths. Create a path that curves through the garden, leading you along. The path can be paved with well-worn stones, bricks, mulched or just left with exposed earth. The path can be edged with river rocks too. Tidy perfection and symmetry have no place here.

Winding path edged by tall evergreens

2. Curved beds

When it comes to beds in a woodland garden, there’s no room for right edges and hard lines. Allow the edges of your garden beds to curve in organic movement. Remember, there are seldom straight lines in nature.

Japanese Maples

3. Greenery

My biggest tip for a woodland garden? Select plants native to your region for easy maintenance. Work with nature as much as possible.

Also, consider layering when you’re creating a woodland garden. There’s more of an incorporation of vertical space because you’re dealing with trees. You’ll need to think in terms of a top layer (trees), a mid layer (shrubs), a lower layer (flowers or grasses) and ground cover.

Good tree options for the top layer include dogwood, magnolias, birch and Japanese maple. Azaleas, holly and hydrangea are all excellent shrub-type choices.

Shade Garden Planted with Shrubs, Perennials and Trees

Common lower level woodland plants are ferns, columbine, phlox, coral bells, golden rod and elephant ear. As far as ground cover, popular choices include Virginia creeper, moss, lily of the valley and ivy. Of course this list isn’t comprehensive, but it should give you a few ideas to start.

4. Decoration

Gnomes, fanciful creatures, saint statues or mirrored glass orbs all provide that extra element that separates woodland gardens from their more serious counterparts. Birdbaths or birdhouses are also nice to include. Many woodland gardens feature a small pond or have a tiny bridge over a creek. An arbor also can be a pleasant addition.

Adirondack chairs made from recycled skis

5. A place to rest

Whether it’s a stone bench, wooden Adirondack chairs or metal patio furniture, allow a place for rest in your woodland garden. Breathe and unwind in what’s sure to become your favorite spot.

Designing with Perennials

Everyone interested in saving time and money in the garden should know that perennials are one of the best deals you can find. Perennials are always a good value because they come back year after year and some varieties like hostas, daylilies and iris, even multiple over time!

Even without these time and money saving qualities, perennials play an important role in garden design. They serve as the "paints" that will help you can create a colorful display in your garden. And just as there are special techniques to applying paints to a canvas, over the years I have learned a few lessons about designing with perennials in the garden.

Yellow and Blue Perennial Border Against an Evergreen Hedge BackdropFirst, select a backdrop for your perennials. This can be a picket fence, evergreen hedge or colorful shrub. Next place your perennials in the border according to height. Plant tall, spiky forms such as foxglove closest to the backdrop, round and full elements in the middle and those that grow low to the ground toward the front.

Mexican Sage, Artemisia and Salvia Indigo Spires Make Up a Blue BorderWhen it comes to color, use shades that are all in the same color family to create a soothing composition. For instance, the palest pink ranging to the hottest magenta. For a more electric effect choose contrasting colors such as purple and orange or yellow and blue. Neutral tones like gray, white and green will help balance your palette and create a bridge between pockets of color.

Perennials bloom during specific times of the year so with a little orchestration it is easy to have continuous displays from spring through fall. Make selections according to the season in which they bloom so that when one grouping fades, another picks up.Gray Artemisia Is a Good Bridge Between Contrasting Colors Also, choose varieties of a single type of perennial that will flower early, mid and late season. For instance, daylilies bloom in summer, but you can purchase varieties that will flower during different times of the season. And remember a beautiful garden is about a lot more than just flowers. Consider the color and texture of foliage plants as well.

There a literally hundreds of perennials to choose from. But, the main thing to remember is to pick the ones you like, follow a few basic rules of design when you put them together and most of all, have fun.

Good to Know: Fall Planting

Most perennials can be planted in the fall, which gives you a head start next spring. Be sure to get them in the ground 6 weeks before the first hard freeze in your area.

Autumn Splendor

Grass in your flowerbeds? For gardeners who’ve spent hours pulling invasive weeds, this may seem like strange advice. But let me introduce you to the new, well-behaved varieties of ornamental grasses. Windblown, untamed and graceful, they lend an appealing accent to gardens and containers.

Hardy and Happy
Ornamental grasses require little maintenance and are very forgiving about soil, making them easy to grow. Also, once they are established, most varieties develop deep root systems, so they’re quite drought tolerant. With just a little TLC during the first season, cold hardy varieties will be reliable, long lived additions to your garden. On top of all that, they’re remarkably pest free.

So Many Options

There are hundreds of varieties of ornamental grasses, so you’re sure to find one well suited to your garden. They range in size from diminutive 4-inch plants to those that stretch up more than 15 feet in height. Some varieties grow upright and vertical, while others spread. Most are cold-tolerant and will come back year after year. A few like purple fountain grass, can’t survive frigid temperatures, but are still worth growing as annuals. Check with the garden center in your area to help you make the best choices.

Design Ideas
Use the low growing varieties to add texture to the front of flowerbeds or to help define the edge of a border. Mid-size grasses add interest to the center and back areas of a border and are beautiful when combined with other late season perennials such as salvia, asters and goldenrod. Those varieties over 6 feet tall look great against fences and walls, or they can serve as focal points in the center of a garden. The real beauty of ornamental grasses shines through when they are paired with contrasting plants. For example, if the grass has fine, delicate foliage, it looks best when planted next to something with big, bold flowers or leaves. Both plants are more noticeable because of the contrast.

Late Season Care
As with many perennials, ornamental grasses respond well to shearing back in late winter. Some gardeners cut back dead foliage in the fall, but you may want to wait as most grasses are attractive well in the winter, and many have seed heads that attract birds.

When you cut back grasses, use pruners to cut each clump to 3 to 6 inches above the ground. In the spring the grass will re-sprout from the crown.